Tucked away at the back of Saul’s conversion story in Acts 9 is a little story about a woman named Dorcas (or Tabitha, if you prefer that name – I don’t).
You would think that a woman who commands such a significant portion of Scriptural real estate in a pivotal section in the Bible would be doing wondrous things: teaching the lost, suffering for her faith, repenting from a lifetime of infamous immorality, or something of that caliber.
But she didn’t do any of those things.
All she did was die.
And yet her funeral was unlike anything you’ve most likely ever seen! People brought clothes and blankets and all sorts of items that Dorcas had made for them during her lifetime. The Scripture spares no words in describing her benevolence either: Acts 9:36 states that she was “abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.”What an epitaph to put on her tombstone.
Have you ever known someone like that? Someone who gave themselves so completely to the service of other people that their funeral was a standing-room only event?
I wish there were more of her. Too often we give the attention to the people in the pulpit or the brother who prays such eloquent prayers, but hardly ever to the widow woman on pew 4 that has spent the last 30 years working in quiet service. Those are the people we sometimes don’t see, but Jesus always does (Luke 21:2).
Just a Cup of Cold Water
We sing a song in our hymnals entitled “Room in God’s Kingdom.” While the whole song is beautiful, there is a line in the second verse that goes like this:
Just a cup of cold water in His name given, may the hope in some heart renew.
A cup of cold water for most people is a very minor thing; for less than $3, you can buy a whole case of it from your local Toot’n Totum.
But to a person who is need of refreshment and can’t find any, it means comfort and hope.
That’s the way Dorcas was. What she understood better than most of us today is that an act of service doesn’t have to be big to be important. You don’t have to donate a car to a needy family if you don’t have one to give. And how many of us can? Usually, just a “cup of cold water” is all we need to help a brother out.
We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that because we can’t do big things, nothing that we can do actually matters, and because of that, we end up not doing anything.
Instead, its the acts that we designate as small that usually have the greatest impact. If you don’t believe me, just ask the droves of people who showed up to Dorcas’ funeral with miles of fabric that she had spun for them. Or, better yet, ask the two men who travelled to meet Peter and implored him to visit on her behalf, saying “Do not delay in coming to us” (Acts 9:38).
Let 2 Corinthians 8:12 be your comfort: “For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (Emphasis: mine).
Just a Small Kindly Deed That May Cheer Another
Listen to me closely: what you do for God is important. No matter how little you may value it or how little you think other people value it or how little you think God values it, your work for God is NOT worthless in any way(1 Cor. 15:58).
Take a lesson from the ant. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 6 that the ant “gathers her provision in the harvest” presumably to prepare for the time when there will not be any food.
But if you’ve ever seen an ant, you know they’re not very big. They can’t cover much ground very quickly, and they’re usually carrying one thing on their back at a time. Over and over for weeks and months on end, they carry that load to prepare for winter.
And what happens? When the day comes that there is no food, they’re prepared, because they spent time getting ready for it.
Churches are a lot like anthills. Prayerfully, the place where you attend sees more good times than bad, but in those bad times – internal division, false doctrine, poor leadership, etc – the true test of the congregation will be meted out. How you survive through those rough patches is a testament to how well you prepared in the meantime.
I have seen churches divide over the most useless issues you can think of and I have seen churches who have weathered storms that would have split countries, much less a local church. You know what the difference is?
Love for God.
Love for God’s Word.
Love for God’s people.
A congregation that truly cares for one another will put the needs of their brethren before each other; when you have that type of community, the gates of Hades will surely not overpower it.
There is Work That We All Can Do
In a list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, there are a lot of impressive works, such as miracles, healings, prophets, and others. And if you’ve ever read that section of 1 Corinthians, you know what the church there wanted more than anything else was the gift of speaking in tongues (primarily so they could brag about it with each other).
But, just like Dorcas, you know what’s tucked away inside that list as well? Something called “helps” (1 Cor. 12:28).
You see, no one ever thinks about “helps” as being all that great. What we need (obviously) is strong evangelism and an eldership that has a vision for the future, and since those are the things that matter, those are the things we should do! (Note the sarcasm)
Simple truth: those things are inefficient without a body of Christians that are actively helping each other.
Whenever we get visitors to Hillside, one of the complements that we receive more than anything else is how friendly everyone is. I truly believe we have a congregation of “Dorcas’” (Dorci?) that are serving others and striving to work together for the Kingdom of God.
Next to a stand for the truth, it’s one of the best compliments we can receive, at least in my opinion.
We need Dorcases in our churches today. We need people that are willing to do what they can with what they have to serve whomever they find. And we need to appreciate those people when they serve, normally in behind-the-scenes roles that are hardly ever noticed.
We also need the Dorcases in our churches to realize their own contribution for what it is. Not as a minor thing done in the shadows, but as a life-giving cup of water in the hands of a thirsty soul.Last modified: January 22, 2019