Hiding the Word:
In preparation for Mother’s Day, my daughters have been sneaking home crafts and cards for a little over a week. Immediately after our welcome home hug, I hear, “Don’t look in my backpack, Mom,” or “There’s a big white paper in there that you can’t look at, Mom!”
It’s not difficult to figure out which papers are the surprises. My oldest prints across the back in all caps: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL SUNDAY.
In honor of such a special day when we recognize and honor moms and all of the grace, love, and selfless service they give, I thought it’d be a perfect week to reflect on Paul’s definition of Love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
I love this passage in The Message for the way it describes what love actually looks like; it’s a test, in a way, a checklist I can use to determine whether I’m living out Christ’s love to others. Let’s meditate this week on God’s love for us, the way others have shown us His love, and how we can share this love, as well.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG).
Originally published 07/13/2012
The kids piled onto the stage for the practice before the big program. At first, I arranged them like carefully planned chess pieces—tallest in the back, little ones up front. Brothers not next to other brothers for fear of poking and other tomfoolery. Eventually, though, the kids just kept coming and shifting around and they ended up in no particular order.
However it happened, in the very middle of the stage in the very front row was the most precious little boy you could imagine. He sang. With all his might, he sang. You could hear his voice in any place in the sanctuary and those passing by the closed doors could hear him singing down the hall. His sister poked him during each song and whispered to him, “Don’t be so loud!” Those watching us practice from the pews couldn’t help but smile as he made a “joyful noise.”
Then, the practice done, each child climbed down the steps of the stage and filed into the back room to wait for the actual program. Except for this one singing boy.
He took hold of my hands and asked, “Ms. Heather, did I do a good job?”
“Oh, you did a great job. I love how you sang with all your heart.”
“So, do I get a trophy?”
“Well, I don’t have trophies, but I have candy!”
He seemed happy with the alternative and ran off with the other kids.
We Don’t Serve To Earn a Trophy
For most of the truly important things in life, we don’t get trophies. Coaches hand them out for playing on a soccer team, but no woman polishes the brass trophy on her shelf for enduring labor and having a baby. There’s no “stayed up all night with vomiting children” trophy. No trophy for “visiting the nursing home without anyone else knowing you did it.” No plaque for “spent hours on knees praying for wayward child.”
We don’t serve for awards that will hang on our wall or adorn our bookshelves. Other than an occasional mug from our kids saying, “World’s best mom,” we go through our everyday acts of ministry without recognition.
Sometimes our motives twist and need readjusting. Deep in our heart, we occasionally slip into acting out of a desire to be seen, noticed and praised. Or we take on a task because it feels good to be needed and asked. We fear that no one else could possibly do it, so we sign on the dotted line.
When others are looking, we sometimes put on the voice and physical appearance of “Super Christian,” and then snap at our family, grumble and complain, and gossip about others as we sink into the seats of our cars and drive from church to home.
Then there are those moments when we shove the dishes into the dishwasher and slam the pot down on the counter wishing that someone would recognize what we do. It may not be Nobel prize worthy, but this is our life’s service we’re talking about! This is self-sacrificing. This is humbling. This is always putting others first!
It’s not always articulated in our heart and mind that way. It’s not something we always admit or even recognize. But our motives are distorted and we’ve begun to serve for trophies–polished brass rewards of attention, praise, personal pride and recognition from others.
Jesus warned: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
We shouldn’t serve in any capacity to get a trophy. If we do, we’re forfeiting heavenly reward, trading eternal glory for a temporary self-esteem boost.
But We Serve As If God Was Handing Out Trophies
Here’s the challenge, though. With pure motives and sometimes hidden service, without seeking praise and recognition, we can still serve with all our heart as if we would get a trophy.
We don’t seek the prize, but we strive with all our might to be worthy of it. Because even when we are invisible to everyone else, God sees us.
He sees you. All of your effort, your service, your laying down of self, your sacrificial giving, your stepping out in faith, your steady faithfulness, your lack of sleep, your soul emptied out.
Just like my singing friend. Fully knowing that he wouldn’t get a trophy, he still sang loudly and enthusiastically during the program. He gave his best effort anyway and I’m positive that God was beaming at every word he sang. God didn’t miss a single second of his heartfelt praise.
In the same way, we worship wholeheartedly, we serve menially, we act selflessly not for our own glory, but for the glory of God.
We pick up toys for the “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” We work at our jobs not so we receive promotions, but so that our “light (will) shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We walk away from gossip. We take a meal to the family who needs it. We write the note of encouragement. We pray for our friend. We teach the Sunday School class year after year after year. We rock the baby.
Because God sees and cares.
We sing with all our hearts not because some human being is going to hand us a physical trophy, but we’re singing for God, so that He will be pleased. This is our worship, the offering we place before Him. When we grow weary or frustrated, feeling annoyed or walked all over, pouring out our very soul for the sake of others, we do not give up and go through halfhearted motions of service. Our motivation remains the same, to serve God, to bring Him glory, to give Him praise.
Because even when no one else notices, we know that God sees.
We remember what Paul wrote:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith (Galatians 6:9-10 MSG).
For those who feel invisible at times, here’s a video from Nicole Johnson on The Invisible Woman. I hope you are blessed by it as much as I was:
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King