I'm preaching through the Sermon on the Mount now, and this morning finished writing for an upcoming message through Matthew 6:1-18. Basically, the point of the message is that whatever we do for God we do for Him, not for the applause and visibility of others. There's a line that comes up several times in the passage, "they have received their reward."
The idea behind that is that those who do things so they get attention, so people will brag on them, so they can get good comments and accolades are getting exactly what they want, the praise of men. And Jesus uses a commercial transaction language (thanks Crossway exposition!) that basically says "they got the receipt."
That's all. They got the receipt.
On the other hand though, those who labor and serve and give without expecting others' approval will be rewarded by God.
It's a very common problem for us in ministry. An incredibly small percentage of pastors will ever get known, will ever be "Christian famous," or get the Blue Check by their Twitter handle. Almost all of us will labor outside the limelight. We won't be asked to speak at conferences, our books will never be on anyone's best seller list, and for decades we may labor faithfully and never see explosive growth in our churches or end up in the corner office of a suburban megachurch.
Can I give you a word of encouragement? One Person sees you, God.
God sees your faithfulness week in and week out to study, pray, write, and preach the text. To see not only your mind but your heart and your soul poured into ministering to the people God has called you to.
God sees your selfless sacrifice when you turn down a raise because the budget is tight.
God sees when you do things behind the scenes that will never be shown on a highlight video as you help clean the sanctuary or sit with a lonely widow in a nursing home or counsel the pregnant teenager.
God sees you as you work hard to serve your church, and then come home to serve and love your wife and kids. God sees when you're tired and you still read a story or throw the ball.
So hang in there pastor. The one who sees you is the one who will reward you. No matter if nobody else knows you're alive.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.