Different People

John LathropBlog

Being different can be painful because it causes an individual to stand out from the crowd. They are not like everybody else, there is something unique about them. This is true of people in the world and also true of people in the church. As Christians, we do have our differences. The church is made up of people of different ages, ethnicities, and spiritual gifts. We can easily acknowledge these things. However, there can be differences beyond the ones I have just mentioned. Sometimes when people label another as “different” it is not a compliment. However, being different should not always be seen as a negative (to begin with we are to be different from the world). In Scripture we find a number of people who were different from others and it set them apart as people of quality.

The only way that we can determine if someone is different is if there is some frame of reference. In the remainder of this article we will look at four people in Scripture who distinguished themselves as different. They stood out from the other members of the community of faith. This is not to say that those around them were not part of the people of God; it is just that these people were exemplary. Three of the people that we will consider are from the Old Testament and one is from the New Testament.

The first two that we will look at are fairly well-known; I am speaking about Joshua and Caleb. They were two of the twelve spies who were sent out by Moses to scout out the Promised Land (Num. 13:1-16). This group was told to go and view the land, taking note of the people who lived there, the towns, and the quality of the land (Num. 13:17-20). They did as they had been instructed and after 40 days returned to give a report (Num. 13:21-33). The spies all agreed on what they had seen, but they did not agree about what should happen next. The land was certainly good but there were challenges. Ten of the spies discouraged the people from entering the land while Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to enter it (Num. 13:30; 14:6-9).

The reason this minority of two was different from their peers was because they actually believed the promise God had previously made: to give the Israelites the land. In the text the Lord said that Caleb had “a different spirit” (Num. 14:24 NIV); the Lord also spoke of him as being wholehearted in following Him (Num. 14:24). Because of Joshua and Caleb’s belief that the Israelites should act in obedience to the word of God they were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Num. 14:30). These two men distinguished themselves among God’s people because they allowed God’s promises, and not their circumstances, to determine what should be done. They were people of faith. May we also distinguish ourselves as those who believe and obey the word of the Lord.

The third person I would like to call to your attention is not well-known, his name is Hananiah and he is mentioned in the book of Nehemiah. He was a commander and was a man of integrity (Neh. 7:2). I am not going to focus on his position or even his integrity, though that is certainly a commendable quality. I would like us to focus on what else is said about him in the last part of the verse; there we read that he “feared God more than most people do” (Neh. 7:2). No further explanation is given as to why this was written about him. Without question what the verse says about him is very significant. Like Joshua and Caleb his devotion to God was a cut above the rest; it could be seen in his life. We are not given specific examples of how this was observed but it was known. May the Lord grant each of us grace to live in a way that demonstrates that we really love and respect Him.

As we move on to our fourth, and final, biblical character we turn our attention now to the New Testament. The person that we are going to consider is well-known. We are going to take a brief look at Timothy who was one of Paul’s coworkers; he traveled with Paul and ministered with him. His name appears in a number of places in the New Testament Scriptures. He is mentioned in the book of Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Philemon, and Hebrews. A quick count shows that he is mentioned in 12 of the 27 New Testament books. Paul speaks very highly of him in his letter to the church in Philippi. In Philippians 2:20 he says “I have no one else like him” (NIV). He sets Timothy in a class all by himself. In the next verse he goes on to explain why he said this about him. The reason was that Timothy was concerned about the things of Christ not his own interest. In other words, he was a servant of the Savior not of himself. He had his priorities straight. As a result his heart was in the right place.

In the midst of our ministries are our hearts in the right place? If we are honest we will probably have to admit that there are times when we struggle. Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts. This directive is applicable to all Christians but perhaps especially to Christian leaders. There is much in ministry that can cause “heart problems.” Nevertheless, we are called to be different, like Timothy we are to have the heart of God.
May the examples of these individuals’ lives inspire us to be different in good ways. They were different because of their high regard for the Lord. It was their reverence for Him and His ways that marked them as different, noticeably different. We should not be competing with one another in the church but we should be seeking to be better people than we are right now. May we be more intentionally focused on God and by the grace and power of God may we too believe, love, and serve the Lord more completely. Let us be living examples of Godly devotion in our own generation. The world, indeed, the church, needs people like this.

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Zion Bible Institute and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written articles and book reviews for a number of publications including: the Pneuma Review, the Africanus Journal of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Christian Trends Magazine, in India, and Berita Mujizat and Jurnal Jaffray, both in Indonesia. He is also the author of four books.