I don’t want recognition; I only want to make a difference.
Several years ago I woke up from a sound sleep with these words swirling around in my mind. It expressed the philosophy I really try to live by, and I wrote it down right away. To the core of my being I want to be an excellent servant leader, emulating the example of my Lord Jesus Christ. I yearn to serve others, free from the entrapment of being recognized for my efforts.
I truly believe in the “rightness” of servant leadership, and have dedicated myself to studying it. If I ever have the opportunity to enroll in a doctoral program, my dissertation will include some aspect of servant leadership.
Unfortunately, I am painfully aware that there is also the sinful nature to contend with. The sinful nature wants to be recognized, to fight its way to the top of the heap. It wants to ignore others and emerge as the winner. It reminds me of a class of kindergarteners, hands waving high in the air, crying in desperate tones, “Oh, oh, oh, pick me! Pick me!”
Our culture feeds into this yearning for recognition too. It’s easier than ever to publish a book or increase visibility. Social media, blogs, and YouTube exist to get the message out to the masses.
Anyone can become famous. It should be me. If I’m just at the right place at the right time and do the right things I can be the next big time speaker, blogger, author, pastor, you fill in the blank. The problems is I end up spending more energy on marketing, promotion, and advancement opportunities than serving. I may tell myself that I am serving others by getting the message out. However, when less than the masses are blessed by my work, I become discouraged and begin to second guess God’s call.
It is wonderful to step out in faith to do great things for Jesus. We must be about His business, to build His Kingdom for His glory. We must be passionate about what we do. Because of this we must frequently step back and evaluate our own motives. Who is in control of the why behind what we do—the Holy Spirit or the sinful nature?
I have been guilty of doing my Father’s business, with part of me looking over my shoulder, hoping that somebody “important” notices. When nobody sees (or at least acknowledges my noble efforts) the rejection stings. I get angry when I feel ignored. Or the lack of human validation takes the wind out of my sails.
Over the years I have learned that as I lick my wounds, I need to take pause and examine my own heart.
Am I doing what the Lord has asked?
Am I doing it to the best of my ability?
Am I aware of others and doing what I can to serve them?
Do I trust that Jesus opens the doors that He wants me to walk through?
I ask the Lord to help me make the adjustments so that I can truly say “yes” to each of these questions. I certainly can’t put the sinful nature to death on my own, but with His power I can get back on track. I live for and serve an audience of One. When He is pleased, then all is well.
Matthew 6:1 NLT
Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Heavenly Father, You see me and You know where I am weak. I desire to serve You and others with pure motives. But sometimes my attention gets turned away to myself. Help me to do what You’ve called me to do, to lead where You’ve called me to lead, without the need for human praise. Bring me back to a place of trust in You and love for You, untainted by the ways of this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.