Christianity 201

May 21, 2015

Remember Who?

Forgotten Apostles

by Clarke Dixon

I grew up watching wrestling, specifically the show “Maple Leaf Wrestling.” Part of what I remember is how predictable most of the matches were. The first contender would be be announced, usually a man no heavier than myself, nor taller, nor more muscular. Then they would announce the “big name,” someone like Big John Stud or Andre the Giant who would go on to decimate them. The outcome was always predictable. I’m not sure why the small guys even bothered to get into the ring, except of course that they were being paid to lose. And don’t ask me their names for they were forgettable as wrestlers next to the giants.

Perhaps we may feel that our performance as Christians is meagre, even forgettable. We may feel that it makes no sense to step into the ring for there are spiritual giants who do the Christian thing so much better than we do. We can think of the call to witness to a seeker, the call to righteousness, the call to investing our lives in the lives of others, the call to getting over ourselves, the call to love, the call to forgiveness, and the call to prayer. We can think of people who do these Christian things so much better than we can, they are spiritual giants. Let them enter the ring since they have so much more to offer. We may choose therefore to make Christianity a spectator sport and never get into the ring ourselves.

If you feel your Christian service is forgettable, you are in good company. Consider Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas in the earliest days of the Christian Church. Matthias was chosen for an extremely important role and he had the right qualifications:

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us– one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 NRSV

Since Matthias fits this description we know he was well versed in the teaching and life of Jesus. He could attest personally to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He also had the Lord’s blessing on his choice as Judas’ successor:

Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26 24 NRSV

The interesting thing about Matthias is that he just disappears from the pages of the Bible. Despite amazing credentials and the Lord’s blessing we never hear about him again. His work for the Lord, his response to God’s every call has, apart from a few mentions outside the Bible, been forgotten by history. He was not a “spiritual giant” like Paul, or Peter, or John. In fact, the service to the Lord of most of the disciples in New Testament times has been forgotten. And down through the centuries, though there has been a rich tradition of spiritual giants like Spurgeon, Carey, C.S. Lewis, and others, the vast majority of the Lord’s servants have been forgotten.

If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, consider the men and women God has used to reach you. You have heard the Gospel from someone who has heard it from someone who has heard it from someone, and so on down through a long line of mostly forgotten servants of Christ. For the most part, the Lord has not used spiritual giants to reach you with the Gospel, but forgotten servants. Or perhaps you did come to faith in Jesus through the ministry of a spiritual giant, through a Billy Graham crusade for example. Yet even in the “spiritual ancestry” of Billy Graham are a lot of unknown and forgotten Christians. Or maybe you came to faith through reading the Bible, with no one to help you at all. Yet how many forgotten and unknown scribes can we thank for preserving the Word of God for us. God has used hundreds, if not thousands, of unknown servants to make the Gospel known to you. We can be grateful to God that they did not stay out of the ring just because they were not spiritual giants.

We may be less like Paul and more like Matthias, likely to head into obscurity in just a few generations. But there are two things to note:

  1. God’s impact through you may grow long after you are forgotten. Because you have responded to God’s call on your life, people may be influenced by people who have been influenced by people who have been influenced by someone you have influenced. God may reach people for many generations to come because you got into the ring.
  2. You may be forgotten by history, but you will not be forgotten by God. You may not make it into the history books, but as a follower of Christ you will have your name in the God’s “Book of Life.

Most of God’s servants throughout history have been forgotten. But God has accomplished amazing things through forgotten people. You may feel that your contribution and participation in God’s Kingdom work is meager, even forgettable, but don’t stay out of the ring just because you are not a spiritual giant. Get into the ring with your words. Get into the ring with your actions. Get into the ring with your presence. Get into the ring with your time, talents, and treasures. Get into the ring with your prayers. The Lord is already there waiting for you.


September 4, 2010

Bible Emphasizes Renewal Over “New”

(NIV) Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

13 planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.

14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green…

What’s your church’s attitude to the seniors in the congregation?   What about you, yourself?   Do you see these people as ready to be “put out to pasture” or do you see them as people for whom, potentially, the greatest days are yet to come?

I’m not sure what your opinion is of Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, MI) pastor Rob Bell, but today we listened to a most unusual sermon from a pastor for whom “unusual” is de rigeur. I started to write about it here; and then moved the blog post over to Thinking Out Loud; but then found myself staring at the draft version of it here and thinking, ‘This is an important message that we’ve got to get through our heads, because some day it will be us who are getting invited to the 60+ group at the church.’

Actually, as Bell’s preaching goes, this one was somewhat conservative.   The message had as its aim the affirmation of the aging process itself and the affirmation of the aged.   He claims that the motivation for this was that it was the day before his 40th birthday; hardly senior status by any measure.

He began with stories of people whose major life accomplishments began at what some would call the later stages of life.    The stories highlighted people who were, with each example, progressively older.   (Sadly, the slides that go with this sermon weren’t posted online.)

The message functions well on a number of levels.   Besides affirming respect for the wisdom and experience of age, it’s also an encouragement to those who are older to reconsider the traditional definition of retirement.

But most important, it’s a challenge to all of us to rethink the concept that “new is best.”   He gets into the difference between “new” and “renewal;” and says that our culture tends to emphasize the former, while the Bible speaks clearly of the latter.

(NIV) II Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Bell ends the message with a question that was asked of him — Bell being a guy who knows what it’s like to be the new hot trend — as to how a person can avoid “peaking” after sudden popularity.

You can find the 50+ minute sermon here.  Click on the message for 8/22 — appropriately titled:  The Village Elder.