And The Award for Best Supporting Character Goes To… Bob? (Acts 9:10-18)

Master Chief.  Link.  Lara Croft.  Commander Shepard.  Bob from accounting. Solid Snake.  Hold on, hold on… let’s just back up the train for a second. Who in the world is “Bob from accounting” and how did he make it onto this list of epic gaming heroes? All of these other gaming icons have a lot in common… they have all saved the world (some multiple times just for extra style points). I don’t recall hearing about “Bob” defeating legions of enemies or watching him heroically sacrifice himself to save billions of lives.  I mean, seriously, Bob doesn’t even have his own cubicle.  He shares one with an intern. In the BASEMENT.  Who is Bob and why does he belong on this list?  Bob, along with Karen the mechanic, Frank the engineer, and Nancy the systems administrator all belong on that list as well… doing the thankless work that has to be done just like all of these other brave souls.  They just didn’t get to do it on the frontlines because their specific missions took them elsewhere, playing a supporting role.  Behind every successful mass effect relay launch is some guy just like this…

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Our video games are chock full of “seemingly” minor and almost invisible characters who labor out of the spotlight to insure our heroes can keep doing what they do best.  Sure the Master Chief gets all the credit for the epic victory, but if an unnamed mechanic didn’t insure the Warthog stayed current on oil changes and filled it with gas that would have been a pretty short trip.  The Chief just doesn’t seem to be the type of guy who keeps up with his routine monthly maintenance plan on vehicles.  From the overly chatty shopkeepers who sell us armor and supplies to the unheralded engineers that keep our spaceships flying the unfriendly skies, these thankless tasks completed by typically nameless (and faceless) characters are far more critical to the success of each hero’s journey than we often realize.

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Obviously it is the coding within the game that keep these characters at their post, waiting for our hero to show up in need of weapons, repairs, or simply a new quest line.  Instances like this are normally an issue with a glitch within an incredibly complex game.  But in the real world we often experience the same issues, because it can be REALLY HARD to stand in one place doing seemingly rudimentary things when the REAL action is somewhere else out there.  I mean, seriously, who wants to stand at a desk and wait for the 100 hours it takes for the hero to FINALLY show up to trade in his bow for an upgrade?  Do you even KNOW how many Warthogs the Master Chief destroys on each level?  Please don’t get me started on how long Toad had to wait in the seventh castle just to tell Mario the princess is in yet another castle.  And if you warped past him straight to world 8 and never even let him TELL you?  That is just MEAN.  It was the only job he had and somewhere out there he is still waiting for Mario to show up.

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It can be incredibly challenging to patiently labor away at your station when it seems like everyone else is getting to do the more interesting and gratifying parts of the job. This can happen at school, work, participating in your local athletic team, or just working together on a group project.  Even in the service of God the same challenge exists, as we often see so many other people get to participate in the parts of the ministry that we can only dream about.  There is a certain level of frustration that can exist as we see others engaging in the aspects of serving God that we would love to participate in, but it is either not our calling or not our time.

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The Apostle Paul is clearly experienced with this exact same level of frustration, using the human body as an example of the importance of each individual member to the success of the entire body.

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 For in fact the body is not one member but many.If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now I can practically hear you saying “Paul, Paul, Paul…. he gets all of the accolades so OF COURSE he is going to espouse this concept”.  So let’s look at how we even got to the Apostle Paul in the first place… a humble believer who appears for the briefest of moments in the Bible and then disappears into the woodwork.  A man named Ananias…

Acts 9:10-18 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

Let’s begin unpacking this, because there is a LOT here to discuss.  If you are confused with why the Apostle Paul is being referred to as “Saul”, there is a simple explanation for this that we discussed in a previous blog found here:

KOTOR – When the Jedi and the Sith are two sides of the same coin (1 Cor.9:20-23)

Understanding that Saul and Paul are the same person is easy… understanding why Ananias would risk his life for a man who made himself “Public Enemy Number One” for anyone aligned with Jesus is a little more difficult.  Saul/Paul had been inspired by watching the brutal murder of Stephen for his “crime” of believing in Christ (Acts chapters 7 and 8) and was now on his way to Damascus to inflict similar judgment on the believers there.  God Himself intervened, striking Saul/Paul blind on his way there and leaving him at the mercy of the very believers he had planned on arresting.  Ananias was well aware of Saul/Paul’s reputation and intentions, and in a humorous moment he felt compelled to insure God knows that too.  You know… just in case the Lord wasn’t aware.  But not only was God well aware of Saul/Paul’s previous intentions, He had already planned his future as the missionary to the globe.  And it would be ANANIAS (not someone flashier or more well-known like Peter, James, or John) who was chosen as the hand-picked servant who would be used to reach Saul/Paul.

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Let’s go one step further before we wrap this up.  When we were reading out of the book of Acts earlier, we were reading from the writings of a man named Luke.  Luke was responsible for writing both the Gospel that bears his name as well as the entire book of Acts, and yet we don’t really hear much about his personal ministry except for his actions as a scribe.   He was present for all of the same suffering that afflicted the Apostle Paul through their missionary voyages (as evidenced by his continued use of “we” when enduring challenges such as “we were shipwrecked” in Acts 27), which was unfortunately necessary for him to provide a first-person account of all that transpired.  As a matter of fact, when Paul wrote his final recorded letter before his death these sad words are found…

1 Timothy 4:9-11 Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. 

After a long, adventurous, and dangerous life of serving the Lord, Paul is now in prison and has been abandoned or left by all those whom he had traveled with along the way.  Everyone EXCEPT for Luke… a man who may not have recorded any miracles, preached any flashy sermons, or ever tasted the spotlight.  But Luke was the one who was chosen to be present for all of it, to record it and insure generations of believers would receive insight and enlightenment from his detailed account of the life of Christ and the early church.  His acts as a scribe far outlasted anything he could have done in his present day, and we all owe much of our insight to his dedication to performing what surely seemed at the time to be a thankless task.

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Very few people will ever be placed at the forefront of things the way Paul, or Peter, or John was.  But all along the way their path to achieving the mission they were given was guided by the faithful service of lesser-known but critical servants such as Ananias (Acts 9), Simon the tanner (Acts 10), or Lydia the cloth dealer (Acts 16), all of whom played critical roles in the advancement of the Gospel by their obedience on a much smaller stage.  I don’t know what you are called to do or what size mission field you are meant to plow, but I do know THIS… there are no useless parts of the body of Christ and there are no small roles.

God has plans for each of us, some of which may be less visible than others.  But they are ALL vital to the success of the local body of believers as well as His larger plans for the entire world.  I highly doubt that Luke fully understood how critical the records that he had been keeping would eventually be.  It is unlikely Ananias knew what Saul/Paul would eventually become.  But without their humble obedience the world would have gone without the Apostle Paul and two of the most critical books in the entire New Testament.

The obedience of each one of us are connected, no matter how small the role we are filling may seem.  And the importance of what we have been called to do may not even reveal itself until long after we have passed on.  But I want to encourage you today that even if you only lead one soul to the knowledge of Christ or record one message that the Lord has placed on your heart, as long as you are faithful to what the Lord has called you to do you have fulfilled your purpose in the body of Christ.  Just like all of those nameless shopkeepers, mechanics, and engineers that we simply run past in our video games until we actually need them, you are ESSENTIAL and CRITICAL.  And we could not survive without you.

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