In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever (1 Timothy 5:25 TNIV).
Donna and I sat as proud parents. Our daughter, Megan, was honored with the servant leadership award along with about a dozen or so other graduating seniors. To be honest, we didn't even know that there was such an award, especially one presented to December graduates. Most of the students were unaware of the award as well. It was definitely not an award that these university students competed to receive. They were all a bit surprised to be chosen.
As the university leadership led this chapel service, the Provost explained that he knew that most of them were surprised by this honor. He emphasized that he knew they would not necessarily perceive themselves in high-notice positions of leadership. Instead, he suggested, they had served in ways that reflected the heart of the university's values* and reflected the nature of Jesus in what they did whether they were noticed or not. Their administrators, professors, and staff wanted to let them know, however, that they had noticed their service to others and wanted to thank them.
Our churches and Christian organizations are filled with servants. Most go unrecognized here on earth because their service does not put them in high profile positions that are easily recognized. Many would prefer to serve unnoticed. They are the heart and soul behind many great ministries — whether parachurch or church-based ministries. These servants are often found in the quiet, sacrificial, and behind-the-scenes service offered by underpaid staff and unpaid volunteers. The challenge for leaders is to know how best to honor them without neglecting others nearby them who are also similarly styled servants. What do you do to appropriately say, "We appreciate your service to God, his people, and to those who need his grace?" How do you do this without undermining their ministry as a quiet servant and yet still show "honor to whom honor is due" (Romans 13:7)?
A genuine "Thank You!" always helps. A kind note of appreciation and encouragement is never bad. A little bonus on the paycheck for those who are employed is nice. Even a servant leader award can be good. However, the truth of the matter is that none of these is sufficient. Any of these can become either trite or abused. The bottom line is this: A servant serves because of his or her heart, not because he or she is not concerned about the recognition. Jesus' servants do good deeds whether given an award or not. A servant "outed" and her or his deeds of service made public can sometimes strip away the inner joy of the servant simply trying to live for Jesus. That's how in the awards ceremony, the university leaders knew they had selected good folks: these students had served and were surprised that their service was noticed by anyone but God.
So what do we do to honor such servants?
Let's be servants in return. Let's catch people doing acts of service — especially those people that do not normally get noticed for their service. Let's individually thank them and personally affirm them. Rather than having to make everything of importance a public event, let's commit to be the encouragers of servants behind the scenes. Our personal and genuine appreciation can be used by God to bless those who serve him.
A servant's ultimate award will be to hear the words of his or her Master, "Well done, good and faithful servant! ... Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21). The Master sees the things his servants have done in secret and will not let those deeds of service go by unrewarded (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:18). Until then, I want to challenge you beginning this week — yes, especially this very busy week as we rush headlong toward Christmas — to find at least five servants and share a note of appreciation with them. Let's not make them wait till Jesus' return to hear genuine words of appreciation: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Who knows, in doing this, we may just find ourselves blessed by being a servant, too!
Who is someone that is a servant who has blessed your life? What did they do to bring you this blessing? Why not tell others about this servant on my blog!
The university is Abilene Christian University and their mission is "to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world."