April 3, 2014

Apostles of the Little Services

Gary Thomas — 


Eighty years ago, two women spent a year listening to God and wrote down their thoughts in a daily devotional published as God Calling, similar in style to the mega-successful Jesus Calling by Sarah Young in our day.

Nobody except for the collaborator (A.J. Russell) knows their names. For their own reasons, they wanted to remain anonymous, so they approached Russell (a successful author at the time) to help them polish their words and get them in print.

That’s important only for this reason: the book chronicles their earnest desire to be wholly God’s—to live each day in sensitive obedience. Though not public, they were just as earnest as any leader might be. Though not visible, they took their calling just as seriously. They didn’t run any ministries. They likely never stood behind a pulpit. They never even got their name on their own book’s cover. But that didn’t lessen their enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, or faithfulness for faithful service to God.

Near the end of their devotional, on December 26, they hear God telling them, “You are the Apostles of the Little Services.”

I love this title. Doesn’t it fit family life so well? “The apostles of the little services.” Anonymous moms and dads, husbands and wives, quietly serving, being faithful, listening to God, viewing every call of God as important as building a cathedral or founding a three thousand member church.

Called to “little services,” we prepare for and pray about a conversation with one of our children, perhaps an issue of the heart, with the same vigor and tenacity as a pastor preparing to preach a sermon in front of 10,000 people. No one will shake our hand afterwards and say, “Good sermon!” No one will log onto the internet to download our podcast. There will be no “shares” on Facebook or Twitter to commend our wisdom, only the quiet satisfaction that we engaged in a conversation important and even precious to God.

Called to little services, we study our spouse to see if she/he is discouraged and needs some words of comfort, every bit as much as a CEO studies the daily stock price. We consider, in advance, whether our spouse is getting too tired, or too tempted, or too harried, and we pray to God asking how we might be of service to them, just as a CEO scours the consumer to keep his business going strong.

Called to care for his wife, a husband plans a special spa retreat where his wife can get away with a sister or close friend. Called to care for her discouraged husband, a young wife plans a night of special romance, smiling in anticipation as she imagines the look on his face when she walks into the bedroom wearing the new outfit she’s holding in her hand.

Nobody will ask us for a report on our family life, like they do the CEO in his business. Nobody will give us a “year-end bonus” for being a good husband or wife, but no matter: we’re apostles of “the little services.” We are faithful where God has put us. We draw a secret satisfaction from the fact that we are in this life of God, with God, in a way that no one else in the world really knows. There’s a certain sense of intimacy that anonymity and secrecy builds, and it is far more satisfying than momentary applause or a short plug on Facebook. The fact that no one else sees it or hears it or knows about it makes it more special, even more fulfilling, not less.

Let’s be faithful apostles of the little services.

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3 responses to Apostles of the Little Services

  1. thanks so much for this, gary.

    as i’ve been in a very isolating season in life due to health issues (in my mere 30s), i’ve wrestled through this issue with the Lord. because my heart deeply longs to make an impact for Him. and He’s shown me that impact has become an idol, and lovingly beckoned me to take it off the throne of my heart and let it go. and as i have, i’ve discovered exactly what you share here — the “intimacy that anonymity and secrecy builds” that is far “more special, even more fulfilling, not less.”

    there’s such an abundance of freedom and joy the Lord offers us in this truth. thanks again for bringing it to light.

  2. Your good remarks remind me of John and Stasi Eldredge in Love and War. They say that learning to love comes down to a thousand little choices in a day of how to relate to our spouses. It can be as simple as tone of voice.

    It’s true. Whether I get up from my chair and greet my husband at the door or wait for him to come in and approach me communicates something to him. I want to communicate how much I value him and am glad he is home.