Can you name all the Twelve apostles? As I write this, I can’t without checking my Bible. If I were to ask which of them is your favourite, chances are you’d say one of Peter, Andrew, James, John or Philip. Everyone remembers Judas, but who wants to be him? If you study the New Testament, you’ll find that nothing is said about most of the Twelve apostles after the first chapter of Acts. So, what happened to someone like Thaddaeus or Thomas after Pentecost? What about Matthew, the writer of the first gospel? We know they were in the room on Pentecost day [Acts 1:13]. Yet, nothing is said of their exploits afterwards.
I know there are records outside the Bible about what some of these men did. Thomas, for instance, ended up in India. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that their post-Pentecost exploits aren’t mentioned in Scripture. There were 120 people in the room waiting for the Holy Spirit. I’m convinced that these men and women went on to do mighty works in the name of Jesus, teach His word, mentor many and fulfil the Great Commission. We don’t know most of what they did, but what is lost to the annals of history as far as the lives of these men and women are concerned, God knows perfectly well. He alone knows all they did [Psalm 138:16], and today, these men and women are enjoying the eternal rewards promised by Jesus.
One of God’s names is El Roi which means “the God who sees” [Genesis 16:13]. So, despite not having pages written about their exploits like Peter and Paul, nothing they accomplished escaped God’s notice. I believe this was a source of comfort and contentment for them, and it was their joy to lift up Jesus and point people to Him while they faded into the background [John 3:30]. In today’s celebrity-driven culture, where many clamour for the spotlight, it isn’t fashionable to exalt another to the detriment of your fame. Most of us want to be recognised. We want acclaim and the applause of onlookers. I wonder, would we have been satisfied to have nothing written of our exploits as long as Jesus was pleased and glorified with our lives?
While being duly applauded isn’t bad, seeking to be applauded is dangerous. It can lead to envy, pride and issues of self-esteem. There’s a passage in Scripture we ought to heed. It reminds us that all our gifts, anything worthwhile in us, comes from God to be used in service to Him, and ultimately, He empowers what we do and the results we achieve [1 Corinthians 12:4-6]. God decided that the ministry of Thaddaeus and Simon the Zealot wouldn’t be recorded in Scripture, and the exploits of Peter and Paul would. If we ever lose sight of that fact, we may find ourselves trying to make things happen that God didn’t sanction, whilst losing sight of the assignments that God has given us [John 5:19].
Despite knowing these things, I must confess that I still struggle. I vacillate between being content with where God has placed me and coveting another person’s platform. I think of Aaron and Miriam, whose envy of Moses brought God’s wrath upon them [Numbers 12]. So, I see that covetousness is a vice that can plague anyone who focuses on themselves instead of Jesus. Consequently, we must get to a place where we’ve mastered our flesh such that we no longer live for ourselves, but we become willing vessels wholly available to be used by Jesus as He desires [Galatians 2:20]. This is a place where you’re happy to be an Ananias, a vessel used by Jesus to activate Paul’s ministry and never heard of again [Acts 9:10-17].
Would I be happy to be an Ananias, or the woman at the well, whose name is never known, despite being Jesus’s first missionary to the Gentiles [John 4]? Or do I want to be a Philip whose later exploits in the same region are recorded for posterity [Acts 8:4-8]? Interestingly, Jesus gave us a word of caution on this matter. He told us that if anything we do for God is motivated by the desire to be praised and exalted by people, then we’ll not receive a reward from our heavenly Father because we’ve already received the recompense of men [Matthew 6:1]. Experience shows us that the applause of men is superficial and fleeting. It doesn’t satisfy us because we were created to glorify God [Isaiah 43:7], not seek glory for ourselves. Consequently, you’ll struggle to find anyone satisfied with their fame.
It’s worth remembering that God never shares His glory [Isaiah 42:8]. Therefore, our disposition has to be that of servants, happy to do whatever the Master asks. If you struggle with pride, this will be hard because your God-given assignment might not be glamorous or noteworthy to people. But since there are no small parts in God’s agenda, and that agenda has an eternal dimension, whatever we do for God will echo in eternity [Matthew 25:40]. Moreover, who can reward like God? What could men give you that could possibly be better than what God can give? This is the understanding we must possess in our service to God: He alone dictates our assignment, and we’re here to serve only His purposes [Colossians 1:16]
If we view it as a privilege to be used by God at all, we’ll be content, not by what we do, but who has asked it of us. He could accomplish His will without us, but yet, He chooses to include us. Therefore, true contentment is found when we truly appreciate the implications of being used by the Creator of the universe for anything at all.