March 2013

It was rather embarrassing. Without warning the speaker on the stage asked the audience of around 400 people to give me a round of applause – which they did. The embarrassment was not due to me being “ever so humble” wanting to deflect people’s thanks, but because I had not actually done anything! I hadn’t been part of the team who spent months planning the event, or part of the mini-army who garnished the conference facility with welcome treats of chocolates and balloons. Neither had I been part of the crew who were stewarding or skilfully managing the sound, video and visuals, nor was I one of the people who stood on stage welcoming, leading, sharing or teaching. The truth was I was there as “Cathy’s husband” and all I had been doing was attending sessions, eating and sleeping – whilst Cathy memorised scripts, hosted the event and juggled an ever-changing programme. It was rather embarrassing to receive honour while others worked.

Wind the clock back to my college years and I encountered a similar but very different experience. On that occasion I was part of a team of four people who had been asked by a college lecturer to plan and oversee a large multi-site presentation. This involved a cast of over a hundred people and was to be performed in front of almost a thousand people in total. The team of four were responsible for everything: content, choir, scripts, song choice, publicity, props, technical, tickets - everything. For weeks it felt like our every waking hour was filled to capacity trying to ensure details were not missed, scripts and songs were learnt and rehearsed, that everything was in place.

The weekend came and all went brilliantly. The team and cast were fantastic. Then at the end of the final performance, the Principal of the College took centre stage and gushed praise and honour over the performance, but he wanted to honour one person in particular – the lecturer (the one who did nothing!). I will confess my thoughts and feelings were not of honour at that moment.

I reckon many of us forget the power of encouragement and praise. The truth is encouragement has the power to spur people on to greater things (as seen in last summer’s Olympics), it acknowledges and gives value to people’s sacrifice and effort, it states to all around you have been noticed doing something of worth, it says keep going, you are doing a good job, that you matter. Have you ever experienced that?

However when encouragement and praise are not forthcoming, or miss the correct target, the complete inverse message can sometimes be conveyed – that what you do doesn’t matter, has not been noticed, you are wasting your time.

So, lesson one , we all thrive with encouragement – so purposefully encourage people lots and lots – the results will be amazing!

Lesson two. Do it anyway.

I’ve pondered over why I was annoyed by the wrong person being praised. My conclusion was rather sobering. If the main reason I serve, give, sacrifice, etc., is so that I might receive praise, then I am missing the point. The point is that Jesus calls us to follow him and to live differently, not to cause people to notice us, but as a response to all that Jesus has done for me. Of course we all like and need encouragement, and it is great when we receive it, but even when encouragement is thin on the ground, we are called to serve, give, sacrifice, anyway – because of Jesus.

(A little additional point – actually a big additional point. The Bible says that God sees what we do; He never misses a kind act, a sacrificial choice, a generous gesture. God sees and notices even when others don’t – so be encouraged!)

Imagine – if we were all to apply these two lessons: to encourage (the right people!) and to ‘do it anyway’ (serve) how much more of God’s blessing would we see around us.

Go on – do it anyway!.
© 2017 Locks Heath Free Church