There are occasional reminders in our lives of just how unimportant we really are. Maybe God puts them there to keep us humble. I remember when I left my private practice to accept a position at the State’s Attorneys Office. I was concerned for many clients. Some of them I had counseled and met with frequently over the last 19 years. But I soon realized that they would get along just fine. In fact, some of them probably found a better attorney, more suited to their needs, and in hindsight they would say the transition was a blessing to them. When I retired from the State’s Attorneys Office 12 years later, I had been the supervising attorney at the Narcotics Task Force. Again I wondered, how will things go here when I am gone? And again, the same humbling reply eventually came: Just fine thank you. When our children grew up and moved away from home, we worried about how they would pay their bills, how they would buy groceries, how they would possibly get along without mom and dad. And guess what? That’s right, they did!
I know we are all important in the church, and God has a special place for us, (1 Cor. 12:12ff). But you know what? None of us is indispensable. We are reminded repeatedly that we are merely “unprofitable servants,” pressing along the best we know how, trying to make a difference and making plenty of mistakes. We sometimes pause and realize that the Lord’s church is fully capable of carrying on without us.
Please don’t misunderstand. The work suffers greatly when certain members die or move away or drop out. Sometimes the loss seems almost irreparable. I can think of many members of this congregation right now who are making such a valuable contribution I cannot imagine losing them. I cannot comprehend how the work could continue without them. But just because I cannot envision it, doesn’t mean God can’t do it. It’s the Lord’s church, not yours or mine.
There is a Power at work in the church far greater than you or me. It was the Lord who said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,” (Mt. 16:18). What awesome Force is at work in this divine institution that even the gates of Hades are unable to stop it!
God does not depend upon mighty warriors or large numbers to accomplish his purposes. Once he used a mere 300 men to defeat the entire Midianite army, (Jg. 7). And a small child quoting a Bible verse can melt a heart of stone. God doesn’t evaluate things the way we do. But God’s view is correct. “For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to think soberly, according as God has dealt to each man a measure of faith,” (Rom. 12:3). Even the great apostle Paul, as vital and important to the work as he was, recognized that he was who he was by the grace of God, (1 Cor. 15:10).
Paul would ask, “Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own Lord he standeth or falleth. Yay, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand,” (Rom. 14:4). We need to be very careful about trying to judge the value of God’s servants, including ourselves. Sometimes the ones we think are very valuable don’t amount to much in God’s sight. And vice versa.
So the next time I get to feeling, as they say, “too big for my breeches” maybe it would help to take a step back and remember who is really in control here. Remember that God has a way of getting the important things done, with or without my help. And he is the one who decides what is important.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.