Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Nothing in Return

Between the pandemic, hurricanes and social unrest in the world and in our nation, there are some bright spots that occur. We see individuals taking it upon themselves to share whatever they have with those who are in need without expecting anything in return. When I look at those individuals who do great things for others without the expectation of some sort of reward or recognition, one word pops into my head - selflessness.

The news outlets don’t cover those types of stories very often or, if they do, they are relegated to the back page or used to fill the remaining time of a newscast. In short, those stories are just fillers and fluff to be used to fill space or time. News organizations prefer the sensational stories that draw audiences. They believe that people would rather see dead bodies strewn all over the television screen or splashed across the front page of a newspaper. The heart-warming stories, they believe, are those items that just don’t grab audiences and elicit morbid curiosity.

Let’s look at the COVID-19 pandemic. I talked with many individuals about their viewing habits during this event. A vast majority of people confessed that they watched and read almost everything they could to find out about the virus and its spread. When I asked them about the death rate and rate of infection numbers, almost every single one of them could accurately quote the numbers for that particular day. 

In a couple of weeks, I followed up with those same people to find out if they were still following the stories. In many cases, they not only followed the stories but also began to read and watch even more. They added social media and video sites to their constant diet of horror. Each could quote and list programs, stories or snippets that they had read that day with total accuracy.

When asked about other events going on in the world, they had no clue about any of them. They were completely consumed with the desire to follow the pandemic. For them, there is nothing but the pandemic to concentrate on. The interesting thing about these informal interviews was that they couldn’t tell me anything about the selfless acts of nurses, doctors, EMTs, police officers, firefighters and a whole list of others who put their lives at risk daily to do something good for those in need.

I, for one, prefer the heart-warming stories of those that give without the expectation of reward or recognition. They prefer not to be in the limelight and prefer to remain in the shadows quietly doing what they do best: devoting their lives to serving others.

Theirs is a thankless job filled with long hours and very little pay, but they do what they are called to do without even a second thought. They give when others can’t or won’t and do it with a smile. Sometimes, their actions are lauded and they are recognized. 

When asked to speak about that moment of service, they often say the same thing, “I don’t think I’m a hero. I’m just doing what I love to do.”

As Christians, we are called upon each day to do those things which bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father without the expectation of reward or recognition. We help those who are hurt, hungry or thirsty regardless of their race, color, creed or sexual preference. Each has been created in the image of God and we minister to their physical needs without looking for a reporter to take a picture or tell our story. 

Jesus, in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Luke, tells us, “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

What we are called to do each day is to love and help those who are in need even if that person is our enemy. By accepting Christ Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord, we took up our crosses to follow him. By doing so, we acknowledged the fact that we could be persecuted, cursed at and mocked for our faith. None of those things that can be inflicted upon us can excuse us from our daily duty as followers of Jesus to serve. In short, we are to love and provide for each other. Our true reward rests in heaven and, as Jesus put it, it will be great.

To be sure, just as there are those who do good to all for the sake of doing good, there are those who will give to those in end for selfish reasons. They are noisy gongs or clanging cymbals. They do nothing unless it benefits them in some way, form or fashion. They prefer the praise of men and love to hear their names called out. 

Paul, in chapter three of his second epistle to Timothy, writes, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

There will always be people who, as Paul, put it, “will act religious”. They will beat their chests and call themselves followers of Jesus while elevating themselves and telling all those around them what they have done. Their reward is here on earth and here it will remain. Do not fall prey to the limelight and the words of men. They are fleeting and carry no weight. Do good for the sake of doing good without the expectation of reward or recognition. Realize that some will persecute, curse or mock you when you do. Their words and actions may sting for a moment, but, in the end, they have no victory over us. Like Jesus, we must overcome the world through love and our duty to help and love those in need and expect nothing in return.

When we do all those things to the honor and glory of our Heavenly Father, we are truly followers of His son and children of the Most High who can stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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