“1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
“8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.“
It is easy in this life to think that you don’t matter – that you are of no value, and what you contribute to this life is nothing. It is even more so in the scope of the Lord’s churches. I know men and their wives who have been missionaries in the toughest places for decades; they know what it is to live in peril, fear of disease, and fear of even weather conditions. I know of people who have completely left their culture and made their new home, their home. They speak the language, eat the food, adopt the culture, dress and talk like the people that they went to. I know men whom I admire when they teach the scriptures; they awe me, they inspire me to work harder, to study more, read more – and maybe, just maybe I can teach like them.
The largest crowd I have ever preached to was about 200 or so on Sunday morning at a hotel in Toronto. A group of union people from the US were having a meeting in Toronto, and one of the people, a Christian, had a cousin in the church I pastor and asked if I could come and host the Sunday service for them as many of them were away from their home church. So, I went, and it was great. But I have been to Billy Graham crusades here in Toronto with close to 50,000 in attendance. I have never preached to a crowd that big. I might freeze up and not know what to say.
On any given Sunday, I pastor a church that will have 10-15 people; when we combine our church with the sister church in Guelph, we can have 20-30. I know countless pastors that meet in their homes and serve churches with just a handful, 30-40 people. We have become so accustomed to the Mega-churches on TV, we assume all are like that. But the truth is most churches in North America have a regular attendance of about 75 or so. No one but the people they serve knows their names, no one but maybe the local hospital knows their names, and they are not famous at all, not a household name, so to speak.
I can speak for me; I have a loving family in our church that I have had the privilege of hosting a baby dedication service for every kid born into that family for 20+ years. They have a wall with pictures of me holding the kids, and now the grandkids; they know who I am. They love me, and I love them. I know many pastors who are the same way, famous with the ones God has given them. They never get in the way of Jesus; they are faithful.
This is what we can get from this passage: all too often, we see and hear the Apostle Paul – and make no mistake – he is famous as a servant of God, but he did not do it on his own. Let us talk in human terms. Paul had Barnabas to help him at first; then he teamed up with Silas; then as he was getting older and his eyesight was failing, he needed someone to write his epistles for him; then he talked of being with Luke and others that surrounded him. He speaks of his need to see Mark, the need to speak to Timothy and to Titus, and the need to make sure the next generation was ready to take up the charge. Paul understood that he could only do so much and that the ministry he had in public was supported by the people behind the scenes.
If you read Luke 8:1-3, you will see that Jesus had people that supported the ministry financially so that He and the disciples could do the work.
After this, Jesus traveled from one city and village to another. He spread the Good News about God’s kingdom. The twelve apostles were with him. Also, some women were with him; they had been cured of evil spirits and various illnesses. These women were Mary, also called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, whose husband Chusa was Herod’s administrator; Susanna; and many other women. They provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples.
God knew their names as well, and He knows yours. He knows the effort and the time that you put into the church that you serve as a pastor, or Sunday School teacher, or an usher, or a deacon, or the piano player, or the choir director, or the guy who makes sure that the washrooms are clean or the driveway is shoveled. No pastor can do everything, no one. We need each other, and together we are an unstoppable force. Paul, God leading, wrote down the names of the people. They were not famous to the world, but they were famous to God.
I have a dear mentor, a senior pastor; I will not name him, but he is in his eighties, on dialysis, has pains in places he probably did not think could hurt, has had all kinds of surgeries, and even had a transplant. However, even though he is not able to preach anymore, he is still in church the vast majority of the time, still leading by example. He has his Bible open when the preaching is going on and somehow manages a genuine smile in all this. God knows his name, and one day he will be greeted as a ‘good and faithful servant.’
Some of us can think of the sweet word of a brother or sister that turned a bad day around, got us through an internal fight, and carried us like an angel’s wings when we were too broken to go on; God knows these people; He sent them, and they spoke life and energy into your soul. See Colossian 3:16-17,
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
We all need each other; Paul needed all these folks that are mentioned. They had either helped him carry the message, received the message, or had provided lodging, food, money even, and maybe just a safe place to lay his head as he ran from his enemies. Nonetheless, they were just as important to the ministry of the Gospel as Paul. Maybe you just have a small income, but you tithe to your local church faithfully. God knows; God is aware of the sacrifices that you make. Nothing you do for Him and nothing that you invest for Him is missed. He knows it all, and He knows your name. You are important to the Lord; your contribution, even small in your eyes, is large to God.
Earlier I mentioned missionaries, and we love them at our church. I have friends that are missionaries in Kenya, Russia, South America, Ukraine, and many other places. They are awesome people, but you know, we are taught a principle from an incident in the life of King David. In 1 Samuel 30:23-24, we see these words,
“But David said, ‘My brothers, you must not do this with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiders who came against us. Who will listen to your proposal? The share of the one who went to battle will match the share of the one who stayed with the supplies. They will share alike.'”
If you go back and read the account in 1 Samuel 30, the Amalekites attacked David’s people, took their goods, and kidnapped their families. There were about 600 men that followed David at that time, and they were given permission by the priest to pursue the enemies and retrieve their families. But of the 600 men, about 200 were so weary from the previous battle that they stayed with the remaining goods, and the 400 went to fight. They prevailed and plundered the Amalekites, returning with the families, and no one had died. The 400 who went to the battle did not want to share the goods of the plunder with the 200 who stayed. But David, a godly man and leader, made the statement above; the share of those who went to battle will be the same as those who stayed with the stuff.
Maybe you are not the missionary in Africa or the Philippines, or in South America or Russia, or wherever, BUT you faithfully give that extra $5 or $10 or $20 to help in his work; then you are just as famous to God as he. He could not have gone to that place without your help. The same God who called him to the field calls you to give sacrificially and provides you with the job that pays so that you have money to give. We are all a part of the Kingdom’s work. God knows your name. He knows who you are, and He knows the sacrifices that you make for Him.
What made these people in the passage above famous is that they gave of themselves, they gave to the kingdom of God, they gave to the messengers of God, and they helped the message get to the next person. These are things that we can all do. God knows them by name, and one day He will reward them by name as well. See Mark 10:29-30,
“Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.…”
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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