God Chooses and God Uses Each One of His People
Acts chapter 9 recounts two miracles performed by the Apostle Peter in regard to Aeneas and Dorcas of Joppa – Aeneas, a man who was paralyzed for eight years, and lay on a mat; the other Dorcas, who was very much alive, until she died suddenly in the midst of her labours. I thought of these two saints in relationship to each other as their story unfolds in the Book of Acts.
I imagined Aeneas paralyzed and unable to help himself in any way. Aeneas was totally incapable of moving a muscle to even scratch his nose when it was itchy, and utterly dependent on others from feeding to bathing. For Aeneas it must have seemed the days were an eternity and the nights would never end. I wondered who attended to Aeneas in a society without nurses or nursing homes. Would it be his mother, his wife or even, perhaps, the saints of God at Lydda? His story in Acts 9 made me thankful to God for a healthy body free to go where it wished and whose limbs obey (well mostly) what the brain commands.
Then I thought of Dorcas, whose service to God was rendered in a very different way. She was very healthy and very active. We are told in Acts 9 that she was energetic in her church and had used her skills as a seamstress to clothe the poor and needy. Her epitaph might well read, ‘who was always doing good and helping the poor’ (v.36). You know the type of person that, ‘if you wanted something done you called on Dorcas’.
As you compare the two, who would you rather have in your church? Would you rather have a Dorcas who was very busy and did much good, or an Aeneas who needed constant attention and help? I think on the surface we know the answer to that one. But surely this is the point – both are loved by God, and both are useful to God. Both are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and both are heaven bound. Dorcas is no more loved for her activity than Aeneas for his forced retirement. Both share in the church’s common responsibility to bear one another’s burdens while seeking to bear our own.
I say this because there may be someone who has been shunted aside in the sovereign purposes of God – perhaps very busy at one time in the church of Christ, but now, due to failing health, or lack of opportunity, that door has been shut. Is it possible I am addressing some saint of God who might think that he or she has become more trouble than they are worth? Or, it may be that we only have one talent, and the Lord has not set us in the limelight the same way that those who possess ten may enjoy. Possibly there is a pastor who may, by God’s grace, have laboured faithfully, yet unnoticed, in a little country church rather than in a big city ministry. Or it is possible I may be speaking to a father or mother who planned to serve on the mission field, but due to circumstances were not able to go; however they have remained faithful to their marriage vows and raised their children in the fear of the Lord. There are those whose life task was to stay at home, and unlike say a Dorcas, to guard ‘the baggage’ rather than to be on the front line.
Now in that regard, two things are possible: one, to refuse the help of God’s saints, which is the sad refrain I too often hear – ‘I don’t wish to bother anyone;’ or two, to think that one’s service rendered to God ‘even on a mat’ is not of worth to your Lord and Master – to think that God’s love favours those who have rendered far-reaching results for the Kingdom, but your efforts are not noticed by the angels in glory. We need to be mindful that God has a place and a purpose for both a Dorcas and an Aeneas in his Kingdom. The one teaches others the meaning of serving, while the other sets an example of pure service to God.
The point is, it seems to me, that we are called to shine where God has placed us, whether in a small corner or an expanded one; that God’s reward is not greater for a Dorcas than an Aeneas, but rather rests on how we honoured God, where he, in Sovereign Grace deigned we should serve him. So whether in the pulpit or in a hospital bed, a cheery witness to God’s love and his blessed Son, our Lord, is as pleasing to heaven as activity that has sound and fury but without substance or not done to the glory of God. Imagine if each one of us shone for Jesus in our small corner how we would soon set the world ablaze.
Taken with permission from the Sovereign Grace Journal of Canada, May 2007.
We Pray — But Do We Really? June 18, 2019
Never in the history of the church has so much been said to so many with so little effect! We have pronouncements by church leaders and church bodies, elaborate reunion schemes, commissions on this, that and the next, and endless discussion groups. The torrent of words flows on and, for the most part, over the […]
The Secret of the Reformers’ Greatness June 14, 2019
Luther stood before church and emperor at Worms and his words cannot be forgotten: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other; God help me.’ Calvin invited an infuriated mob to shed his blood. John Knox rebuffed the queen and her court in Scotland. Courageous actions by courageous men — for courage is one of […]