When we begin to understand that our rotation of some of our friends is for His purpose, we can handle the change much better. I personally have several layers of friends. I have one who I talk with almost every day (sometimes for a minute and sometimes for an hour). Then I have one who I speak with every three to four days. Then I have several I speak with or check on every two weeks. Then I have many, many friends who I stay in touch with through Facebook and other social networks. I have had the pleasure of reconnecting with so many old friends, allowing opportunities to share about my relationship with the Lord. I also have a personal prayer team for my ministry that allows others to stay in touch with me. I have some friends I have known for years, even since childhood and some I just met a week ago. All are at different levels of trust and commitment on both our parts, but all are for His purpose. So when they leave my life, I don't get too upset as I know God is bringing me someone new.

This leads us to the story of Matthew. Jesus always called His disciples one by one. His invitation was personal versus yelling out into a crowd or sending a bulk e-mail. We know that Matthew is a tax collector. In Bible times and also today, a tax collector wasn't anyone's favorite person. They had bad reputations. Who wants to be a friend of someone you know could financially ruin you—someone who is watching every dime you make and every dime you spend? It would be one thing if they were all honest people, but in those times they weren't and no one wanted to be around them—except Jesus.

Jesus knew who Matthew was. In his sin, where he was, Jesus called him to follow him and he did. Matthew didn't have to fix his life, clean it up, and change his profession to follow Christ. Although as a result of following Christ, things would change (as with us all). After Matthew's conversion, the next scene shows Jesus and the disciples at Matthew's home for dinner—dinner with not only Matthew, but other tax collectors and sinners, including the Pharisees. The disciples were asked by some of the Pharisees why Jesus was eating with these sinners. Jesus told them that he had come for the sick not the healthy.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9)

What I Have Learned from Matthew:

1. Matthew was obedient. Matthew, like all of us is "called" by God into a relationship with Him. The Lord chose us. Matthew didn't have to choose Christ, though. Matthew showed me that he was obedient to the Lord, that when the Lord is calling any of us that we should follow—not only in our salvation, but also in our ministry. Maybe he has called you to the mission field in your hometown or abroad. Maybe he's called you to sell your home and give it away. Maybe he's called you to teach Sunday school or start a ministry. Maybe he's called you to reach out to someone, to make a friend.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him (Matthew 9:9)
 
2. Matthew had courage. Wow, so what did it take on Matthew's part to stop what he was doing and follow Jesus? Matthew was a tax collector, so he was probably wealthy. He was also smart and could easily have reasoned why he should not follow. He was wiling to give it all up. He was willing to risk what his friends might have thought. I think deep down inside that Matthew was unhappy and he knew his way wasn't working. Sure, from the outside he looked happy but something was missing in his life. Jesus would give him the answer he was wanting. A new life. A life filled with peace, direction and purpose. Don't you want that life, too? Is there something you are still holding back from the Lord? Have you accepted the Lord into your life? Has God asked you to give something to him that you are holding onto? Maybe an addiction, an attitude or someone you care about who is wrong for you?
 
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).
 
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
 
3. Matthew taught me about hospitality. Our homes are not just for us to enjoy, but we are to share them. Christian hospitality has nothing to do with what we have but who we are in Christ. I have stayed in some of the simplest homes—homes that were filled with love and kindness. Clean sheets, tasty food and lots of hugs. Don't allow what you don't have to keep you from sharing what you do have. Sometimes it's all about offering a cup of coffee and a listening ear.