From Joppa, a seaport town about 35 miles from Jerusalem, the world has been introduced to one of the giants of the Christian faith in the New Testament.
No, I’m not thinking of an eloquent preacher or evangelist, in the traditional sense of the word. But I’m definitely thinking of a preacher–evangelist.
Her name is Tabitha, or Dorcas (in the Greek version).
Her skillful fingers were more active than her tongue.
Luke the historian has preserved her legacy in eight short verses found in Acts 9:36-43. Her story begins in tragedy:
“But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room” (Acts 9:37).
It was a devastating blow to the local church and the community. Luke tells us that she was “full of good works and charitable deeds” (v.36). This was her preaching ministry. She preached with her fingers! Ellen White describes how “…her life was filled with acts of kindness. She knew who needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely ministered to the poor and the sorrowful. Her skillful fingers were more active than her tongue” (Acts of the Apostles, p.131).
She was definitely a preacher and evangelist!
So in desperation from the loss, the church sent two members to look for Peter in a nearby city and compel him to come to their help. When Peter entered the room where she was, “all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments” that she had made (Acts 9:39).
You may not be an eloquent TV evangelist. But you can be a Dorcas—an irreplaceable contribution at a local church and in the community.
It would have been a very touching moment. Peter asked them for some privacy and “knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (v. 40).
After the other members and widows came back in, Peter presented her alive and returned a mighty giant in the faith to her local church and community. As you can imagine, these kinds of things can’t be kept quiet:
“And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord” (v. 42).
Her name has been immortalized by the department of ‘Dorcas’ in local churches around the world. She will not be forgotten. What a beautiful example of how the church needs every member to bring their unique contribution to the table.
You may not be an eloquent TV evangelist. But you can be a Dorcas—an irreplaceable contribution at a local church and in the community. I know many of these. They are real people. They’re not famous. They may not be noticeable, but their absence becomes painfully so to many once they’re gone.
God help us all to be like that. May we all make our contribution with a heart full of humility and love for the gospel!