“I did all that for him, and he didn’t even say thank you!” I know people who raise children, serve in the church, volunteer in the community and serve others with little or no recognition. These are heroes amongst us who have discovered the joy of serving. How often have we complained about ingratitude and wanted to walk away without serving again?
Someone else discovered the joy of serving many years ago. In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul was busy spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire. He would preach and teach, doing all he could to establish churches in the cities he visited. One of these cities was Thessalonica, a bustling seaport and the capital of the province of Macedonia.
Paul did not establish the church in Thessalonica only to leave it high and dry. His relationship continued with these people, and his words in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 reflect this bond. Would you please take a few moments to read this passage?
We find fulfillment in serving when we recognize our master.
Acts 16 and 17 describe the opposition to Paul and Silas when they visited the nearby city of Philippi. God used these men to deliver a girl from a demon and bring salvation to a jailer and his family, but others did not want any part of what these men had to offer. Refusing to accept the claim that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah, some stubborn Jews slandered Paul. He advocated a different route to a relationship with God that emphasized faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sin, rather than observance of the law. Critics claimed this Gospel that Paul spread was too easy and that he was watering down the Word of God to please people.
Fully expecting to be persecuted, Paul first had to sort out (in his mind) whom he was serving. What made Paul tick? What would satisfy him at the end of the day? True satisfaction would come only when he made himself accountable to one person—God Himself. Paul would serve these people, but they would not be his master.
Let’s remember our master by keeping our eyes and ears on Him. Let’s be careful not to over-extend ourselves. Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If service has become an overwhelming burden, we are not serving the right master.
Why do we give our time to serve others? Do we do only the bare minimum to get by, or do we do our very best?
How about our paid work? Do we try just as hard when our supervisor isn’t around?
We find fulfillment when we serve with no strings attached.
God called Paul an apostle, and people should have honoured and respected him. He deserved financial support from those who benefited from his tireless work. Paul should have received accolades and thank-you letters. He stuck his neck out repeatedly, but people tried to chop it off. He faced rejection again and again. Some people suspected that Paul was in it for the money, but he was motivated by something far more significant.
Paul taught the churches he established to give generously in support of the local leaders and ministries.
Local churches remain at the centre of God’s plan for reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Parachurch ministries have their place, but they are to come alongside, not replace the church. There is no better setting to care for new believers and mobilize Jesus’ followers for service than the church.
Paul forfeited his rights to be supported financially by those he led to Christ and gathered into churches. By supporting himself through the trade of tent-making, Paul did all he could to silence the critics that suspected he was lining his pockets. He deliberately refuted accusations of the Jews, who used every possible emotional lever to pry the new converts from the rock of their faith confession.
Paul likened himself to a parent serving his children. Mothers and fathers give selflessly to their young children without expecting thanks. Likewise, if we help people without expecting anything, we will be delightfully surprised when others show appreciation.
Are you sick and tired of not being appreciated for what you do? It is time for an attitude check. Can you honestly say that you serve others with no strings attached? If you answer yes, you can receive rewards that will never pass away. If you answer no, you can expect only rewards here on earth.
A relationship with God is established not by good works but by believing in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us. God intends for our relationship with Him to lead to serving others. Jesus and His people have served us. Now we are called to go and serve others.
Even a thankless job can bring great satisfaction when our attitude is right.