Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry


By Jeannette Haley

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men,

 the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5

      If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there are days when a we can find ourselves sinking into a puddle of pathetic personal powerlessness. We look around and see the world coming apart at the seams (literally, think “Teutonic plates”). If we truly belong to the Lord, we want to do something to make a difference in these end times. We want to make our lives count for eternity, to leave some sort of a legacy, and to make an impact on people’s lives for Christ. This is when Satan enters the picture and says, “You’re only one person; one miserable microscopic dot in the vast sea of humanity, so forget it.”

      The truth is Satan knows that one person who knows his or her God can make an eternal difference. Therefore, he lies to God’s people in order to discourage them from standing strong, and preparing themselves for the call of God upon their lives. For example, how terribly tragic it was that there was not one man among all the people in Judah who would intercede for the land, and the Lord said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” Ezekiel 22:30. God only needed one intercessor, just one! Think of it! In all of Judah He could not find one man to stand in the gap. Who will stand in the gap for America?

      We all know that God needed only one man and one woman to begin the human race; all of us marvel at the man Enoch who “walked with God” for three hundred years, and all of us who truly believe God’s Word are eternally thankful that one man, Noah, “found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” or none of us would be here today. Noah was God’s man for that dark time, just as Job and Daniel were in their own individual, difficult situations.  We appreciate father Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (and their wives), and the story of Joseph who was only a teenager when his brothers sold him into Egypt. His example of faithfulness to the God of his fathers through extreme testing and trials, and God’s timing in elevating him to second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt, is a thrilling example of how God can use just one obedient person.

      Who can forget one mother in Egypt who placed her son in a basket along the edge of the Nile river in order to spare his life, and the one person who rescued him, the daughter of Pharaoh? The riveting and powerful story of Moses from start to finish is significant for the whole world because God’s moral laws, which form the basis of civilization, were given to him.

      God used many wise and faithful women, such as Rahab who saved the Israelite spies; Deborah, the judge and prophetess; Abigail who saved King David’s army; Ruth, who is in the lineage of King David, and Queen Esther whom the Lord used to save all the Jews in Babylon; and Mary, the mother of our Lord. God used many women to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised One, such as Mary (His mother); the prophetess Anna; the woman at the well; Mary Magdalene and many others down through the corridors of time.

      Joseph, Mary’s humble husband, obeyed the voice of God in all that he was told to do. There was John the Baptist, one man crying alone in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord. All through the Bible we read of individual prophets, priests, kings, and commanders who impacted history, and many of them came from very humble beginnings, such as David, a shepherd boy. In Hebrews 11 we read of the heroes of the faith, martyrs, and others who make up the “great cloud of witnesses.” The point is, God always has His remnant, and that remnant is made up of individual believers such as you and me.

      Taking a closer look at Scripture, it is encouraging to discover many people whom we might classify as being merely “ordinary vessels” but their faith and courage are still making an eternal difference for those who take time to consider, not only their individual lives and the choices they made, but the spiritual principles involved. One such person who is rarely ever mentioned, but who should hold a dear place in our hearts, and one to whom we should be eternally thankful, is a certain, unnamed young man. You can read about him in Acts 23. His heroic and righteous deed was set against the dark background of more than forty angry Jews who bound themselves under a curse that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed the Apostle Paul who was in prison. This young man was Paul’s sister’s son.

      We are not told why this young man was “hanging around” more than forty conspiring Jews, but he was obviously overlooked and considered as insignificant and harmless to their schemes. This is where they made a huge mistake, for Paul’s nephew bravely went straight into the castle and told Paul, who in turn had one of the centurions take him to the chief captain. We don’t know the age of this young man, but he must not have been yet a teenager because the Bible tells us that the chief captain “took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?” (verse 19). Not only did Paul’s young nephew relate the plot of the Jews to kill Paul, but he gave him advice as to what not to do!

