“To the early church, Apollos was the big deal,” the speaker at the writing conference said. “He was eloquent articulate and powerful—everything Paul wasn’t. He spoke to large crowds who held on to his every word.
“But hardly anyone remembers Apollos today, and we don’t know the contents of the sermons he preached. But everyone knows the apostle Paul, and generations have read, studied, and memorized his letters. That’s the power of the written word. It lasts long after spoken words have faded. In the end, Paul’s legacy was greater than Apollos’.”
And when I was supposed to be nodding and amen-ing, instead, I wrote in the margin of my notes, “Something’s not right here.”
I understand the intended point. The speaker was just trying to point out that the gift of writing can be incredibly valuable, even if you can’t always see the results directly.
But here’s the thing: of the Bible verses that mention Apollos, more than half of them are Paul telling believers not to compare Paul and Apollos. The Corinthian church was elevating Apollos and his gifts, but we can go to the opposite extreme and make the exact same mistake.
And it matters. It matters because it comes from a lie we tell ourselves all the time: “For me to be important, I have to make you less important.”
Have you heard it before? Have you said it yourself? Because, oh, I have. Feeling defensive when someone talks about the value of a ministry I’m not a part of, hearing an insult in others’ words where none was intended, needing to justify who I am and minimizing others in the process. It’s quietly tempting.
If you’ve been there, can I talk to you for a moment?
To the guy with the friend who is a gifted evangelist and seems to exude joy at all times, I know you want to roll your eyes at how he can’t even talk about football without bringing up the gospel. There’s a fear, just underneath, that God likes those sort of people better, that they’re the ones doing real work for the kingdom, while you’re…what? Serving in some lesser way, trying not to feel guilty when missionaries come to present about translating the Bible for orphans in a third-world country.
You have to believe that God doesn’t play favorites among his children, putting only some of our school pictures on the fridge and hiding others in a drawer somewhere to collect dust. You are called, you are gifted, you are loved—but not in the same way as anyone else.
To the mom with screaming kids and long days full of blaring cartoon reruns and macaroni and cheese stains, I know you want to blurt out, “Oh, honey, you don’t even know what stress is,” to the single lady talking to you after church about some worry of hers. And maybe you’re right, in a way.
But there’s a certain worn-down longing that goes along with facing life alone, a fear that comes from the world handing you a five-year-plan of ambitions when all you really want is a dream that hasn’t happened yet. And that is stressful too, though in a different way. When you bite back words that minimize someone else’s struggle, it shows them love, even though they may never know, never thank you for it.
To all the average folks out there scrolling through Facebook and seeing that others’ lives are, in the words of a friend, “infinitely more exciting, fulfilling, connected, and meaningful,” I know you want to post something to prove that nagging voice wrong.
But you cannot measure your worth on the number of “likes” you get. You. Can. Not. Living for the applause and the approval of others is the simplest way to turn contentment into jealousy and self-pity, and it is not accurate and it is easy to do and it will destroy you, just like any idol.
Here’s a truth to replace the lie: God does not value Paul over Apollos, nursery duty over preaching, gentle encouragement over firm correction, single over married, stay-at-home over career, extroverted over introverted, or any of the other shallow ways we define ourselves, our roles, and our gifts.
God values faithfulness.
When God ordered your life, your particular talents, and the people and situations around you, he arranged it perfectly. God saw a need, and he put you there.
Do you believe that? Not just on the days full of fingerpainted hearts and beautifully arranged dinners and successful presentations.
On the days when you send emails and text messages to your prodigal child that go unanswered, God calls you to faithfulness.
On the days when you don’t feel like dragging out of bed to face a routine that has lost all traces of excitement and fulfillment, God calls you to faithfulness.
On the days when you can’t see the words of you Bible through tears—sadness, anger, both, you’re not sure—and you wonder why you’re even trying, God calls you to faithfulness.
When the computer crashes and the biscuits burn, when you listen to a door slam and know you’re partly to blame, when you feel awkward and out of place, when you overhear that snide remark, when someone who hurt you has moved on and you still haven’t, when no one has noticed or thanked you in a very long time and you are just so tired…God calls you to faithfulness, even then. Especially then.
Sometimes I don’t see you. I’m so sorry. I’m often too focused on my own fears and failures, or I just don’t know when you need encouragement, when you need to be reminded that you are of infinite value to God, and that even the mundane, snot-wiping, paper-filing, traffic-navigating day-to-day faithfulness of your life is worship.
So I’m telling you now. Save it for a hard day. Bring it out and remember: what you do matters. Always. Not because of what it accomplishes in ways we can see and measure, but because it brings glory to the God who placed you there.