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.’ (Luke 17:10)
The human heart is incredibly fickle and selfish. To maintain commitment to Christ in the face of rejection and frustration is what we are called to do – and we know this – yet we are weak and find it so difficult to do. Like Peter on the night of the Lord’s arrest, the mighty in the Lord often fall due to a simple aloneness, or a criticism by a simple person, and a lack of encouragement.
We are often like people scaling mighty mountains who find that the greatest test of endurance is from the sand that has accumulated in our shoes and rubbed blisters.
We are willing to serve unselfishly so long as we can be guaranteed some personal feeling of emotional thrill. We are willing to labor unknown and unsung so long as we can see some progress in the work. We are willing to go the extra mile, take up our cross and follow Christ, and deny ourselves so long as we can be promised some “down time” to do what we want to do.
The giving of demands to God on any level, whatever it is, is precisely contrary to the spirit of servanthood. Servitude to Christ is not a negotiable matter. We are prone to say, but surely the Lord knows our hearts, he knows that we need encouragement. We can quote the scripture, “For he knows how we are framed, he remembers that we are only dust” (Psalm 103:14). And this is true, of course, but the servant must leave the timing and nature of these encouragements into the hands of God.
It is entirely reasonable that we who serve the Lord, who bring life, grace, hope, and joy to the lives of others, should expect to receive it ourselves: “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25). In fact, we can take each of these rewards that we hope to experience here – the awareness of fruit-bearing, the personal sense of joy and the favor of the Lord, even the rewards in terms of financial and material matters – and find scriptures that promise these things (John 15:16; 2 Peter 1:8; Luke 10:5-11; Matt. 19:29). Yet these are also grace gifts received through faith.
The servant has no position of negotiation with the Master. He must take the promise of the Lord and hold on to it, trusting that in the right time and in the right way the servant receives His reward. Perhaps it will be here on earth from time to time, and certainly much reward will wait until heaven, but all of these earthly rewards pale in comparison to the greatest of all rewards – the reward to simply hear the Lord say, “Well done!”
Remember others have endured much worse and still found the means to rejoice. Remember the encouragement of Paul:
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:16-18)