Excerpted From

The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible 

By Mary DeMuth


Phoebe was faithful without fanfare. She quietly served and fulfilled her mission, yet with bravery, planning and securing her journey over land and sea from Cenchrea to Rome—no doubt a perilous journey. She is mentioned nowhere else in Scripture, but can you imagine our world without the book of Romans in it? She was an emissary of extreme importance, yet so few realize the profound role she played. 

Perhaps the deepest misunderstanding believers can face is that of insignificance. In a world of splash and instant fame, we forget the upside-down nature of the Kingdom, where the last are first and the first are last. In order to thrive in today’s popularity-obsessed culture, we must reorient our hearts toward the correct kingdom.

In God’s Kingdom, unknown people like Phoebe are tasked with important work. In the world, only the superstars are counted as significant. When our significance is only tied to how well-known we are, we can crumble when that recognition isn’t there. Real work is feet to the ground fueled by a servant’s heart. We find our significance not by preening for the crowd, but by seeking to please an audience of One. Like John the Baptist, we cry, “He [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30).

Jesus heralds the small, but we elevate the large. Yet when you read the parables of Christ, you may be struck by their heroes. A small, insignificant mustard seed becomes a big tree. An overlooked widow finds justice. A little yeast leavens the entire lump of dough. The pearl is small, but of inestimable value. The youngest son is feted by his father. The outcast Samaritan saves the day, to the shame of the religious elite who ignored a broken, bleeding man. A single sheep merits leaving ninety-nine behind. Jesus reminds us of the power of small when He says, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10).

Friends, coworkers, church members, or your family of origin may misunderstand your significance, but in the Kingdom of God, all followers of Christ are important. The smallest ministry, when fueled by the Spirit of God, is amplified. Jesus reminds us what true ministry is. It is not necessarily flashy or powerful, but humble and unseen. “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded,” he reminds us in Matthew 10:42. 

In order to execute what may seem like a pointless or unseen assignment, we must cultivate an inner fortitude, finding joy in doing what is right despite the temporal reward or lack thereof. When I’ve felt the sting of “insignificant” ministry, I’ve reminded myself that this world is not all there is. “Give your gifts in private,” Jesus reminds us, “and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). He sees your toil. He gives weighty significance to your faithful, quiet work. 

When you feel insignificant, remind yourself of these powerful affirmations rooted in Scripture:

• Someday I will see Jesus, and all this obscure toiling will make sense. (2 Corinthians 5:8, Titus 2:13)

• I will obtain a non-perishable inheritance that won’t fade. (1 Peter 1:4)

• When I feel insignificant, I will set my mind on eternity. (Colossians 3:2)

• I will be patient for the increase God will give me. (James 5:7)

• When I am discouraged, I will fix my eyes on what is unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

• In a battle, I will ask God to open my eyes to what is really happening around me. (2 Kings 6)

• My integrity is more important than my status. (2 Peter 3:11–14)

• I may not get my reward now, but I wait for my eternal reward with expectation. (Hebrews 11:26)

• When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I will view my circumstances as the momentary afflictions they are. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

• I will persevere, knowing many before me endured well. (Hebrews 11:13–16)

• When I despair and fear, I will remind myself of how God will make all things new and beautiful in Heaven. (Isaiah 25:6–8)

• When overlooked, I will remember that my present sufferings are nothing in comparison with the glory that will come my way. (Romans 8:18)

• When I am unfulfilled, I will remind myself of the fulfillment that awaits me. (Luke 6:20–23)

• When I face misunderstanding, I will focus on the moment I finally see the face of Jesus. (Revelation 22:3–4)

• When I’m walking through a long trial, I will remind myself of the brevity of this life. (James 4:13–14)

• When others flaunt their treasures and stature, I will focus on the kind of treasure that lasts for eternity. (Matthew 6:19–24)

• When I am unrewarded, I’ll focus on eternal rewards. (2 Corinthians 5:9–10, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 25:14–30)

Much of our lives are lived unseen by people. But as the Prophet Zechariah warns, we must “not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10). If we give into the lie that insignificance will always be our lot, we won’t take the next necessary step. We must rest in knowing God understands us, and when He calls us to a task, He can see the end product. If we let the opinions of others sideline us, we won’t exercise our faith. 

Phoebe may be an unknown heroine of the New Testament, but she was well known by her God. She most likely kept a close connection with her Savior, hearing His voice and obeying His call. She quietly and faithfully served her church in Cenchrea, no doubt for several years, before the great task of carrying Paul’s letter came to her. That she obeyed should encourage you. When danger loomed before her, she defied fear and stepped out into the unknown, living by faith—not in others and their fickle opinions, but in the God who had always been faithful to her. 

Excerpted from The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible by Mary Demuth. Copyright 2022. Salem Books. Used by Permission.

Mary DeMuth
Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth is an author, speaker and podcaster who is passionate about helping you live a re-storied life. A survivor of neglect and sexual abuse, Mary was gloriously rescued by Jesus when she was 15. She has spent her life healing from trauma so she can help others not feel so alone.