A few Sundays ago we had a Common Life Sunday with an emphasis on the subject of serving others. We heard from a few of our people who have served other people who can be difficult to serve or have served others in difficult times and under difficult circumstances. During our time together, we invited questions to be texted in and had an excellent question asked via text:
“How do I stay motivated to serve when what I do is not appreciated or maybe even unnoticed?”
We asked one of the married couples who shared with us that Sunday, Dave and Rachel Clauson (whom, you may recall from what they shared, have had some experience in this), to answer this one for us. The following is from Dave Clauson.
It’s a great question and one that all of us have faced, are facing now, or will face.
Let’s face it… serving is hard and there is a real sense where none of us aspire to be a servant when we grow up. Yet that’s exactly what Christ has called us to be and it’s part of the DNA of Christianity. Being unappreciated or unnoticed can drain us. It can be discouraging. It can be frustrating.
For a number of years, I met regularly with a young person who had mental health issues. While there were times when I felt like taking him out to dinner and talking with him were accomplishing something and were appreciated, there were many times when he never showed real gratitude and never even asked how I was doing. It left me feeling like a free meal. But I never felt the freedom to give up on him in spite of my discouragement and not really understanding why God had me there.
I learned a lot personally during these meetings. One was that I like to serve because I want the positive feedback and adoration of others. In other words, I didn’t serve out of the heart of Jesus; I served because I wanted to look like Jesus to others or to feel better about myself. Another key lesson was about Jesus and his heart. While there are occasions when I show Jesus some measure of appreciation and gratitude, His agenda with me is reflected by the cross. While He will be completely adored someday, today He doggedly shows His love to those who are stubbornly selfish and unappreciative (a.k.a., me).
Philippians 2:3-8 gives us the heart that Jesus had and what He wants to develop in us. How do I serve when no one appreciates me?
“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Jesus had every right to demand to be appreciated. He had every right to be celebrated. He had every right to be served. But He turned that table and He served to death – unappreciated on the cross.
Rachel’s mom, Lois, was a servant. For years, she faithfully loved people. She loved Jesus and that love just seemed to leak out of her. She wasn’t someone you’d notice. She hated being up front. She didn’t have spiritual gifts that would draw crowds. Lois was a school nurse in an elementary school in Austin. It would be easy to say she didn’t make an impact and I don’t think she would have argued she was making a visible impact. But she was good at showing love to people. When she died more than 800 people came to the funeral telling story after story of how Lois loved. It’s ironic that she never really received the celebration due her until she wasn’t there to feel it. In humility, she valued others more highly than herself.
So how do we keep serving when we’re not being appreciated? By taking captive every rogue thought; every selfish thought; every self-righteous thought and recognizing that I’m becoming like Jesus, The Servant. And while no one else may be celebrating it, a time is coming when the appreciation will flow.
What I didn’t quote out of Philippians 2 is that just after verse 8, it says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. We hang on until He recognizes us. We hang on until there’s a new way of serving.