As Each Part Does Its Work

The Body of Christ is supposed to be built up until we all reach maturity, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). To quote my children from the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “No.” There is still a lot of building to be done, and the unemployment rate will never be a concern when it comes to working for the Lord.

Ephesians 4:16
From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When my youngest child was still a baby, I tore a ligament in my right hand. Without that needed support, the work of motherhood became arduous to the rest of my body. My left hand started to get testy with me. (You want me to do WHAT?) Now I realize what happens in the body when each part does NOT do its work. Every part of the body is needed, just like each believer is vital to the building of the Church. Some jobs may seem more important than others because they come with a fancy title and name recognition, but the Bible shows otherwise.

Without looking in your Bible, how quickly can you name all twelve of the tribes of Israel? At times I may inadvertently throw in some of the reindeer names. You know Asher and Reuben and Levi and Judah, Comet and Cupid…no, wait. Most people know Joseph because he led a high profile life. He was a godly man whose rags-to-riches story was so popular that it eventually became the subject of a Broadway musical. [1] Joseph, in today’s vernacular, is a “superstar.”

Chances are you have never even heard of me. My name recognition is pretty much limited to the heavenly realms, my family, and a small circle of friends. Not many people know my story. Not only am I not the subject of a Broadway musical, but I don’t even have time to see one. A friend of mine recently asked me, “What was the last movie you saw in a movie cinema?”, and I said, “They have movie cinemas now?” I spend most of my days under a thick cloud of Cheerio dust, caring for my three young children. The temptation is to think that I am an insignificant player in the building of the Body of Christ. The reality is that the Bible is filled with examples of unfamiliar men and women who build quietly behind the scenes, not for the recognition, but for the Lord. These are “minor characters” with major roles.

We should get to know some of these people better. After all, we will meet them when we get to the Kingdom. Personally, I don’t want to feel like I’m at a high school reunion, surreptitiously squinting at someone’s nametag because I have no earthly idea who this person is. Take Philemon, for example. He has a small chapter in the Bible, but how familiarly will I greet him? (“Filet Mignon! How ya doin’, buddy?” ‘It’s Philemon.’ “Right, that’s what I meant.”) Every word of the Bible was given by inspiration of God, including names. I usually skim over unfamiliar people, but lately I have been stopping to ask, “Who is this person, and why did God include him in His Word?”

Romans chapter sixteen includes many personal greetings from the Apostle Paul. At the beginning of the chapter, Paul commends Phoebe, a servant of the church. If you stop the average person on the street and ask him about Phoebe in the Bible, most likely he wouldn’t have a clue. Yet Paul said of her, “she has been a great help to many people, including me” (Rom. 16:1 and 2). Whoever this woman was, she was a tremendous servant who blessed and assisted Paul in his work.

Paul continues by listing many names that we can barely pronounce or identify. Yet look at what they did for the church:

Priscilla and Aquila “risked their lives for me” (verse 4).

Mary “worked very hard for you” (verse 6).

Andronicus and Junias “are outstanding among the apostles” (verse 7).

Tryphena and Tryphosa “work hard in the Lord” (verse 12).

Persis…”has worked very hard in the Lord” (verse 12).

Gaius “whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy” (verse 23).

Another unfamiliar believer is Tychicus, the guy whose name sounds like either a sneeze or a pork-related disease. He is relatively unknown, yet he is mentioned five times in the Bible as a helper to Paul. Paul entrusted him to encourage both the Ephesians and the Colossians.

Colossians 4:7b and 8
(7) He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.
(8) I am sending him to you for the express purpose that…he may encourage your hearts.

Colossians also introduces us to Epaphras, whom Paul described as a “fellow servant” and “faithful minister of Christ.” Here was a guy working hard behind the scenes to build the church.

Colossians 4:12b
He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

Maybe these people are not the most popular in the Bible, but their works are not forgotten. Whatever your personal gifts and callings are, you have something to contribute that will not be forgotten.

Hebrews 6:10-12
(10) God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
(11) We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.
(12) We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Why does God feel the need to admonish us about diligence and laziness when it comes to helping the saints? It’s kind of like wondering about some of those signs in public restrooms. Would you have to make a sign instructing people not to flush strange items down the toilet if no one had ever done it before? Would you have to remind employees to wash their hands if it had never become an issue? Obviously, God saw the temptation for believers to fizzle out, and He made us a sign.

