By Ron Halbrook
We can give credit where it is due without thinking of men “above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). If a man’s work must praise or shame him among his fellows, yet there are no grounds of boasting over his accomplishments (Prov. 31:31). For, “what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7, NASV). While fruit may abound to one’s account, yet the vineyard is the Lord’s alone (Jn. 15:1-10). He alone gives life, strength, and opportunities for our labors. If faithful service is rendered, still it is but that, for we are not masters but only servants. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded ye, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10).
The successes and failures of other brethren should serve to instruct us (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-12). The example of faithful service inspires – us to faithful service. Though this is a world of sin and sorrow, still there is room to share gladness and gratitude. We must constantly resist sin, temptation, and over-confidence in men. Still it is our privilege to express joy and thanks for dedicated men, sacrificial men, zealous men, “men that have hazzarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).
The restoration of erring brethren gives great cause for rejoicing, just as the conversion of a single alien sinner does (Gal. 6:1; Lk. 15:7, 10). When erring brethren are restored to faithfulness, souls are saved from death and a multitude of sins is hidden (Jas. 5:19-20). In Second Corinthians, Paul tells how discouraged he was by the shameful conduct of certain ones. But when Titus came and told him the Corinthians had cleared themselves in obedience to the truth, Paul was greatly encouraged! Titus “told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more . . . yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all . . . I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things” (7:6-16).
In Second Timothy 4, Paul’s discouragement is seen in that “Demas hath forsaken me,” “Alexander . . . did me much evil,” and, “at my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.” Yet others were faithful co-laborers, retained Paul’s confidence, and were a source of encouragements to him. He looks to Timothy: “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me.” Paul sent Tychicus on an errand “to Ephesus.” Some are named as sending greeting to Timothy, and he is to give greetings to others named by Paul. Above all, Paul retained his confidence in God who cannot fail, who “will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.”
Above all, we too must learn to put our confidence in God, and “not to think of men above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). Still, each of us has influence for good or evil: we can encourage and edify, or discourage and destroy (1 Cor. 15:33; Rom. 14). Faithful attendance in worship provokes others “unto love and to good works”; “forsaking the assembling” makes hearts heavy and discouraged (Heb. 10:24-26). We are encouraged by those “steadfast in the faith,” discouraged by compromise, worldliness, and indifference (Phil. 1:27; 1 Pet. 5:9). Truly, “the kingdom of God is . . . righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). If there are sorrows and sufferings to endure, there is also far greater joy fulfilled in the people of God (2 Tim. 3:12; Jn. 17:13). If we must rebuke those who err from the faith, we also must thank God for faithful saints who preserve in the blood sprinkled way!
Truth Magazine XXIV: 41, p. 658
October 16, 1980