      I don’t know about you, but this little “peep hole” into Paul’s family life makes me want to travel back in time and crawl through that “peep hole” to meet them and ask all kinds of questions. No doubt Paul’s sister and her son had heard the Gospel that Paul preached, and hopefully they had received Christ. I tend to think they had or else the young man would have reason to hesitate in warning Paul of their plot. At any rate, this story is not only for children, but for all of us who name the name of Christ because the principles are the same for all believers, regardless of age or gender. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” As for courage, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” 1 John 4:18.      

      Another person of wise and courageous character is Achsah, the daughter of Caleb. According to Jewish sources Achsah was very beautiful. In Judges 1:12 we read that Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.” So, Caleb’s younger brother’s son, Othniel went to war and took it, thus Achsah became his wife. Caleb had given her a south land, but she went to him and also asked, “Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs” Judges 1:15. Achsah asked for a blessing from her father, and acknowledged that he had given her a south land, but the south land was a dry land that needed springs of water to make it productive. The “south land,” as the Hebrew states, is “eres hannegeb.” The word “hegeb” means “dry.” This is because the southern area in Palestine was dry like a desert. Achsah was saying to her father that she owned “unproductive land.” Because she asked him to bless her, bless her he did! Caleb gave her both the upper springs and the lower springs.

      This is such a beautiful picture of the Christian life. Our Heavenly Father gives us the “south land” of promise, but until we faithfully water it with the Word, and are baptized from above with the living water of the Holy Spirit, it cannot produce lush crops, and sweet, flavorful fruit. Like the woman at the well, we need the springs of living water that never run dry. We need a continual supply of water that satisfies our spiritual thirst. Jesus said, But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” John 4:14.

      Achsah knew her father loved her, and she knew that if she asked for water that he would grant her request. She was not asking for fame and fortune, but for the blessing of life and abundant fruitfulness which the springs of water would produce. Such abundance would not only be for herself and her family, but for others as well. This is a lesson for us, as God’s children, that “all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” Matthew 21:22. In 1 John 5:14, 15 we have this promise, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” 

      Another “common” vessel whose charitable acts were vitally important to the women of Jesus’ day was Dorcas. I like what wrote about her, so am quoting from it as follows: “Dorcas, or Tabitha, in the Bible lived in the town of Joppa, a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Dorcas was also called Tabitha—Dorcas is a Greek name meaning “gazelle,” and Tabitha is the Aramaic rendering of the same name. Dorcas, or Tabitha, was a charitable person who made things, especially clothing, for the needy in Joppa. The story of Dorcas in Acts 9 is notable because Peter raised her back to life after she had died.

      “Dorcas was known for her good works and acts of love for the poor (Acts 9:36); she was much loved in the community of Joppa. When she became ill and died, the believers who knew Dorcas heard that Peter was in the nearby town of Lydda, and they sent for him. The Bible does not specifically say that the disciples at Joppa were hoping for Peter to resurrect Dorcas, but they did call urgently for him (Acts 9:38). When Peter arrived at the home where Dorcas’ body had been laid out, he went up to see the body. There were many widows there, weeping. They all showed Peter “the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them”—tangible evidence of Dorcas’ loving service (Acts 9:39).”

      What happened next is proof that our God is full of glorious, unrestrained power: “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord (Acts 9:40–42).”

      Dorcas is a fine example of the ministry (service) of helps, demonstrating a practical way to meet the needs of others. Christians are to “continue to remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). Part of “religion that God our Father accepts” is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). This was the type of religion Dorcas faithfully practiced. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Like Martha, the sister of Mary, who was committed to hospitality, Dorcas was also selflessly committed to using her talents for the benefit of others. Her hard work and benevolence were so beneficial to the poor, and to the widows in her community that when she sickened and died, they called for Peter to come because they heard that he was in a nearby town. While the Bible does not explicitly say that the women sent for him to raise Dorcas from the dead, I personally believe that there is no other explanation as to why they would call for him which demonstrates their strong faith in the power of God to raise the dead.

