“The body of Christ” is a mysterious phrase used more than 30 times in the New Testament. The apostle Paul especially settled on that phrase as an image of the church. After Jesus ascended to heaven, He turned over His mission to flawed and bumbling men and women. He assumed the role of head of the church, leaving the tasks of arms, legs, ears, eyes, and voice to the erratic disciples—and to you and me.
Jesus’ decision to operate as the invisible head of a large body with many parts means that He often relies on us to help one another cope during times of suffering. The apostle Paul must have had something like that in mind when he wrote these words: “[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:4-5). And all through his ministry Paul put that principle into practice, taking up collections for famine victims, dispatching assistants to go to troubled areas, acknowledging believers’ gifts as gifts from God Himself.
The phrase “the body of Christ” expresses well what we are called to do: to represent in flesh what Christ is like, especially to those in need.
In 1891, Biddy Mason was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Los Angeles. That wasn’t unusual for a woman born into slavery, but it was remarkable for someone as accomplished as Biddy. After winning her freedom in a court battle in 1856, she combined her nursing skills with wise business decisions to make a small fortune. As she observed the plight of immigrants and prisoners, she reached out to them, investing in charity so frequently that people began lining up at her house for help. In 1872, just sixteen years out of slavery, she and her son-in-law financed the founding of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.
Biddy embodied the apostle Paul’s words: “I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Paul came from privilege, not slavery, yet he chose a life that would lead to his imprisonment and martyrdom so that he could serve Christ and others.
In 1988, benefactors unveiled a tombstone for Biddy Mason. In attendance were the mayor of Los Angeles and nearly 3,000 members of the little church that had begun in her home over a century earlier. Biddy once said, “The open hand is blessed, for it gives an abundance even as it receives.” The hand that gave so generously received a rich legacy.
“I’m a secretary,” a friend told me. “When I tell people this, they sometimes look at me with a certain pity. But when they find out who I am secretary for, they open their eyes with admiration!” In other words, society often defines some jobs as less important than others, unless those jobs happen to relate in some way to rich or famous people.
For the child of God, however, any occupation, regardless of the earthly boss, can be held proudly because we serve the Lord Jesus.
In Ephesians 6, Paul talks to servants and masters. He reminds both groups that we serve one Master who is in heaven. So we need to do everything with sincerity of heart, integrity, and respect because we are serving and working for Christ Himself. As the apostle Paul reminds us, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Eph. 6:7).
What a privilege to serve God in everything we do, whether answering a phone or driving a car or doing housework or running a business. Let us work with a smile today, remembering that no matter what we are doing, we are serving God.
On a hot day in western Texas, my niece Vania saw a woman standing by a stoplight and holding up a sign. As she drove closer, she tried to read what the sign said, assuming it was a request for food or money. Instead, she was surprised to see these three words:
“You Have Purpose”
God has created each of us for a specific purpose. Primarily that purpose is to bring honor to Him, and one way we do that is by meeting the needs of others (1 Peter 4:10-11).
A mother of young children may find purpose in wiping runny noses and telling her kids about Jesus. A man in an unsatisfying job might find his purpose in doing his work conscientiously, remembering it is the Lord he is serving (Col. 3:23-24). A woman who has lost her sight still finds purpose in praying for her children and grandchildren and influencing them to trust God.
Psalm 139 says that before we were born “all the days ordained for [us] were written” in His book (v. 16). We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” to bring glory to our Creator (v. 14).
Never forget: You have purpose!
A little girl wondered what a saint might be. One day her mother took her to a great cathedral to see the gorgeous stained-glass windows with scenes from the Bible. When she saw the beauty of it all she cried out loud, “Now I know what saints are. They are people who let the light shine through!”
Some of us might think that saints are people of the past who lived perfect lives and did Jesus-like miracles. But when a translation of Scripture uses the word saint, it is actually referring to anyone who belongs to God through faith in Christ. In other words, saints are people like us who have the high calling of serving God while reflecting our relationship with Him wherever we are and in whatever we do. That is why the apostle Paul prayed that the eyes and understanding of his readers would be opened to think of themselves as the treasured inheritance of Christ and saints of God (Eph. 1:18).
