The Unknown Brethren
Ray Gonzalez, Texas [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
2 Cor. 8. vv. 16-24. All quotations are from The New American Standard Bible.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to have a name like Billy Graham or Dwight Moody. They were men who served the Lord right in the spotlight and have been used mightily to bring many to Christ. But have you ever heard of Tom, or what about Ken, or Jan and who in the world is Rachel? These may well be the names of your every day believers who serve the Lord with devotion and commitment but few know who they are or even know their names. One thing I do know, they love the Lord Jesus and serve Him faithfully.
The unknown servants are by far in the majority
We are all inspired when we hear names such as Peter, Paul, Timothy, Luther, Calvin, Graham, and Sunday, the list is long, but what about the unknown majority of God’s servants who were and are faithful to our Lord and Saviour? Even from the record of scripture it is easy to remember Moses and Aaron, but what about the family of Merari? They faithfully took down the tent and carried the poles of the Tabernacle every time it was moved. Unfortunately this is not exactly going to cause us to recognize them or to hear a testimony where someone would say… ‘the family of Merari really inspire me, the way they take the tabernacle apart and put it back together, the way they carry the boards.’ Yet, they were given this mundane and behind the scene task by the Lord, and they no doubt did it caringly and as unto the Him.
Case study 1
Sometimes we wonder why we were given the mundane task that nobody recognizes me for because it is behind the scenes. We read about two such a persons in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 verses 18 to 22, ‘And we have sent along with him (that is Titus) the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches.’ This is the first one and although we do not know who he was, this man was obviously well known for preaching the gospel. Why then did the Holy Spirit choose not to mention his name? Surely it is just as easy to mention his name, as it is to say, ‘the brother.’ We also are given to understand that this man had such a wonderful testimony that the churches appointed him to travel with Titus to deliver their gift, a love offering, that was collected to help the needy saints. Not only this, but according to verse 20, Paul discloses the reason for his selection is that his testimony was so pure that out of so many other servants he was chosen to accompany Titus. But who was he? Apparently what matters is not his name but his character, his transparent life. Someone said, ‘The Lord would rather have one person who is 100 percent committed to Him than one hundred people who are only 75 percent committed to Him.’ God knew who he was and how he lived and served. Ultimately this is what the Holy Spirit wanted to show us. Sometimes it is His will for us to remain anonymous.
Case study 2
Then, oddly enough the apostle goes on to another brother who also had a wonderful testimony. Notice how Paul describes him in 2 Corinthians 8 verse 22, ‘We have sent with them (Titus and the brother) our other brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things, but now even more diligent, because of his great confidence in you.’ Again, of all the brethren available they choose only three, Titus, the brother and the other brother. Why did the Holy Spirit choose not to mention his name either? We are given no idea, but what we are told that he was often tested. Apparently the local churches had observed his life, and found it to be transparent. He was diligent in his responsibilities, consistent in the way he conducted himself, worked hard and the believers knew it. When we are right with God we don’t have to raise flags, or blow our own trumpets. We read in Proverbs 20 verse 11 that even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right. How much more then will an adult, a mother, a father or a businessman be known also. It’s hard to fool people. The unsaved around us observe to see if what we say matches up with what we do. Our fellow believers also observe if we are an example in faith, love, speech, purity, and diligence. Above all God knows us more than we know ourselves, He knows if we are right or not. So the brother was often tested, he had to prove he was worthy of such a task, and after several years of service the churches could see that indeed he was well qualified to be asked to do it.
Reactions and resolutions on account of unrecognized service
A very natural reaction to not being identified by name would be by saying, ‘Well, I will never serve again because after all I’ve done no one noticed me or said thank you. No one cares that I have poured out my life for Christ and His people and all I get is to be tagged as the brother no one knows the name of.’ Or perhaps our feelings are, ‘These poor fellows were overlooked, their names were not acknowledged, how could Paul have left their names out!’ The queastion we really need to ask is ‘How did God see it?’ We read, ‘as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ’, 2 Cor. 8. 23b. They were men who brought glory to the name of Christ! Isn’t that what really matters and is this not our desire as born again believers? An emphatic yes! Surely. We all want our Lord to get the glory. In light of this who cares if I get acknowledged or not? The thing that matters is that our blessed Lord and Saviour was glorified, He was exalted, He was worshipped. Even though we know and understand this it can still be of little consolation because of our current circumstances. We are tempted to say, ‘I have served so long in my little Sunday school class, and no one has noticed. It’s so frustrating and discouraging to keep serving year after year and never to get any acknowledgement or to see any results’. A few years ago I ran into my old Sunday school teacher. I was eleven years old when he faithfully taught our class. He was a quite man, not very exciting, but faithfully served our Lord. What he did not realize was that one Sunday, while he taught the bible study and presented the gospel, the Holy Spirit began to convict my heart of my need for the Saviour. That night under heavy conviction I awoke, knelt by my bed and trusted Christ to save me from sin. But, I never told my teacher until on this occasion twenty-eight years later. I told him how God used him to bring me to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was so excited, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ he asked. To be honest I never even thought of it there but when I saw him that day I remembered when I finally understood the gospel.
God’s faithfulness and not earthly recognition is what matters most
God is always at work; yet we may never know when God has worked! God, knowing our need for encouragement in service has left it on record for us that He is, ‘not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have shown toward His name, in having ministered (served) and in still ministering to the saints’. Heb. 6. 10. I don’t know if my name will count for much while the Lord has me here on earth, I am not even sure I will even get acknowledged for all my work. What I do know is that God will not forget all that I do out of love for Him and love for God’s people. In the day of reckoning I will stand before the Saviour and He will have His reward for all those who serve Him, regardless as to whether our names are known or unknown. He has said, ‘Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done’. Rev. 22. 12. So no need to fret! As long as I am serving my Saviour and He is getting the glory that’s enough for us. May it be said of every believer, ‘We are a glory to Christ.’
AUTHOR PROFILE: RAY GONZALEZ was saved in Houston, Texas, and is a commended full-time worker in fellowship in the assembly meeting at Lakeside Bible Chapel, Sterling Heights, Michigan, USA. He is married with three children.