In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul referred to himself and to Apollos as servants and God’s fellow workers. Even as he understood the role and responsibilities God gave him, Paul maintained humility, and he shared several important principles. First, he understood that “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (3:7). He exalted God and counted himself to be simply a servant, understanding where he fit in God’s plan. Second, he recognized that “each will receive his own reward according to his labor” (3:8). He knew that God is faithful and just. Finally, Paul grasped the important reality that “he who plants and he who waters are one” (3:8). He understood that God’s fellow workers served with unity, and ultimately for the same goal (His glory).
Today, nearly two millennia after Paul wrote these words, if we pay attention we can recognize that God still employs fellow workers who labor faithfully and humbly for His glory, in unity, and in the knowledge that He is faithful and just. Even as the apostles are no longer on the scene, God has provided many believers in the body of Christ to work in different roles and be involved in great things for His name. Some labors are visible to many, while others work more quietly behind the scenes. Those who are really in it for His glory don’t care which it is, they just count it a joy to serve Him.
For years I was so privileged to work with a friend and a brother – Dr. John Cook, who is this kind of servant. When I began to work with him he was the Registrar at Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute. For all intents and purposes he was the Vice President of the school (he later, appropriately, would hold that title). I watched him labor for love of God and love of the students God provided the school. I watched him labor thoughtfully, always guarding the unity of believers. I watched him navigate some of the most difficult paths imaginable, and I saw how much proverbial blood, sweat, and tears he put into the ministry – and I saw the toll it took on his body, and the sacrifices he made.
To some, John’s ministry was very visible, as he encouraged many and helped them to finish their own ministry preparations. To others, John’s work is merely a foundation upon which they walk but for which they do not know who to thank. For those who come even after his departure, they may not recognize his influence in their lives, but it is no less real for that anonymity.
Today as John navigates what appear to be his final moments on this earth (as is the case for us all), having long since completed his work at Tyndale, the fruit born of his labor is plentiful. Many owe him much. I am thankful that God allowed me to work with him – to know him, and to fellowship with him. My brother, John, as you look forward to meeting Him face to face, I commend your faithfulness in His service. I thank you for your encouragement to me and to so many others. And I praise the Lord for the time we got to share together in His service, looking forward to more in the not so distant future.
Soon in glory you will see the fruit of your labors. Well done, brother. Well done.