For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.
— Romans 12:3 AMPC
When I was first getting started in the ministry, I was so excited and filled with confidence. In fact, I thought I could accomplish anything — and I naively thought I could do it all by myself without help from anyone else. I’ll never forget the time I tried very hard to impress an older gentleman who had been in the ministry for more than 50 years. I confidently told him about all the areas in which I excelled and all the things I was capable of doing. The older and much wiser leader listened attentively and then responded, “Son, I believe you can do great things. I’m just not convinced you can do small things, or that you’d be able to work with anyone else.”
Being young and inexperienced, I was initially shocked at this older minister’s answer. But decades later, I now savor the wisdom he spoke to me that day. Time and experience have taught me that God watches to see how we serve in the small things and how we work with others. The way we manage the small things in our lives proves whether or not we are worthy of being entrusted with greater responsibility. That means “small things” really aren’t so small at all! My experience has also shown me that nothing great is accomplished by a single person; it takes many hands to do a great job. Those who work alone rarely accomplish anything significant.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
In Romans 12:3 (AMPC), Paul says, “For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.” I really like the Amplified translation of this verse. Paul used the Greek word huperphroneo, a compound of huper and phroneo. The word huper means over, above, or beyond, and the word phroneo means to think. Compounded, the new word carries the meaning as translated in the Amplified — to think of oneself more highly than he ought to think or to have an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance.
In verses 4 and 5 (AMPC), Paul provided us with a balanced view of our different roles and showed us that we are each a vital part of a much greater whole. He wrote, “For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use, so we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another].”
We see from Romans 12:4 that Paul likened the Church to the human body. This analogy sounds simple, yet it is so profound! Hands are different than ears; a mouth is different than a nose; and so on. The different parts of the body are all unique, yet they’re all equally important and interdependent. The same is true for the Body of Christ. Even Christ — the Head of the Church — is dependent on His Body. We as believers worship and take directions from the Head, but ultimately the Head needs the Body to do what the Head tells it to do.
Let me give you an example from my own life. I’m a writer, and the gift in my life that will have the longest-lasting impact is teaching through writing. I believe that the words I write will long outlast me. An example is the book you hold in your hands. This book and the many other books I have authored will continue to minister to people long after I am in Heaven. However, these books don’t just supernaturally show up on the shelves of a bookstore one day. The book you are reading came to pass because I sat down at my computer one day and started typing. When it was time for me to write, the information came from my brain through billions of nerve cells in my spinal cord, activating the muscles in my arms and every bone in my hand. My fingers began to move on the computer keys, transferring thoughts to words in print as information flowed through my body at lightning speed.
This process happens so fast that we can’t conceive or comprehend it. You can’t see a single one of those nerves because they’re invisible to the eye. But if you ripped those nerves out of your body, nothing could be produced.
In addition to my work as the author, there are editors, researchers, and other talented people who help craft these books. Each book goes through multiple levels of editing, typesetting, proofreading, and design. Someone must send the manuscript to the printer and ensure that the printed books are delivered on time. Contacts are made with distributors, and then finally the books are delivered to bookstores, where someone unpacks them and displays them on bookshelves. Eventually they are sold by someone who works at a sales desk. My name appears on the cover because I undertook the monumental job of writing the book, but if I were the only one involved in the process, those words would be nothing more than a file on my computer. Yes, there are many necessary parts to the successful publishing of a book, and every part is important.
The same is true with our TV ministry. Denise and I are the faces seen on our television program and on the Internet all over the former USSR. However, there are also cameramen who stand behind cameras, editors who edit programs, and individuals who contact the TV stations and ensure the programs are delivered on time. It takes a dedicated team of people working interdependently toward a common goal to produce this TV program and see that it reaches the masses with the teaching of God’s Word.
My own part in writing books and recording TV programs is crucial, but it’s only a “part” of the total process. Nothing would happen if I didn’t do my part, but my part would be fruitless without the help of others fulfilling their own vital roles. Keeping this in mind helps me appreciate everyone else’s role as much as I value my own in an assignment. It also helps me remember that we are interdependent upon each other in the Body of Christ.
Consider all the “invisible” members in the Body of Christ who work for the Lord behind the scenes. I’m talking about those you never see on a platform, behind a pulpit, or over the airwaves on a television broadcast. Every part of the Body of Christ is vital and necessary. Oh, how we need to be thankful for the invisible people who play critical roles in the functioning of the Body of Christ! They are just as important as the more visible roles people play, and often, they are even more important!
Paul makes this truth abundantly clear in Romans 12:6 (AMPC ), where he wrote, “Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us…” Every person has been given a grace to employ in service to God and the Body of Christ. You may feel drawn to practical areas of service. Perhaps you’re called to teach others, or maybe you’re particularly gifted at encouraging people. Or maybe you’re especially motivated by compassion to rescue the lost and hurting.
Whatever gifts and graces God has given you, I highly encourage you to find your place in His house and serve. Don’t despise the “lowly” acts of service you may be called upon to fulfill along the way — they will qualify you for greater places of responsibility.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I am amazed by Your design for the Body of Christ, with each of us interdependent upon the other. Alone we can do our small parts, but together we can accomplish a greater goal. I ask You to help me really see and understand this truth. I repent of the pride that has tried to creep in to make me despise small things or to hinder me from cooperating with others to fulfill my part in Your plan. I confess that these are areas where I need to grow. Father, You resist the proud, but You give grace to the humble. I ask You for Your grace to help me reach new levels in these areas so I can glorify You and be a true blessing to others.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am well aware of my interdependence with others in the Body of Christ. You called us as a whole Body so that we may work properly and accomplish greater goals. I am not willing to be independent in the way I operate. By the grace of God working in me, I submit myself to God and resist the temptation to overestimate myself. I will appreciate those who are called alongside me to work, and I will humbly esteem their great value to God and also to me. The visible and less visible members are equally important, and as I walk with God, I am becoming ever more aware of my need to do my part, along with those who are called by God to do their own part.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What do you do independently that requires no one else’s participation but has a great impact on many people?
- What do you do that requires the cooperation of others in order to reach masses or even to be effective at reaching small groups of people?
- What gifts do you have that are effective and far-reaching all by yourself? The “small things” are qualifiers for larger assignments in the eyes of God. Have you learned to be faithful at doing small, almost unnoticeable assignments?