Helpers

by Jefferson David Tant

"And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues" (I Corinthians 12:28)

Perhaps you have noticed that people are different — different in personalities, appearance, talents. Evidently God designed us that way, and Paul acknowledged this when he wrote the Corinthians. While some attract more attention, Paul does not set any above others. Obviously, the apostles and prophets have a more prominent role, but in another sense, they are all the same before God, "for there is no respect of persons with God" (Romans 2:11).

Yes, some are worthy of respect for their service, as Paul requested "that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work..." (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Yes, some stand in the pulpit, teach the class or lead singing, but there are others. But in the end, all are simply "fellow workers." "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building" (I Corinthians 3:5-9) Paul and Apollos were just servants.

"The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains" (II Timothy 1:16).  We are not told what Onesiphorus did. Perhaps he just encouraged imprisoned Paul. In Romans 16:3-16, Paul names over 20 individuals, plus others, who in some way rendered service. "Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers …, who for my life risked their own necks, Epaenetus, Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and … fellow prisoners, … Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved ... Apelles, the approved in Christ. Those … of the household of Aristobulus.  Greet Herodion, my kinsman … those of the household of Narcissus …Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord … Persis … ,who has worked hard in the Lord … Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them." This shortened version does not mention what they did, whether great or small, but they helped.

When Flora and I were newlyweds and working with a small church in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, among the Choctaw Indians, we had an elderly couple in the church, Pappy and Mammy Osborne. There was not a lot they could do, but Mammy insisted on inviting people for Sunday dinner. Pappy took it upon himself to greet every visitor, and replace all the songbooks in the racks after the service.

There was Dorcas, who helped the widows. Timothy and Erastus ministered unto Paul. Four men carried a paralyzed man to be healed by Christ. Phoebe was commended as a servant of the church. Rhoda was a servant-girl who first greeted Peter when he escaped prison. Paul mentioned various ones who spent time in prayer. There were the men who held the rope so Paul could escape those seeking to kill him.

So what's the point of all this? You don't have to be an elder, deacon, preacher, song leader, or "what-have-you," to render service in the kingdom. In the midst of those listed in this article's first sentence, "helps" is included among apostle, miracle workers, etc.

Maybe you prepare the communion, greet visitors, pick up trash, replace song books, give hugs, repair plumbing, teach the infants' class, commend the one who taught, trim the bushes or invite a neighbor.  Perhaps you are limited in what you can do, but your very presence is an encouragement, for we are told in Hebrews 10:24-25a: "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another …"

We sing "There is room in the kingdom of God, my brother, For the small things that you can do: Just a small kindly deed that may cheer another is the work God has planned for you … Just a cup of cold water in His name given may the hope in some heart renew …There is work that we all can do."  We all belong to the "Honorable Order of Helpers."

"For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3). Great talents also require great humility.

Remember Paul's words to Titus: "Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful" (Titus 1:14). For what "help" will you be remembered at the Judgment Day?