Now, of course I and every other person in ministry should be serving the Lord for His praise, and not for those around us. The moment that our reasons for serving are focused on the praise of men is when our motivation becomes sinful.
In Ephesians 6 and in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 Paul makes it very clear that our motivation in service should not be for the praise of men, but that it should be out of love for our God, who is always watching. Sometimes this is particularly hard for us to do when we struggle with our own desires for thanks and recognition. Nevertheless we are to strive against those desires for praise from those around us and instead find fulfillment in the words of our God.
Scripture also can confront us by the contrasting example in John 12:43. There we see that some “loved praise from men more than praise from God” (NET). It was this love of the praise of men that kept many of the Sanhedrin from salvation. It was the type of behavior that Jesus spoke of Matthew 6:5, “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward.” Jesus’ point was that if their motive of praying was to get recognition from those around them then they received their reward in the recognition of those around them. However, God was not moved by their prayers.
Serve the Lord with Gladness
So, we know that our service to the Lord should only be for his praise, and not for the praise of men. That He is the one that has called us to where we serve, and our service is for Him alone.
Over the last few years as a missionary and as a pastor, one of the things I have become keenly aware of is the need for encouragement. Encouragement from the spirit is absolutely necessary to go day to day, but encouragement from others is such a welcome breath of fresh air.
There have been many rough days that I have labored and struggled with discouraging thoughts, and I have received a note, an email, a phone call, or even a short little statement from a friend, congregation member, or a SONlight supporter. Nothing special or extravagant, but a simple word of encouragement. Perhaps a reminder that they are praying. Maybe an affirmation that a particular message spoke to their heart. Sometimes it is even something as simple as a genuine inquiry into how things are going with some aspect of ministry or personal life that shows that I am cared for and prayed for.
Many times I have gone from discouraged to encouraged in a matter of seconds, and it is much easier to effectively work and labor when one is encouraged. The burden is lighter and steps are quicker and easier, and these moments have often been a timely reminder from the Lord that I do not labor alone.
Son of Encouragement
Barnabas was originally known as Joseph, but he was so well known for his encouragement to the body of Christ that the apostles called him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement”. And it is evident that in the life of Barnabas, and in the life of Paul, that encouragement was a big part of the effectiveness of their ministries..
So hear from my experience on behalf of the many people in your church, circle of friends, missionaries and ministries, that the small gestures of appreciation, thanks, or encouragement are tremendous blessings. Be sensitive of the sacrifices of those that serve in the kingdom, or that are close to you.
Let them know that you appreciate them and their service and sacrifices. Pray for them, and let them know periodically that you are praying, and even what you are praying for. Send your missionary friend a note or email, and let those at your church know that they are loved and appreciated.
But not only that, but pay attention to the ones that serve around you that don’t have titles. Pastor’s and ministerial staff get discouraged and work hard, along with missionaries, but give encouragement to the ones that don’t show up on the roster of the church staff, or the missionaries at the church.
Give a word of encouragement to a Sunday school teacher, particularly one that teaches children or youth. Have kind words of community and appreciation for the janitor at your church, or the church secretary. Or the person who works in the sound booth at church. Maybe you could call someone at a ministry you support and ask to pray for them.