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Just Your Average Joe

by Steven Harper

Joe was born in a small town in the Midwest and was welcomed into the family by his parents, both of whom were committed, believing disciples who had come out of denominationalism and a long family history of following religious beliefs not in accord with New Testament Christianity. His parents had the good fortune to meet a young preacher who taught them the truth and led them to obey the gospel, and they were determined to pass on this knowledge to any and all they knew, though they were met with great resistance by their own family members and close friends. It seems that few had a real desire for truth, though many made the claim, and when they began teaching the exclusivity of God's word, why, you would have thought they had just introduced the devil himself as their new best friend. People started avoiding them and their friends now were "too busy" to come over and never seemed to invite them over, and their family even started avoiding them or, at best, talking about them behind their backs.

When Joe was born, they resolved all the more to teach him [and any other children with whom God would bless them] the pure and simple truths of God's word and lead him to know the Lord. They decided early on that their faith would not be just a "Sunday-morning Christianity" but a daily and sincere application of His truths and principles in their lives and they would make sure their children saw those truths and principles and learned their importance, too.

Joe did learn those principles, too. At a very young age, he could recite the books of the Bible — Old and New Testament — and he had even started to learn a few memory verses. Through the teaching and example of his parents, Joe came to know the truth and decided for himself to become a Christian and was baptized after expressing his desire to be forgiven of his sins and a desire to serve the Lord. Needless to say, Joe's parents were extremely happy the day he was buried in water and arose as a child of God, — but they did not stop with their teaching!

Joe's parents continued to teach Joe the truths and principles of God's word because they knew that was their solemn duty (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Ephesians 6:4). Joe was not exceptionally bright so he had to work at understanding some of the things they taught him. What quickness in mentality he may have lacked was far overshadowed by his willingness to learn and time spent in study of God's word. He had seen, through word and deed, that his parents took the words of God to heart and he knew that understanding sometimes would not come easy. He applied himself and, though just an "average Joe," he learned much.

As a teenager, Joe talked with all of his friends about his faith. Sometimes he would initiate the conversation, but many times it was others who asked him the questions. He may not have known every answer to every question, but Joe always told his friends, "If I don't know the answer, I'll find out." And he did — and he told them the answer when he found it. He was not afraid to tell his friends [many times], "I don't know," because, well…he didn't know! He knew he would be doing them no favors if he pretended to know the truth when in fact he did not. His friends knew that he wasn't the smartest guy, but they were sometimes amazed at how much he knew and he actually convinced many of his friends to study the Bible with him because he knew it was his responsibility (II Timothy 2:24-26). One of those friends was converted and is still a faithful disciple even today — one who is now married to a fellow believer and who has godly children of her own.

When Joe went to college, his parents worried about the world's influence on Joe, but he knew in his heart he would be the one that would be the influence (Matthew 5:13 -16), rather than the other way around. Though classmates were always trying to get him to join them in their worldly activities, Joe always politely declined and endured the usual "goody-two-shoes" comments (I Peter 4:4). He did not let the distractions of the world keep his mind off the work at hand, studying hard to pass all his classes and finally graduating to move on to the next step in life. Joe would always wonder, though, about his friends back in high school and the friends he met in college. He wondered if he had ever made a difference in their spiritual life, but figured he would never know.

When Joe began working ay his new job, he began to meet new friends and his hard work was noticed by those that mattered. Though Joe was not the smartest man and though he didn't have the "right connections," he was regularly promoted because his superiors saw in him a man who worked hard and who was honest — a man they could trust. Some sought out Joe's advice and got to know him a little better and learned of his faith because it was part of him and he had no desire to hide it. They began to ask questions and, once again, Joe had a few studies with those whom he knew. After a few studies, some of his friends and co-workers started coming to worship with Joe and they got to see what real faith was all about — through Joe.

One of those with whom Joe studied became his wife! She saw in Joe the kind of man she had hoped to find, but was not in the usual places she had looked before. Now, Joe began his own family and began passing on the knowledge of God's word to his wife and, soon, his children. Joe took seriously the responsibility of a father and did nothing that would cause co-workers, friends, and especially his own family to doubt the genuineness of his faith. He was not a special man, but just an "average Joe" who believed he should always do the best he could and that he should teach the gospel to everyone he met. At the church where he now attended, Joe was sought out as a teacher and he always challenged his students — whether they were 18 or 81 — to dig a little deeper into the text and to learn something more than what they already knew. He did not have the speaking ability like many well-known preachers, but Joe knew the Bible and his enthusiasm for God's word was evident when he taught a Bible class.

Joe was eventually appointed an elder at the congregation where he had worshiped all those years. His knowledge of the Bible and his desire to live a godly life was a great influence on that congregation and even in his neighborhood. He took the responsibility as a shepherd seriously (Hebrews 13:17 ; Acts 20:28 ) and would not tolerate error being taught nor sin existing among the flock. He was firm, but compassionate; no one who was rebuked felt like Joe was acting out of meanness or spite. Everyone with whom he dealt saw a heart of love in Joe, for he genuinely cared for the souls of everyone he knew.

But, like all men, Joe was just a man and, like all men, his life came to an end. When Joe died, the angels carried him away to Abraham's bosom to be comforted, just as they did poor Lazarus (Luke 16:22 ). In Judgment, all the deeds of Joe were brought to light and the Lord could say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). He would receive his crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:7, 8) and he would enjoy the rest promised to those who did not turn back in their hearts (Hebrews 4:1). But Joe also saw those whom he had met though the years — those with whom he had shared the gospel. He saw friends from his high school days whom he had not seen since, but who were influenced by his faith even then. He saw some of his college classmates whom he never would have thought would obey, but who had also been influenced by this "average Joe." He met people whom he had personally never met on earth, but who knew of him and his faith and were led to obey by others whom he had taught. Joe could now rejoice with them eternally!

This story is about a fictional man named Joe who was, by all accounts, an "average Joe." But the details of the story are true: You can make an eternal difference in the lives of others — and you don't have to be "Superman" to do it.