I was thinking this month about Urbanus McManus.
Not that I actually know anyone called Urbanus McManus, although he does sound Irish! (I'll come to that in a second).
Urbanus McManus is a fictional character representing the 'honest to God' Christian who goes about serving the Lord in my church in Northern Ireland and also in many Christian churches up and down the country. You may have one in your church? He (or she) is the one that goes about the Lord's work quietly, honestly and in a way that never seeks personal recognition. He is there at most prayer meetings. He is there when the Pastor needs someone to do one of those boring jobs that still needs to be done. He is there to (quite literally) pat someone on the back, telling them it's great to see them at church and ask if they need a lift home at the end of the service. He makes sure that others have a comfortable seat and takes whatever is left for himself. He or she may also be active with the church Youth departments or with the Senior Citizens or in whatever position the Lord has led them to be in, in an environment where their gifts can be best used for God's glory.
And of course, there is an Urbanus in the Bible. Mind you, he only gets a mention once, by Paul in Romans 16:9… "Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ"
That's it! That's all we know about Urbanus. His full name may even have been Urbanus McManus (but I doubt it!). But we do know that Paul mentioned him by name and said that he was "our fellow-worker in Christ". So he certainly wasn't one of the big guys. He didn't do the preaching circuit. He didn't hold mass evangelical rallies. But he was a worker. More than that, a worker on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he has his name written in the very word of God!
So why bother to mention this character at all in our Thought?
I mean, he gets only the briefest of mentions in the Bible.
Well, it is due to Paul's very first word in our verse this month… "Greet".
Paul wanted people to greet Urbanus, to acknowledge him, to say hello to him, to let him know Paul was thinking about him, to let him know that others were interested in what he was doing for God's glory, or in short, to encourage him.
From Paul's other writings it is obvious that he felt encouragement was a crucial aspect of his work (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). In fact he saw it as one of the most foundational ways that believers should express Christian love to one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14). I have read that the word translated "encouragement" is used almost 80 times in the New Testament.
Have you given someone in the work 'a wee bit of encouragement' this month? It takes so little and yet there is so little of it about! A pat on the back, a text message, a card in the post, it doesn't take much. In our church, Urbanus McManus has been quietly working away for God's glory. He isn't doing it to be seen by those around him. But my, a simple acknowledgement by someone in the church that he is doing a good job and his walk becomes a skip!
And if you have discouraged someone this month? Then please take it to the Lord. Christians working in the local church today sometimes have to contend with ridicule from the world, pressure from work and family life and then there can be supernatural attacks on top of all that (see Ephesians 6:12). The last thing they need is discouragement from a brother or a sister.
So this month, please consider those genuine Christians you know whose heart's desire is to devote their lives to Jesus and make a difference for Him in the lives of those around them. Thank God for the many peoples' lives they have touched, including your own! And please encourage them to go right on doing what they have been so faithful to do thus far.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)
(All quotations are from the NASB, unless otherwise noted)
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!