I recently suffered a sports injury that acutely drove home a spiritual truth to me. After tearing the anterior ligament on my right ankle, I learned, very painfully, the truth that we are all members of one body, and that each member has a vital role to play.
In the physical realm, we need every part of our bodies to function optimally to influence our world. In the spiritual realm, the same is also true. For a local church to function optimally, we need every member to function and participate in cooperation with the rest of the body. “If one member suffers,” Paul teaches, “all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor.12:26). This is because every member of the church is interconnected and has an influence on the whole body.
While the bride is the perfect metaphor for worship in the church, the body is the perfect metaphor for the service of the church. Our vehicle for service is the body. It is composed of seen and unseen parts, each one diverse and unique, which, working together, make the whole body achieve its purpose in the world. The church’s purpose in the world is to love the lost and to rescue the perishing. Therefore, we build up and equip the saints to fulfil this mission. The gifts of the body help to fulfill the Great Commission.
What My Ankle Said to Me
My private tutor for the last month has been the little verse found in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. “Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary” (1 Cor.12:22). I now understand that every ligament is necessary.
The all-seeing eye cannot say to the sightless hand, “I have no need of you.” Nor can the all-commanding head say to the practical feet, “I have no need of you.” My ankle, the small ligament of my ankle, made me cry out on multiple occasions, “I need you, oh, I need you!”
Let me describe the ways my life has been impaired by that little ligament that “seemed weaker” but was necessary. I couldn’t walk straight, let alone run or jump. I could not drive a car. I could not exercise, stand for long periods of time, or travel much. My sleep was restless, my livelihood was compromised, and my family life was hindered. In short, the quality of my life was running at about sixty percent or less. I was not functioning optimally at all.
No Spiritual Gift?
You may not think you have a spiritual gift, or you may feel you have not discovered it yet. You may think no one sees you at church or that your presence does not matter. It may feel like you are a very small and useless ligament.
But when you are not there, especially for long periods of time, people start to miss you. People miss the way you smile or greet them week after week, making them feel welcome or appreciated. People miss the sincerity of your prayers or the patient way you listen while they talk. But your deep respect for the Word or God or your joyous presence creates a palpable void when you are not there.
I was recently speaking with an older brother in my assembly, and he felt he still did not know what his gift was. But the rest of us knew. His gift was exhortation. He is a forthright brother who speaks his mind and who gives words of wisdom and encouragement to all who will listen. He is a “wise reprover” who knows how to speak “a word in season to him who is weary” (Isa. 50:4). Just because you may not see the value and function of your gift does not mean others cannot see it. Sometimes, when we lose these “ligaments,” then we see the value and function they once had. But then it may be too late.
The fact that people miss you means you are contributing to the body. Like an ankle ligament you bring stability, mobility, and strength to the rest of the body parts. Like a small joint, you may be the link that enables someone else to develop or use their gift in the church. Your words of encouragement may give birth to the next young preacher. Your faithful service may inspire the next faithful deacon. Your thoughtful gift may fan to flame the flagging faith of the fainthearted.
You indeed may be small, but you are powerfully small. God made you that way. Your contribution may be unnoticed, but it is not insignificant. Your words may be few, but they are forever. By design you were made small. We serve a God who loves to work with small things! (1 Cor. 1:29). In fact, you may be the very reason some people come back to visit your church, or the reason why some people look forward to attending on Sundays. You may be the one who encourages someone to press on or inspires someone to live a godly life. No matter how small or insignificant we may perceive ourselves to be, we are all contributing to the optimal functioning of the whole body.
Other Ligaments in the Body
I appreciate the example of my wife. She does not attend church only for the sermons or the singing. She is also interested in the conversations she has with people and the service she can provide to them. She goes to the church to serve, not to be served. She attends church to feed others, not just to be fed. Often in the nursery, she does not even hear the sermon but ministers to others through relevant conversations. She herself receives encouragement too, through the nourishing words she is given. A mouth may be preaching on the pulpit but my wife, the ligament, is supporting the feet in the nursery.
Those who serve are also “ligaments” in the church. Without those who dedicate themselves to serving, where would be the fellowship of eating and drinking around the table? The table is one of the most important environments for “speaking the truth in love” into each other’s eyes and hearts, and the serving gifts enable that fellowship. It takes a massive amount of work to prepare for, and feed, and clean-up after sixty, eighty or hundreds of people. Those who serve support “the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry,” and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
Joined and Knit Together Perfectly
God has placed each one of us, large or small, exactly where He would have us in the body. Whether large or small, we all have a role to play, and size means nothing to God. He created the planet Jupiter but also the microscopic amoeba and He knows how to use them both.
Peter says, “as each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10). We are managers of God’s grace and responsible to give it to one another. Your gift is either a speaking one or a serving one (1 Pet. 4:11) and your purpose is to edify others in love. If your gift is speaking, then find someone to speak to—an individual, a group of children, a stranger, or a congregation—and speak the Word in love. If your gift is serving, then find a need and fill it. Jesus fed the multitudes, cared for the sick, listened to the hurting and blessed the children. Go and do something similar.
You may think or even feel you are insignificant, but you are vital to the functioning of the body. God’s intention is that we may all grow up into Christ “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together from what every joint supplies…causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).