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Putting Out or Putting Off

State Senator Tommy Burks (from Cookeville in Putnam County, Tennessee) served the people of his legislative district faithfully and with distinction in the Tennessee state legislature for 28 years. An online article at crimelibrary.com. reports he never missed a single day's work in 28 years in the legislature, and once used a tractor to pull his car out of a snowbank to make it to the capital. He was popular and well-respected as a politician, a citizen, and most of all as a faithful Christian. His senseless murder at the hands of local political opponent Byron Low Tax Looper in October, 1998, shocked and saddened the people of eastern Tennessee and abruptly ended a distinguished career of public service. On a segment of the TV program "American Justice" which aired on December 12, 2001, Horace Burks made a statement about his murdered brother Tommy that I can't forget. He said, "By practicing being a good Samaritan all his life, he was able to impact thousands and thousands of people." I didn't know Tommy Burks personally, but that high tribute paid to him by his loving brother reminds us that you don't make an impact on the game by just sitting in the stands. To make a difference, you have to come down and get involved in the game.

Let me introduce you to another man neither you nor I. personally know. His story is told in three verses in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 1:16; 16:15, 17. The verse that reveals most about him is 1 Corinthians 16:15, "I urge you, brethren; you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints." That verse tells us a lot about Stephanas and his family. Once baptized into Christ, they didn't sit down on a pew!
They got involved in serving and stayed involved. The King James Version puts it even more strongly —"they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." They had a habit. Their habit was not just "coming to church" or "going to worship." They made serving God and serving other people a regular, habitual, and frequent part of their lives. The whole household. Not just the husband. Not just the wife Not just one of the kids. The household of Stephanas devoted itself and developed an addiction to serving the saints! Let me drive the point home by quoting 1 Corinthians 16:15-16 from a paraphrase of the New Testament called The Message — "Would you do me a favor, friends, and give special recognition to the family of Stephanas? You know, they were among the first converts in Greece, and they've put themselves out, serving Christians ever since then. I want you to honor and look up to people like that: companions and workers who show us how to do it, giving us something to aspire to." People like Stephanas and Tommy Burks remind us we don't leave a mark in life by putting things off or by putting ourselves first. We impact the world for good when we put ourselves out and serve. Serving is a habit every Christian ought to have. When it comes to serving, are you putting out or putting off?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