Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. (John 15:20)
Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people. (Acts 24:16)
For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10)
In recent posts, I have written about God's servants feeling used and unappreciated, experiencing undeserved disrespect and resentment, and having hidden greed—a desire to be rewarded.
From these very real and common perils, there emerge at least three timely lessons for all of us to remember.
Lesson one: no servant of God is completely safe. A tough truth to accept! We who give and give become increasingly more vulnerable as time passes (read John 15:20). Truth be told, there are times we'll get ripped off. We will be used. We will feel unappreciated. But realizing ahead of time this will happen, we are better equipped to handle it when it comes. The proper perspective will guard us against stumbling into peril. Lean hard on the Master when you serve others.
Lesson two: most of the servant's deeds will be initially unrewarded. That's a basic axiom we must accept (read Hebrews 6:10). If you are the type who needs a lot of strokes from people, who has to be appreciated before you can continue very long, you'd better forget about being a servant. More often than not, you will be overlooked, passed up, placed behind the scenes, and be virtually unknown. Your reward will not come from without but from within. Not from people but from the satisfaction God gives you down inside.
Much of the ministry requires this mentality. A pastor may stand at the door of the church following his sermon and shake hands with the flock as everybody says nice things about him (my friend Howard Hendricks calls this "the glorification of the worm," a description I certainly agree with), but in reality, if that man preaches for those few moments of flattery—and most don't—he's in the wrong business.
Lesson three: all motives must be honestly searched. Before jumping, think to ask why (read Acts 24:16). Before accepting any tangible gifts of gratitude (and there are occasions when such is perfectly acceptable), probe into your reason for doing so.
Check your motive, fellow servant.
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