There is a woman in the Bible who is not often remembered, but had noteworthy faith. In fact, her name is only mentioned once. Her name means “radiant”—it’s Phoebe.
“I [the Apostle Paul] commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Romans 16:1-2
Phoebe’s name is fitting, because in a two verse testimony she puts a radiant spirit on display—one that gives insight to how we can carry the burdens of our neighbors in tremendous love and dedication.
From the context, Bible scholars believe Paul had Phoebe personally deliver this letter, now in our Holy Bible, to the Roman church. Receiving this task was no small order.
Paul entrusted her with God’s precious Word, giving evidence to her faithfulness. He also directs the recipients of her delivery to treat her with the highest regard, suggesting her honorable life.
By calling her a “patron of many,” Paul conveys that Phoebe earnestly served the Lord like other noble women in the early church, perhaps by caring for local believers, the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, as well as children and strangers. And in her case, even Paul himself!
So where did her inner beauty come from? How can we emulate her servant heart in our daily lives, to be welcomed “worthy of the saints”? A hint comes from the meaning of her name.
When we look for the connotation “radiant” elsewhere in the Bible, a wonderful verse arises:
Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Psalm 34:5
Although we do not know much of Phoebe’s life, her short but sweet story makes one point clear—true faith expresses itself in selfless action.
She had come to know Jesus Christ as her Savior, and her worship of Him led to a radiant outpouring of service.
As we seek to fulfill the responsibilities God has given us as His servants in Christ—from being workers, to wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters—we must look to Him as Phoebe did. We are only able to fully devote ourselves to the welfare of others, loyally delivering His Word to our children, friends, and communities, when we are overjoyed by His salvation and thus free of shame.
Just look at the Scripture prior to verse 5 in Psalm 34:
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:1-4
Let’s break down Psalm 34’s outline for a radiant spirit, written by David, and wonderfully exhibited by Phoebe.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (v. 1)
Praise the Lord relentlessly in your heart and in your words.
Knowing the eternal life we have in Christ, knowing that the Almighty God is with us, should lead us into continual worship!
The key to this is knowing that faith is fueled not by feeling, but by fact.
When we treasure God’s Word in our mind, recalling the facts of His wondrous salvation, countless miracles, and fountain of grace, we always have reason to rejoice.
Even when the house is a mess, our homeschooling day with the kiddos chaotic, or the world is turned upside down with tragedy, we can still say in rollercoaster emotions, “The Lord is good, His steadfast love endures forever.”
In the mountains and valleys of life, we can still choose to sing His praise, rather than grumble. This stream of praise spurs us and others to do radiant works of faith.
“My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.” (v. 2)
Relish the Lord’s might and strength.
A radiant faith also rests in humility. Rather than trying to prove itself through accomplishments or the adoration of others, the radiant woman is more than satisfied with adoring her Lord.
The humble heart in verse two is glad because it relishes in the infinite power and glory of God, instead of relying upon itself. A humble heart is a radiant heart, since it seeks to serve not out of pressure or its own pride but out of security in God’s love.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! (v.3)
Encourage others to worship God with you.
A worshipful heart is contagious, and where praise of God abounds, joy abounds! Bypass temptations to argue or grow frustrated with your kids, husband, or friends, and bravely take hold of every opportunity to share God’s goodness with them. As we spur those around us to recognize God’s blessings, our faith blossoms even more beautifully in radiance.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (v. 4)
Hand over your fears.
Lastly, radiant faith stems from a surrendering of our anxiety, shame, and dread to the Great Deliverer. God rescued us from the punishment of sin through Christ, and He can deliver us from any spiritual battle.
Two words often stand between us being stressed and being in communion with God: let go. Let go of worries, let go of your guilt, let go of your sin, and let Him restore you.
Savor the truth that He answers our cries, and stand firm in His Word in the days of trouble. When we release the burdens of our own hearts into God’s hands, coming to terms with the fact that He is close and already in complete control, we can then empower others to do the same.
Phoebe, along with many other women in the early church, trusted in Jesus to the point of following His example of sacrificial love and service. Let her example inspire us to nurture the same radiant faith!