The middle school I attended had a punishment/reward structure based on “marks,” red check marks that were placed in your assignment book. You could receive a mark for any number of things, from bad behavior, to not turning in assignments, to irresponsibility (leaving things in your locker, etc.). If you stayed under a certain number of marks for the semester you received a party, but excessive marks could lead to detentions, phone calls home, etc.. There was a boy in my class who always got marks for not having his textbooks properly covered. I figured this was because his family could not afford to cover them, or perhaps his parents did not care enough to help him. So, I took it upon myself to help him out. I shared this with my parents and they helped me craft book covers for all of his textbooks, and I gleefully helped him put them on the next day. I was so excited to have helped save him from a bunch of marks! Within a week, however, the covers were off his books and he was back to receiving marks. I was beyond irritated! Here I had gone above and beyond to help him, and he had simply wasted my help.
Experiencing your service to others not being appreciated, or not working, is not something reserved for the corridors of middle school. I’ve taught many Sunday school lessons, and delivered many sermons, that I felt fell on inattentive ears. I’ve given gift cards to purchase food that I know were used to purchase video games. I’ve walked hand in hand with addicts that have fallen right back off the wagon. I’ve done a lot of service that I fear ended up not being overly productive, and I’m sure many of you have experienced similar frustrations. Through it all, however, I am reminded of Paul’s words in Galatians 6:9-10:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We cannot give up because some of our service did not at first seem effective. Instead, we need to simply do good work and trust God with the results. We cannot always worry that the message is not connecting, that the gift is being misused, or that the point was missed. Instead, we serve with love and mercy as Christ has served us. Because, be honest, there have been many times that God has blessed each of us that we have taken for granted, misused, or whose point we have missed. Only later may we have understood the blessing from God that was there. It is the same with our service to others. This Advent, I pray that we do not grow weary and that we can truly do as much good as God gives us opportunity to do.