Who are these guys? Can you name the book, chapter, and verse in the Bible where they can be found? How about just the book? If I were to ask you of Noah, or Moses, or Elijah; perhaps you could tell me their story. What about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? You know Joseph, interpreter of dreams, Joshua, conqueror of Canaan, and perhaps even Jonah, in the belly of the great fish. We know their stories, and they are stories of recognition, but what about these three men: Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus?
There’s an old proverb: Bad news travels fast. And while that is a very true proverb, it is certainly not limited to just bad news; any titillating, tantalizing, scandalous talk and/or travail travels at tremendous tempo. The six o’clock news is filled with mostly what? Bad NEWS! There is not a lot of gossip devoted to wholesome things. Stories of goodwill and man helping man don’t seem to occupy the front pages of newspapers much. Anyone, and anything, that can be brought down is brought down, as the other old proverb goes: “People love to watch the train wreck”.
Unfortunately, many times this same sort of behavior carries over into the local church. Many brethren can become consumed with gossip. They can be discouraged by stories they hear of fellow brethren who are not living, or being the example they should, or perhaps even just contributing to the building up of the body as they should. So many times brethren become distracted by the negative that they see, or the negative that they hear, or even that they “feel”, and as a result, their eyes of faith are blinded to the goodness that surrounds them from faithful brethren. They become pessimistic, cynical, and/or saddened (burdened) that not everyone is as they should be.
When you look at the Corinth church, that might be a great example. How many times have we heard of the troubles at Corinth? Division of who baptized who, division over eating of food, and who can forget… a man having relations with his father’s wife!!! “What is the point?” “Why be a part of the church?” “No one and nothing is as it should be!” But THAT is the deception. In the midst of great turmoil, division, and uncertainty, there ARE brethren of faith. There ARE brethren of faithfulness! “I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus arrived… for they refreshed my (Paul) spirit and yours also.” (I Cor. 16:17) These were men of great faithfulness in the midst of a struggling church (Corinth). While the church had problems, not all was lost.
How many times do you look around the church and look at all the positive? The truth is, because of the humility of brethren, you are likely to be UNAWARE of MANY good and great things brethren are doing for one another and service to the Lord! I once talked to a man who was discouraged by “the church” because he said he didn’t see anyone doing anything. I began to go down the membership roll (as I could remember) and name brother after sister after brother in Christ who had done deeds of kindness and service that he was completely unaware of; GREAT brethren doing GREAT things for the Lord, and he was completely unaware. He had become cynical; he had become the source of discouragement to others by not being faithful, because he did not have the heart to be involved in seeing the good that surrounded him – the good from his brethren, and his blessings in Christ Jesus.
Every church has their Stephanas, Fortunatus, and/or Achaicus. They can be, and they SHOULD be, you and me. Brethren of work and service who strive to do, not EVERYTHING, but what… they…. can! These are brethren of honor and respect. These are our beloved; those whom we can put our faith and trust in, and they will not let us down. They are those who build us up and strengthen us, as we open our eyes to see their good works, and glorify the name of God. As Paul said of his beloved three, “Such men deserve recognition”. (I Corinthians. 16:18) Amen. And may we strive to be such people… to the praise and glory of God.