Whatever you do, work at it with all your
heart, as working for the Lord, not for
men, since you know that you will receive
an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Not long ago, I heard about the story of a family who had attended a church for a number of years. They had been faithful in ministry, sharing the gospel with others and bringing them into the church. They had committed long hours of labor for the Lord in various areas, having a significant impact on the lives of a number of individuals. Some of those involved in the leadership of the church, however, started to notice some of the people they had brought and began to congratulate themselves upon the outreach of the church that was bringing these people into the congregation. They were ignorant of the time, effort and prayers that had been invested in the lives of these people by this couple. Discouraged by this lack of recognition of their ministry, this became one of the factors that led to their changing churches. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated story. Work for the Lord is not often seen or recognized by the local church. The Lord tells us, however, that our work is not primarily for the church. It is for Him. Only this understanding will enable us to continue to labor for the Lord in many of our churches.
Some time ago there was a yearly meeting of a large Christian organization in the U.S. At the end of the several day session, the national leader recognized and publicly thanked those who had participated in their ministry. A large contingent of attendees were from a neighboring state. Some of those from that state had been laboring for thirty years or more with that organization. The national leadership, however, neither recognized or thanked them for their contribution. It served as a reminder to them that their ministry was not primarily to that organization, but rather to the Lord.
A few years ago, I met a young man who was interested in memorizing scripture. He did quite well in the course and was interested in meeting to discuss discipleship. Over the next several years, he was used by the Lord to start several Bible study groups and help others in their journey of discipleship as well. I continued to meet with him and encourage him periodically. At one point he became discouraged about those he was discipling and remarked to me that, furthermore, he was not seeing any benefit in our meetings either. Although I was sorry to hear about his reaction it reminded me that our goal is to please the Lord, not primarily to please others. I Thessalonians 2:4 states “On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” And in verse 6 it relates the following. “We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.”
The scriptures relate to us in multiple places that the Lord is the One we serve, and the One who is responsible for our reward. In John 12:26 we read “My Father will honor the one who serves me.” II Corinthians 5:10 states the following. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” We see this also in the parable of the Talents. “His master replied,”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.’” (Matthew 25:23)
It seems as if the Lord does not consistently let His servants receive praise and thanks from others in this lifetime. It may in part be due to the fact that God does not want us to become proud or dependent upon the praise of others for participating in His work. Instead, it is His desire that by faith we wait for His commendation when we see Him.
A story was told years ago of a missionary who had faithfully served for many years in a foreign country. As the time came for him to return home, he boarded the ship for the transatlantic journey. As the ship neared the New York harbor, he could see a band playing on the wharf. Various people were present and as the ship docked, one of the passengers was greeted warmly by the crowd and the band played a tribute to the individual. When the missionary inquired as to the identity of the person, he discovered that it was the mayor of the city, who had been on a three week trip overseas. The missionary found no one to greet him on his arrival, called a taxi and was taken to a nearby hotel. When he arrived at the hotel, he began to compare his arrival reception with that of the major and voiced a complaint to God, “Why didn’t I receive a greeting from anyone when I came home?” He then was aware of a gentle whisper which said, “Because you are not home yet.”
In all our service in the Lord to which we are called, we need to remember that we are not home yet. Our labor in the church, with organizations and with other people may never be recognized or remembered. But that’s ok. They were not the ones we were called to serve anyway. It is the Lord Christ we are serving and it is from Him that we receive an inheritance.