Eighteenth-century French pastor, Jean Frederick Oberlin, was a man of rare spirituality as he was known to be a great pastor and skilled at impacting society with his philanthropy. Oberlin set himself to better the material equally with the spiritual condition of those to whom he ministered. He constructed roads, built bridges, founded schools, founded a savings and loan bank, and even practiced medicine among them. He was known far beyond his parish. One day as he was traveling by foot in winter, he was caught in a severe snowstorm. He soon lost his way and feared he would freeze to death. In despair, he sat down not knowing which way to turn. Just then, a man came along in a wagon and rescued Oberlin. He took him to the next village and made sure he would be cared for. As the man prepared to journey on, Oberlin said, "Tell me your name so that I may at least have you in grateful remembrance before God." The man, who by now had recognized Oberlin, replied, "You are a minister. Please tell me the name of the Good Samaritan." Oberlin said, "I cannot do that, for it is not given in the Scriptures." His rescuer replied, “Sir, until you can tell me his name, please permit me to withhold mine."
Breaking in to Hebrews 11, one cannot help but be impressed with the acts of faith recorded of the lives of the heroes of faith. From Enoch to Abraham, and from Moses to Samson, we have a roll call of those lives who witnessed the supernatural hand of God. We are told of their miraculous feats, their glorious conquests, and their incredible deliverance. These are the gold standards of faith that one can often find it difficult to measure up against. However, lest discouragement and faithlessness set in, there is a small phrase tucked away in verse 36 that gives us all hope, “And others...” They are nameless and anonymous saints, but they are not discounted and disregarded. These were lives God memorialized more for what they did than for who they were. Too often we fix our attention exclusively on the more famous characters of the Bible, yet there is a vast host of inconspicuous and unnamed saints. Have you ever wondered who were the wise men or the shepherds? Or perhaps the two thieves on crosses? Or maybe the Philippian jailer? This gives me the hope that while I may not be able to ever be an Abraham or a Moses, I can be among the tribe of “and others.” Some of the biggest impacts ever made on the world have come from very ordinary lives through which God did the extraordinary. The father of the Great Awakening, George Whitefield, said, “Let my name be forgotten, let me be trodden under the feet of all men, if Jesus may thereby be glorified.” What are the requirements to be considered a member of the “and others?”
A life that grows humbly before the Lord. In Mark 12, Jesus was teaching in the temple and He began to watch “how the people cast money into the treasury.” Verse 42 then records the moment most would overlook, “And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites...” In comparison to the large donations and loud noise of handfuls of coins being dropped in, this woman was not on anyone’s radar in the audience; except for Jesus. She had not come to impress anyone for she had nothing with which to impress. But, Jesus saw that she had done the best she could with what she had. Just like those living in ancient times, we live in a generation that wants to know and be known. But, God is not looking for the big deals as much as He is looking for the real deals. A little lad only had five loaves and two fishes, but gave them over because Jesus said, “Bring them here to Me.” A man had a young colt, but he willingly parted with him because “the Lord hath need of him.” It is not the size of the offering that pleases God, but rather the scale of the obedience. In the life of every Christian, there is a place where one must decide if he will live for the applause of the world or for the approval of heaven. George Mueller said, "It ill becomes the servant to seek to be rich, and great, and honored in that world where his Lord was poor, and mean, and despised." The man that is counting his blessings never has time to count his newspaper clippings!
A life that gives honor to the Lord. In John 9, Jesus passed by a man who was blind from birth. After Jesus heals him, the man is interrogated as to how he was healed. He answered in verse 11, “...A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes...and I received sight.” Imagine all the money this man could have made if he had bottled the water, marketed the clay, and set up kiosks all over Jerusalem to sell his miracle to others. Instead, the man simply pointed to Jesus. While our lives are meant to bring glory to God, the temptation we all face is trying to pocket a small amount for ourselves. We can be like the woodpecker who watched as lightning struck a tree splitting it in half. He quickly flew off and returned with five others boastfully proclaiming, “See! I told you!” Those moments where all glory belongs to God man can neither describe nor duplicate. When the lame man at the pool of Bethesda was healed after 38 long years, he “told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.” When the woman at the well was confronted with a lifetime of sin, she ran home and said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” The ultimate end for which God seeks from our life is that we deliver a platform for His glory. Vance Havner said, “God grant us the beatitude of the background, that only He may be seen!” When there is an overflow of glory, the vessel will always be hidden.
A life that gains help from the Lord. In John 4, we learn of a certain nobleman who possessed riches and honor, but none of those things could bring healing to his son. In verse 49, he spoke to Jesus with a sense of urgency and powerlessness and said, “...Sir, come down ere my child die.” Once the father had reached the point of utter helplessness, he received the help his heart desired. The world in which we live always views helplessness as weakness. But, for the Christian, helplessness is the secret of our strength. Once a man abandons himself in total dependence to all of the possibility of God, he is able to draw upon God’s inexhaustible resources. The greatest challenge to which we are often brought is not so much not knowing what to do, but rather that of lacking the power to do it. A Syrophoenician woman appeared to be getting no where at the request of healing for her daughter, but then she cried, “Lord, help me.” A certain father’s son was possessed of a demon the disciples could not conquer, but then he cried, “...if Thou can do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” The dependent life is a life in which self has been defeated. Roy Hession said, “The Spirit's fullness is not the reward of our faithfulness, but God's gift for our defeat.” Far too often we live with a backwards faith that thinks we must have the faith of a mountain to move a mustard seed. A man can never depend upon God without finding how dependable God is.
We have a tendency to measure a man’s success by how far reaching is his identity. But, God puts a greater emphasis on the measure of a man’s influence. For that reason, no matter how much we may live in the shadow of obscurity or anonymity, God can take us from a “whosoever will” to one of the most noted members of the “and others” club. Inscribed on the back of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are these words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Some things are just better left with God.
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2016 Alan Stewart