“I commend to you Phoebe…she has been helpful
to many, and especially to me.”
Food For Thought… So who was Phoebe? We don’t really know, except that she was a deacon in the church in Cenchrea—which brings up a whole different matter about women deacons. I won’t go there for now, but, hey, the Bible sure does…
Anyway, we don’t know much about Phoebe, or the other people Paul names as he closes out the book of Romans. Now at this point, I want to do something normally guaranteed to lose your interest at this point—I want to list those names for you. But before I do, promise me that you’ll read through this entire list. You probably won’t be able to pronounce them names correctly, but that’s okay. I can’t either. I just read them really fast and with a lot of gusto, so when people hear me they think I must be an expert in ancient languages. Try it—you’ll impress your friends.
So here they are: There’s Priscilla Aquila, Penetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, the household of Aristobulus, the household of Narcissus, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus and his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and his fellow Christians, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympia and her Christian friends, Timothy, Lucias, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and last but not least, Quartus.
Whew! My spell-checker is smoking. I don’t think it will ever be the same again.
So what’s up with these names? Simply this: Paul, the great Apostle, the guy who deservedly gets his name in lights almost every Lord’s Day in churches around the world, knew very well that he couldn’t have done it without the help of his friends. If Paul were accepting an Oscar, he would be up there for minutes listing off all the people he’d like to thank—these names and many others he mentions in some of his other writings.
This great theologian who was largely responsible for the evangelization of the western world didn’t do it all by himself. He needed a little help from his friends in every city where he preached the gospel and/or planted a church. Though you will likely never hear a sermon or attend a Bible study where these names are given any mention, Paul gives them their props in the eternal Word of God.
My point is, it takes a team to do the work of the Kingdom. For sure, there are leading characters on the Kingdom team, but it’s still a team, mostly of unnamed, unsung heroes who are typically forgotten—except by God. God never forgets. He appreciates the contributions of each and every one—even the lesser lights. And he has stored up indescribable recognition and reward for them in the Kingdom to come. And Paul’s mention of them here in the last chapter in Romans is a subtle reminder to us of their contribution to his efforts and of their value to God.
Maybe you are one of those unnamed, unsung heroes who goes unnoticed by everyone else. But your faithfulness is noticed by God. Perhaps you are a Phoebe to a Paul or a Patrobas to a Peter or a Junius to a John, and you wonder if you really matter. My response to you is, “Yes, you matter. We wouldn’t be effective in building God’s Kingdom without you! It takes a team—and no matter how you feel, you are an integral part of that team!”
But more important than my acknowledgement is God’s. He has written your name in a book too—one that’s even better than Romans. It’s the Book of Life. And God himself will celebrate your name all eternity long. How’s that for recognition.
So just be faithful doing what you’re doing. Your day is coming!
Prayer… Lord, I thank you for all of the unsung heroes who have quietly but faithfully built your Kingdom throughout my life. People like Emma Miller and Gertrude Martin and Mr. Ewing… They are now gone, and have mostly been forgotten on this planet, but they are not forgotten by you. They have joined the unending list of others long gone but not forgotten by you. They are the spiritual fathers and mothers of others who now serve in your eternal kingdom quietly but faithfully. Father, bless each one. Wrap your arms around them and remind them again that you noticed. And say “thank you” for me.
One More Thing… “God has not called us to do great things, but to do small things with great love.” —Mother Teresa