In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever (1 Timothy 5:25).
A number of years ago, Donna and I sat as proud parents. Our daughter, Megan, was honored with the Servant Leadership Award along with ten other graduating seniors. We didn't even know that there was such an award. The students were unaware of the award or that they were receiving one. This award certainly wasn't one any university student competed to receive. So, these eleven students were all a bit surprised to be chosen, proving all the more that they were worthy recipients.
As the university leadership led this chapel service, the Provost explained that he knew that most of the recipients 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. Why? Because they served others whether they were noticed or not. However, their administrators, professors, and staff wanted to let them know that they had seen their service to others and wanted to thank them.
God has filled Our churches and Christian organizations with servants. Most go unrecognized here on Earth. Their service does not put them in high-profile positions that broadcast their quiet acts of kindness and helpfulness. Many even prefer to serve unnoticed. They certainly do not try to bless others to gain the recognition of others. Their goal is to help and bless others for their Savior. They honor the Savior who served and washed the feet of his unworthy disciples.
JesuShaped servants 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 ministries or are provided by underpaid staff and unpaid volunteers. The challenge for leaders is to know how best to honor such people without neglecting others nearby them who are also similarly JesuShaped 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)?
Deep in our hearts, we know the answer to that question, don't we?!
However, none of these is sufficient in the eyes of Jesus, the greatest servant of all. He will make sure true servants in his kingdom are recognized at the appropriate time!
The bottom line is this: True servants serve to bless others, not because they are concerned about gaining recognition. JesuShaped servants do good deeds whether they are given an award or not.
The challenge now falls to us. Let's be servants like these younger disciples were. Let's catch people serving others in Jesus' name — especially those people that do not normally get noticed for such things. Let's individually thank them and personally affirm them. Rather than making everything of importance a public event, let's commit to being the encouragers of servants behind the scenes. God can use our personal and genuine appreciation to bless those who serve him, and we become the Lord's servant in the process!
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 university that awarded this honor is Abilene Christian University and their mission is "to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world."