“When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing” (Titus 3:12–13).
Do you know who Zenas and Artemas were? Do you know whether it was Artemas or Tychicus that relieved Titus on Crete? Do you know the final destination or assignment of Zenas and Apollos as they passed through Crete? Do you know where Nicopolis is or what Paul and Titus accomplished there during the winter of AD 65 or thereabouts? We do know that just before Paul was executed in Rome, Titus was building the kingdom of God in Dalmatia, located just north of Nicopolis (2 Tim. 4:10). However, as we look at these verses we realize that we know little or nothing of the names, places, and actions that are mentioned. We do have the highlights of Paul’s life recorded, but we know very little of the day-to-day grind that was his during the thirty- year period of his ministry.
There is a great lesson for all of us in this: We do not serve Christ in order that we or our work will be known or remembered in this world. I think this was a key to Paul’s diligent service in the face of overwhelming opposition. He understood that the work was God’s, not his. The plan was God’s, not his. It was not Paul’s place to know all the reasons for God’s instructions or all the results of his efforts. He reminded the Corinthian church of that fact when he wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7). Paul had been close to execution many times but seemed unaffected (see, for example, Rom. 14:8–9). John Wesley demonstrated his understanding of Paul’s words when he wrote, “God buries His workman and continues His work.” The plan, the work, and the result are all His.
I was teaching at a conference two years ago and asked how many in the group remembered or knew of the Reverend William E. Hill. In the 1960s and 70s he led a spiritual awakening across the south that was extremely significant to the birth of the group’s denomination. I was privileged to know, hear, and work with Mr. Hill. He was obviously anointed by the Holy Spirit, and his preaching was unusually convicting. I was distressed to learn that only one person out of 120 conferees had even heard of him. How do we respond to that? If a man so powerfully used of the Lord and his work is so soon forgotten, why should we continue in our service? Ask Paul as he wrote these last few sentences to Titus. Paul’s work had been long and extremely difficult. In a year or so he would be decapitated by Nero. Most of the details of his daily labors would be forgotten. Yet, there he was, sending people like us into a world like ours and calling Titus to spend the winter with him.
He would tell us that we are not here to serve self or fame. We are not here so that our names and our accomplishments will be carved into marble memorials. We have been changed, called, and enabled by Christ. We are “from him and through him and to him” in all of our lives and endeavors (Rom. 11:36). Those words sound “high” and spiritual. But if they become our motivation for service, they will powerfully affect our everyday lives. We may assert that we are serving Jesus, but deep down we want others to know what we have done. There is always the temptation drawing us to be the Christian celebrity.
Ruth Harms Calkin asked an appropriate and penetrating question in her poem entitled “I Wonder”:
You know, Lord, how I serve you
With great emotional fervor
In the limelight.
You know how eagerly
I speak for you
At a women’s club.
You know how I effervesce
when I promote
A fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm At a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder,
If you pointed to a basin of water
And asked me to wash
the calloused feet
Of a bent and wrinkled old woman Day after day,
Month after month,
In a room where nobody saw
And nobody knew?
I keep this simple poem where I can see it on a regular basis. I am forced to admit that is exactly what Jesus is calling me to do daily. We are all like Artemas and Zenas. In a few years neither we nor our work will be remembered. Again, tell me who they were and what they did? We will ask the Father when we get home. He will remember. His memory is the only one that counts. He then will exalt Artemas and Zenas, and we will hear the rest of their stories. Yet the praise will still be to Him.