      The poorest person in the world is the person who does not have even one true friend. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13. Of course He was talking about laying down His life for those who loved Him, and who were close to Him as the Son of man; but, He was also laying out a principle of what truly “great love” is, and that is utter and total selflessness. It is the attitude of “nothing is too good for my friend, or too great of a price to pay.” And, we know that Jesus paid it to the fullest.

      The subject of friendship brings to mind some amazing people in the Bible who wisely knew the secret entrance into the garden of true friendship. The name of this hidden door is “Humility” and it will only open to those who are willing to pay the price of self-denial in order to enter through it. This price is not only willingness to deny self, but to perhaps even lay down one’s very life as did Jonathan, King Saul’s son. The Bible tells us that Jonathan loved David as his own soul. He stripped himself of his power and position, title, relationship with his father and future kingship which included his inheritance and identity so that God’s call and will for David’s life could be fulfilled. This is the highest quality of friendship in the kingdom of God. It is a friendship that will always seek for the spiritual well-being of the other person above self-interests or convenience.  

      The importance of one such person that has always fascinated me is Baruch in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Baruch is frequently identified as the son of Neriah, of the tribe of Judah. Baruch did Jeremiah’s writing for him, after the Lord told Jeremiah what to say: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which He had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book” Jeremiah 36:4. Concerning Baruch, Kyle Pope wrote, “Jeremiah, like all servants of God, had co-workers who contributed to his work and shared his hardship.  Scripture tells of one companion named Baruch, the son of Neriah, his friend, co-worker and scribe in these difficult years.” In Jeremiah 45 we read God’s words to Baruch, concluding with verse 5, “And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.” These are words that we all need to apply to our own lives as well. 

      The Lord commanded Jeremiah not to marry and raise children because the impending divine judgment on Judah would sweep away the next generation. Because Jeremiah was primarily a prophet of doom, he attracted only a few friends, among whom were (besides Baruch), Ahikam, Gedaliah (Ahikam’s son, 39:14) and Ebed-Melech (38:7-13; cf. 39:15-18). Since Jeremiah had no close family ties, these individual men who proved to be true friends to Jeremiah were great blessings indeed. As for us today the question is, are we more concerned about having a true friend, or being a true friend?

      One more person who cannot be underestimated as important is a certain centurion that lived in Caesarea whom we read about in the Book of Acts, chapter 10. His life had a major impact on both the Jewish and Gentile worlds. The Bible tells us in Acts 10:4 that he was “A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” The Greek meaning for “devout” in this verse is, “well-reverent, pious, godly” which was evident to all those who knew him for he feared God, as did his family, he gave to the poor, and prayed to God always. What a seeking heart this Gentile man had! How thrilling it is to read in verses 3, 4, “He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius, And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.”

      Think about that for a while. Can we say that our prayers and alms have come up for a memorial before God?

      As we read the rest of the story about Cornelius and Peter, we are struck with how God knows us individually so very well, and when our hearts are right before Him how He will move on our behalf, and not for ours only, but for others as well. The story of Cornelius is important because it was in Cornelius’s household that God publicly opened the doors of the church to the Gentile world. The apostle Peter was present to see it happen, just as he had been a witness to the opening of the doors to the Samaritans (Acts 8) and the Jews (Acts 2).

      The Bible and the world are full of factual stories and examples of ordinary men and women (children too) who discovered the importance of “one.” One life, especially one life that is wholly committed to God, is a powerful instrument in His hands. Never forget that in these last days “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many” Daniel 11:32b, 33a. Is there a possibility that we shall pay the ultimate sacrifice? The Bible says that may be so, as it has been so for thousands of years. But our Lord Jesus Christ has told us, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28. And Revelation 21:7 says, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”

      Every day let us remember that we are the Lord’s, purchased by His shed blood, and that our purpose in this short life is to sanctify ourselves (set ourselves apart) for His glory. Every decision we make is crucial. The importance of one life cannot be estimated. Therefore, let us go on to worship, praise and serve the Lord as long as we have breath, and with the angels in Revelation 7:12, “Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”