Posted by: austend | Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Finger of the Baptizer

For all my life I’ve thought that I would one day be someone “great”. I’ve had some false notion that I would accomplish “great things” and be “famous”. I think that’s somewhat of a common idea among people since I have heard a few of my other friends express the same idea about themselves. But it sort of occurred to me today that this may not be the case. Sure, I am confident that God will use me and that He will give me opportunity to serve Him, but at the end of my life I may not feel “great”. I may not be the “golden one”, as a song I like puts it. It is true that we “have this Treasure in vessels of clay” and that ultimately God is the one who receives all the glory, but there are some people who seem to be “greater” in the ministry than others. Some workers of God have very prosperous ministries and end their lives with a “big name”. But there are countless others whose lives and ministries go unrecorded in the annals of history. You have heard of Spurgeon and John Bunyan, but how many others have you heard of from those times? These weren’t the only two pastors of their times, were they? Why don’t you know the names of their contemporaries? Did their service to God not mean anything? Of course it did. Why are they unknown, then?

An example from the Gospels occurred to me—John the Baptizer. Here was a man who had a very successful ministry at the first. People poured out to see him. But he was just a forerunner for Another of greater importance. He was simply a finger that was to point to Christ. And he did this selflessly. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” he said. John is remembered today, but Christ is remembered far more than he. Yet he did his job just as he was told to do. I am sure that it wasn’t easy to redirect all those crowds who came to see him to someone else, but that was his divine function.

Now all who labor for Christ are ultimately like fingers pointing to Christ ensuring that He alone gets the glory for the work accomplished, but there are some whose job in God’s work is to point toward someone else on earth. Perhaps it’s the “lowly” associate pastor whose sole function is to support the senior pastor. Perhaps it’s the godly wife at home who is the true strength of the pastor in the pulpit. My point is that behind every “great” minister of God, there are countless people laboring equally hard who never will get recognition of their own this side of Heaven. Their job is to point to another. There are countless other ministers who will never be known outside of their small church, who will never get their own TV show or radio station. Yet their job is no less important than the man known in every Evangelical home, nor is their ministry any less effective.

We all have functions. Some are more visible than others. Sometimes our function is not very glorious. Sometimes people never even know that we existed or served or ministered. Sometimes others get the credit for what we really did. But that is the function God has given us, and as hard as it may be, we are to do it “heartily as unto the Lord.” Perhaps this is why Christ hinted that in Heaven the “first shall be last and the last shall be first.” It is my opinion that those who had “great” and public ministries on earth, though they may have done a legitimately effective job, will step down so that the others whose ministry went unnoticed on earth will receive glory and praise from their Savior.

So wherever God has placed you to work, and whatever function God has given you, do your work with eternity in view. You may not receive recognition here, but there is a reward waiting in Heaven for those who labor for the Lord diligently. Your function may be that of a John who points away from himself toward another, but I adjure you to do it willingly and not begrudgingly. It is not easy being the one no one knows, but if that is your function that God has given you, do it as unto Him. “I am coming, and my reward is with me,” says Christ. Labor for the Lord and not for the praise of men!

“There is no limit to what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.” (A similar quote was on Ronald Reagan’s desk while he was President.)

(By the way, the title for this entry was adapted from something in Maninga’s book about Barth.)


  1. Thanks for the reminder! God does have a great plan for your life. Trust and He will lead.

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