19(Psalm 123)A Servant's Heart
When you hear sermons on servanthood, it’s usually presented as something pertaining to the church. And that’s true. As believers, we are part of a body, a community.
But most of us spend a large part of every day serving all kinds of people.
A mother preparing supper isn’t just cooking spaghetti; she’s serving her family. A father helping with homework is serving his children. Shoveling your neighbor’s driveway is serving. Helping someone in the church to paint their garage is serving.
Even occupations which involve little direct contact with people are really service occupations. Isn’t most of your time taken up in doing things that benefit other people?
The difficulty is that much of the service we perform, we find unrewarding. Whether we’re talking about work, family, or church life; we end up frustrated and discouraged.
We get discouraged, because the people we are trying to serve often don’t seem to appreciate our hard work and sacrifice.
They may ignore what we’ve done for them, take it for granted; they may even criticize us! "How dare they! After all I’ve done!"
It’s discouraging when we do our best to help someone out; and instead of gratitude, we hear grumbling and fault finding. When this happens, we get hurt, and then we get angry, and then if we’re not careful, we get bitter.
As the saying goes, "no good deed ever goes unpunished." The author of Psalm 123 knew this feeling:
It’s one thing to serve those who are appreciative and grateful. It’s quite another to serve people who treat you as if whatever you do for them is simply what they deserve.
It’s hard to keep loving, and serving, and sacrificing, for people who don’t smile and say "thank you," but who instead frown and complain. How do we cope with that?
To answer that, let’s first realize that God has the same problem.
We should follow the example of our Father in Heaven, who blesses many ungrateful people; people who don’t worship, or even acknowledge him. He blesses people who don’t give thanks for His blessings, but who arrogantly insist that the good things they receive from God are merely the product of their own labors. Or luck.
And God blesses the wicked also, people who curse his name, who reject his authority, whose sins offend him, and disgust him, and anger him. Even Jesus, the most humble, and loving, and self-sacrificing man who ever lived, was hated and rejected. In the end, he was crucified by those he came to save. Yet he continued to love and serve them, even to death. He gave his life for his enemies. As Paul teaches us: (Romans 5:6-8)
As Paul writes in Colossians 1:21-22:
And so when we continue to love people, and serve people, and give ourselves to people, even when they respond with indifference or ingratitude, we are following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are doing just what our Master taught us to do; we are doing for others just what he did for us. You say that the people you are serving don’t deserve it? Don’t appreciate it? Probably not. Neither did you. Neither did any of us.
But what about our hearts? Even if we continue to serve, we still feel disappointment when our service isn’t appreciated. We still feel hurt when people take us for granted, or criticize us, or treat us badly. What can we do about our emotions? I think the answer for that is also in Psalm 123:1-2.
Here’s the key: we have to look up, to God.
First of all the reason for our service must be to please and honor God.
Our focus can’t be on ourselves; our goal can’t be to receive thanks and recognition from men. We can’t be worrying about what we’re going to receive from people in return for our service.
We can’t be keeping score, tallying up what we’re owed. Our service shouldn’t even be done primarily for the benefit of the person we are serving. Yes, we’re trying to help them. Yes, we care about them. But our goal in doing so is to please God, no matter how they respond. As Paul writes,
Ephesians 6:7-8 with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
"Whatever you do" -- whether you’re sitting at a computer terminal, or teaching a Sunday School class, or making beds, or taking dinner to a sick friend, or driving the kids to school, or spending time with someone who’s lonely -- remember that the true object of your service is God.
You’re not just serving them, you’re serving God. We are always performing for an audience of one. He’s the one we’re trying to please.
And if He is pleased, that’s all the reward we need. It doesn’t matter how people respond; whether they thank us, or curse us, or ignore us.
It doesn’t matter whether I receive credit, or thanks, or honor, or recognition. The one whose opinion really matters; the one whose commendation we really care about, is God’s. Yes, we all enjoy affirmation and positive feedback; we all prefer praise and thanks. But we don’t need them. They’re not necessary. The goal is to please Christ, to honor Him, and if we succeed in that, then we’re satisfied.
Let’s bring this home. Does your husband or your wife criticize you more than they praise you? Does he, or does she, take you for granted? Do your children not appreciate all that you do for them? Do they grumble and complain? Then remember that the most important thing isn’t to please your husband, or wife, or children, but to please God.
And He will be pleased, if you serve them faithfully in humility and love, because in serving them, you are serving Him. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. The Lord values your service, even if they don’t, and he will reward you at the proper time.
Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.