1 Corinthians 16:17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
The Church has no formal awards program. We don’t give out Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, or Grammys. We don’t compete for best preacher, best supporting elder, or congregation of the year. The one whose approval we desire is waiting with our reward in heaven. Lutheran musical giant J.S. Bach inscribed each composition, “Soli Deo Gloria,” “To God Alone Be The Glory.” To the best of my knowledge, during his lifetime he never received an award.
That doesn’t mean that it is wrong to publicly acknowledge and recognize the contributions of time and effort that God’s people make to God’s work. Jesus publicly praised John the Baptist, the widow who gave God her last mite, and the Centurion who displayed such uncommon faith in him.
Likewise Paul felt that members of the Corinthian congregation like Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus deserved to be publicly recognized for their work in supporting his ministry. Such recognition not only encourages and affirms those who serve. It holds before the congregation good role models. It makes it possible to see the power of the Gospel in the lives of those who believe. It gives glory to God, the author of their gifts.
Every day Christian people serve in ways that deserves to be publicly recognized. Much of that service goes unnoticed because it is humbly offered when no one else is looking. We are thankful for the steady, faithful, quiet sacrifice of time and ability that makes it possible to preach, teach, and spread the Gospel.
The combined efforts of such people illustrate the truth that the church functions as one body with many parts. Together the contributions of so many refresh the spirits of others in the family of faith. Though not everyone may be publicly mentioned, the role each one plays in supporting the great mission of bringing God’s grace to the world is important.
Everything we have, and everything we can do, is a gift from God. This is no less true of the talents we put to work for the church than it is for cleansing blood of Jesus that saves us, or the Spirit-worked faith in our hearts that makes salvation our own. All is a gift. But now that we have received the gifts, our Lord invites us to put them to use. And when we do, we can expect him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).