This article is written to the unsung heroes of the faith in this century, to the "right now" people who love the Lord so much they live on the edge for him. Some are simply following a calling God has placed on their lives for some level of full time ministry. Others donate untold hours of their time and resources each week to aid in their everyday task to be in obedience to the heart of Jesus.
They cannot remember the last time they were able to pay their electric bill or phone bill on time, let alone early. They have chosen to labor in the trenches of humanity to win everyone they can to Jesus Christ. These people willingly drive the best-used car they can afford. They probably buy many of their clothes at Salvation Army and get the best deals they can at the department stores. It's quite possible that any extra income they can muster doing sometimes their second or third part time job, goes into their children's Christian Education. However, they are givers and as God's children, He always seems to come through, stretching their dollars to meet their needs!
These faithful few feel it's their duty not only to be in church every service and to tithe faithfully from their meager salaries, but also to give to missions and other special projects. They also often dig in their pocketbooks for just enough extra to pay for the printing costs of that special choir brochure, or chips and soda for the youth group that night or for gas to enable them to give someone a ride to church.
Jesus said to these kind of everyday people, that are almost never honored, "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple I say unto you, he shall in no wise loose his reward!"
Matthew 10:42 KJV
In August of 2016 I was asked to preach for Pastor Tom in the Syracuse New York area. I had known this man for many years. Pastor Tom was going to be away and asked me to do supply ministry. God birthed in my heart a message from Revelation 2:17 KJV "To him that overcomes I will give a white stone!" I actually found a white stone and hung it on a leather lanyard for visual effect.
Tom was saved as a mail carrier and called into the ministry. After attending Bible College, he pioneered a church, and had faithfully stayed on as their pastor for over 25 years!
Tom built an unbelievably solid body of believers. They all loved their pastor and his dear wife. I remember sensing the incredible presence of God during worship. With simple voices and simple instruments, they praised God with all their hearts. No hyped up emotion or earthly pressures were involved, just the gentleness of His precious Holy Spirit.
The service, held on August 21st, coincided with the closing of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. I explained that morning that the white stone described in Revelation 2:17 is the "gold medal" which Jesus will give to all those faithful saints who labor to do and complete His will in this lifetime. "To him that overcomes," Jesus repeats throughout all seven churches.
Over and over during my sermon I highlighted facets of their pastor Tom's life, which were exemplary examples of an overcomer.
At the conclusion of the sermon, I witnessed one of the most powerful altar services I had ever been in. The whole church flooded to the front to say "Yes Jesus, I want to one day receive the 'white stone' for my service into the kingdom! As I headed home I was fully aware God had done something very special in all of our hearts that day!
A couple of months later, I received notice that Pastor Tom had been diagnosed with end stage Pancreatic Cancer. Within less than six months Pastor Tom went home to be with his Jesus and received his "white stone!"
We find nuggets hidden throughout scripture, and another one for me is what I like to call "The Thessalonian Factor!" Second Thessalonians 1:5 KJV says " Which is a manifest token of the judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God for which you also are suffering!" Paul knew his salvation was firmly established in grace but was proven to all in obedience and suffering.
The last time I checked the average church size in America was about 75 people. But for many places smaller churches, are sometimes being pastored by very special people with just as much anointing, gifting, Bible knowledge and shepherding skills as anyone else. They faithfully minister to 20 or 25 people each week, many times receiving no salary and are forced to work in what they usually delightfully call their "tent making" avocations.
There are also a large percentage of youth pastors/leaders in America who serve without any salary. This forces them to come up with creative no cost ways to reach youth. In addition to these unfunded youth pastors, their wives probably labor along side of their husbands with untold hours of time, spending finances, which they know, will only be reimbursed in heaven someday. The Heavenly Gold Medal, the white stone from our Savior waits for them!
Special words of honor are due to all of you who endure "in house persecutions" which though sometimes small, are still painful! Dealing with family members and coworkers who just do not understand is very difficult. You will one day hear Jesus say "Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord!" To those of you, wherever you are and whatever you're calling, who truly suffer for the Kingdom of God, Your Heavenly Awards await you. What about the Thessalonian Factor? Well Praise God you have that covered!