God's Plan is Often in the Small Things, Like Friendship

When we think about God’s plans in the world, we tend to think big. We have grandiose visions of what God could do. And while God’s plans certainly are big, it’s in the small things that he often does his work.

The end of Paul’s letter to Titus, his young apprentice, is a beautiful illustration of how God works in the small things, like friendship. Titus is on Crete; he is there to appoint leaders and help organize Christian communities. Paul, realizing that this is a temporary appointment that would ultimately mean Titus’ departure, says the following:

“As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:12–15 NIV).

Here we see a glimpse of Paul the apostle, not as the lone ranger we so often envision, but as a member of a larger ministry team. It is among friends that Paul goes about his mission, and we should do the same.

By observing the historical details of Titus 3:12–15, we can learn five things about Christian leadership. Each principle points back to God working in the small things, especially among friends who go about God's work together.

1. Local Leaders Should Always Be Empowered

We should emulate Paul’s view that communities often do not need outsiders long term; the locals are empowered for mission through Titus and then he is instructed to leave (Titus 1:5–9). Following Titus' departure, other Christian leaders (with different skill sets) will come alongside the local leaders to accomplish God's mission.

2. Different Phases of Ministry Require Leaders with Different Skills

In Titus’ place will be Artemas and Tychicus. We don’t know much about Artemas: this is the only mention of him. But Tychicus is mentioned multiple times in Paul’s letters. He was from Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and was part of Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 20:4). Tychicus is often depicted in a messenger role, as someone who would bring Paul’s words to a Christian community; he does this for the Christians at Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:12), Colossae (Col 4:7), and Crete (Titus 3:12).

3. Unforeseen Problems Can Be Used for Great Good

It appears that Paul plans for Titus to meet him in Nicopolis in Achaia near Corinth. These plans would ultimately be interrupted by Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, which was his second imprisonment. But God would use these circumstances for good, as Paul would write 2 Timothy from that imprisonment.

4. Full-Time Ministry is Only One Type of Ministry

Paul’s friendships were not just people in full-time ministry. Many of his ministry colleagues were craftsmen or had other trades. We see this in his note that Titus should “help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way.” While we don’t know anything else about Zenas from the New Testament, church tradition holds that he would go on to be the bishop of Diospolis (called Lydda in the New Testament).

But Apollos we know quite a bit about: there is an account in Acts 18:24–28, where Paul’s craftsmen colleagues and husband-and-wife team Priscilla and Aquila explain to Apollos about the baptism of Jesus. Up to this point, he only knew about the baptism of John. Apollos then became one of the first Christian apologists, arguing publicly with Jewish leaders who disputed the gospel of Jesus and sought to persecute Christians. It was his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures that made Apollos such a strong speaker.

5. All Christians Can Contribute to Jesus' Ministry

Ultimately, Paul saw all of these friendships—with each person having their own unique skills—as contributing to the work of the gospel. His goal for Titus and these other leaders is simple: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14 NIV).

Friendship is Where Gospel Work Begins

The gospel for Paul is a gospel of social action. And this action emerged out of friendships; it emerges out of authentic relationships. Paul demonstrates this again when he says, “Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15 NIV). This is a network of Christians doing good for Jesus.

When was the last time you stepped back to look at your friendships and ask God, how can these relationships be used for the good of my community? How can my friendships do good for your kingdom? This isn’t to say that we treat friendship in a utilitarian fashion, as something to be used for another purpose. Instead, it is that we understand that friendships have multiple purposes: they are there for the relationship and for the blessings that come from that, but they are also there for God’s grand working in the world.

In the simple and normal parts of life, we find a God who is active, using our friendships for the good of our communities and world.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


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John Barry
John Barry

Author

CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the General Editor of the highly acclaimed Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. His new book is Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. It is widely endorsed by Christian leaders from around the world.



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