“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
I don’t know about you, but I find it oh, so easy to fall into what I can only call the “appreciation trap.” In my head I long to serve God with pure motives and an undivided heart, cheerfully and humbly industrious for love of my King and totally free from any selfish ulterior motives.
That describes what I want. What happens in actual, real life is quite different.
Often I begin this way, working from an abundance of love and with great gusto at the start. Then the days wear away, my fervor lags, the joy in my ministry is replaced by a sense of drudgery, and suddenly I find myself wondering why I am not acknowledged for what I do or why I feel so invisible. Without knowing quite how it happened, I find I am no longer working out of sheer love for God but have developed a desire for recognition and appreciation.
I suppose I could say that it’s just the sin nature and shrug it off. I could continue on, pretending that my motives are truly pure, or I could quit. However, if I am serious about my spiritual growth, truly “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling,” as Paul put it, neither treating my sin casually, pretending it does not exist, nor giving up are viable options.
What I need at such times is an attitude adjustment; a reminding of who I am in Christ… and of who I would be without Him.
In Christ, I am acceptable to God, forgiven and beloved, no longer a condemned and forsaken criminal under the death penalty but pardoned and then adopted as a child and in the process of being lovingly reformed. Christ paid the price on my head with His life, and because of this undeserved gift, I can now approach the Throne of Grace wearing His righteousness to cover my shame.
Without Him… well, I shudder to think of getting what I really deserve. Do I want recognition? I think not, for I may be recognized not only for the trivial good that I have done but also for the heinous crimes I have committed.
Suddenly, when I consider the matter of my little service in light of my unmerited favor with God, I have to admit that my desire for acknowledgement is more than a touch ludicrous. Is it not reasonable for the God who granted me reprieve, indeed who paid the cost of my crimes with His own blood to expect a grateful compliance to His wishes?
What’s more, even if He did not redeem me, am I not created by Him and for His purposes in the first place? Do I praise my cup for holding water? Ought I not to perform the functions He created me to do. and that without complaint or need for acknowledgement? Then I ought to do so doubly for sheer joy that not only did He shape me, but He saved me from my own poor choices as well!
Oh, Father! Today I thank You for humbling me when my pride swells. Forgive me for my sense of entitlement. Keep my heart humble and teachable, and never let me forget that my standing before You is undeserved. May I bring You glory and be willing to relinquish every shred of ambition and pride. You must increase and I must decrease.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,