When a believer’s flame goes out, it diminishes the bonfire of the entire church: that believer does not understand how significant his or her life is to the Body of Christ. That’s one less person who is able to heal, to share, to minister, and to build the church. I’ve noticed that when someone doesn’t make it to fellowship, their absence impacts the rest of their spiritual family. There is a void, because their lives and ministries are so valuable. Each person has gifts that were given to help build the church.

It doesn’t matter if your name is never on the Top 10 Most Searched on the Internet. Even if you are fortunate enough to make it to number three, number two could be “Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipes” or some other humiliation. The Lord needs each one of us to do our part, no matter how insignificant we think it is. When building a house, everyone is needed, from the supervisor right down to the guy who is supposed to pick up the nails at the hardware store. Without the nails, everyone else might as well pack up and go home.

When building the church, the analogy stays the same. 1 Corinthians chapter twelve explains that every part of the Body of Christ is needed, from the head down to what we moms call “the little piggy that cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home.” Sometimes people believe that they are not “important” enough, but God addresses that issue:

1 Corinthians 12:14-15, 18-22, and 27
(14) Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
(15) If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
(18) But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
(19) If they were all one part, where would the body be?
(20) As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
(21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
(22) On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…
(27) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Nehemiah did not rebuild the wall of Jerusalem by himself. How many of the wall builders can you name? Nehemiah chapter three lists some of these people, and I had never heard of any of them before. Verse three informs us that the Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. I don’t know who they are, but they laid the beams and “put its doors and bolts and bars in place.” The list goes on and on, and then you get to verse 14: “The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah…He rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.” How would you like to be responsible for the Dung Gate? Yet someone had to do it, and thankfully, Malkijah got the job done. He could have been bitter toward Shallun (verse 15), who got to repair the Fountain Gate and the wall of the Pool of Siloam, by the King’s Garden (Hey! This guy gets the jacuzzi and I get the outhouse?). But Nehemiah 4:6 tells us that “the people worked with all their heart.” No bitterness, no excuses, just a heart to serve.

The builders of that wall should be an inspiration to the church today. They faced fierce opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah, who ridiculed the Jews, insulted them, and tried to put an end to their work.

Nehemiah 4:12 and 13
(12) Then the Jews who lived near them [their enemies] came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
(13) Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.

Nehemiah needed people to fill in the gaps that left his people exposed. He needed people to be armed with weapons of protection. The Devil and his minions would like nothing more than to stop believers today from their work of building the church. The Lord needs his people to fill in the gaps. There are too many gaps and not enough people!

The record continues with Nehemiah encouraging the people to trust in the Lord and finish their work without fear.

Nehemiah 4:14 and 15
(14) After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
(15) When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.

Each individual made the decision to return to the wall to finish the work. But they worked together, fighting for each other. Just like today’s believers, each person needs to make the choice to return to the wall and keep building.

Nehemiah 4:16-18
(16) From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah
(17) who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other,
(18) and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

In the church today, there will be some officers who guide the work of others. There will be some people carrying materials. There will be some who fight to protect the saints with prayer and the sword of the spirit, the Word of God. Let’s face it; there will be some who work with “dung.” And thank God for the trumpet-blowers, the ones who see the need for unity and call us together. For we won’t always physically be together on the wall.

Nehemiah 4:19-21
(19) Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.
(20) Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
(21) So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.

When you are famous, you have a building named after you. Maybe we won’t have a plaque on the wall, but our names are written in the Book of Life. We may never have the Broadway musical, but we have the heavenly hosts singing with joy over our salvation. We probably won’t have world-wide name recognition, but when we see Jesus, our Lord will recognize us and welcome us by name into his Kingdom.

Perhaps you are the supervisor, or maybe you pick up the nails at the hardware store; it doesn’t matter. The Body needs you to help build. Jesus needs you. And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” Jesus is the head! And some days I feel like the bottom of the feet, but it doesn’t matter. Epaphras was needed. Tychicus was needed. Onesimus was needed. Who are these people? They’re you and me. They loved the Lord and they showed up to help and they built. But the building isn’t finished, and we’ve still got work to do.

Endnotes

[1] Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

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2 comments

  1. Stephen, I would disagree. I think Jesus had some very clever things to say and wears in which to say them.

  2. Love this writer’s voice! Is there a place I can follow their writing online?

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