So what then do we see in the mirror? No halos or stained glass. But if we are fulfilling our calling, we will look like people who, maybe even without realizing it, are letting the rich colors of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control of God shine through.
In 1940, Dr. Virginia Connally, age 27, braved opposition and criticism to become the first female physician in Abilene, Texas. A few months before her 100th birthday in 2012, the Texas Medical Association presented her with its Distinguished Service Award, Texas’ highest physician honor. Between those two landmark events, Dr. Connally has enthusiastically embraced a passion for spreading the gospel around the world through her many medical mission trips while living a life of service to God and to others—one day at a time.
Dr. Connally’s pastor, Phil Christopher, said, “Every day for her is a gift.” He recalled a letter in which she wrote, “Every tour, trip, effort, I wonder if this will be my last and ultimate? Only God knows. And this is enough.”
The psalmist wrote, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24 nkjv). So often we focus on the disappointments of yesterday or the uncertainties of tomorrow and miss God’s matchless gift to us: Today!
Dr. Connally said of her journey with Christ, “As you live a life of faith, you’re not looking for the results. I was just doing the things that God planted in my life and heart.”
God made today. Let’s celebrate it and make the most of every opportunity to serve others in His name.
When commuting into Chicago on the train, I always followed the “unwritten codes of conduct”—such as, no conversations with people sitting next to you if you don’t know them. That was tough on a guy like me who has never met a stranger. I love talking to new people! Although I kept the code of silence, I realized that you can still learn something about people based on the section of the newspaper they read. So I’d watch to see what they turned to first: The business section? Sports? Politics? Current events? Their choices revealed their interests.
Our choices are always revealing. Of course, God doesn’t need to wait to see our choices in order for Him to know what’s in our hearts. But the things that occupy our time and attention are telling. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). Regardless of what we want Him to think of us, the true condition of our heart becomes clear based on how we use our time, our money, and our talents. When we invest these resources in the things He cares about, then it reveals that our hearts are in tune with His.
God’s heart is with the needs of people and the advancement of His kingdom. What do your choices tell him and others about where your heart is?
While attending Bible college, my friend Charlie and I worked for a furniture store. We often made deliveries accompanied by an interior decorator who talked with the people who had purchased the furniture while we brought it from the truck into the house. Sometimes we had to carry the furniture up several flights of stairs in an apartment building. Charlie and I often wished we had the decorator’s job instead of ours!
During Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, three clans from the priestly tribe of Levi—the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites—were assigned the job of transporting the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). They put it up, took it down, and carried it to the next place, then repeated the process again and again. Their job description was simple: “Carry the things assigned to you” (see Num. 4:32).
I wonder if these “custodians” ever envied the “clergymen” who offered sacrifices and incense using the holy articles in the sanctuary (vv. 4-5,15). That job must have looked much easier and more prestigious. But both assignments were important and came from the Lord.
Many times we don’t get to select the work we do. But all of us can choose our attitude toward the tasks we’re given. How we do the job God gives us is the measure of our service to Him.
Peer pressure is part of everyday life. Sometimes we base our decisions on what other people will think or say rather than on our convictions and on what will please God. We’re worried that we’ll be judged or made fun of.
The apostle Paul experienced his fair share of peer pressure. Some Jewish Christians believed that Gentiles should be circumcised to be truly saved (Gal. 1:7; see 6:12-15). However, Paul stood his ground. He continued to preach that salvation is by grace through faith alone; no further works are required. And for that he was accused of being a self-appointed apostle. They further asserted that his version of the gospel had never received the apostles’ approval (2:1-10).
Despite the pressure, Paul was very clear about whom he served—Christ. God’s approval mattered most, not man’s. He made it his goal not to win the approval of people, but of God (1:10).
Similarly, we are Christ’s servants. We serve God whether people honor or despise us, whether they slander or praise us. One day “each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Rom. 14:12). That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider what people think or say, but ultimately, we make pleasing God our main concern. We want to hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23).