There is a time to give recognition for a job well done, including words of encouragement to those involved as well as others. Paul commended Philemon for his love and faith (Philemon 5). The same apostle praised the Macedonian saints because of their self-less giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
Jesus pointed out the uncommon faith of a centurion, saying that He had not found such great faith in Israel (Matthew 8:10). Yes, there is a time to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). A literal or verbal pat on the back can go a long way in encouraging folks to “keep up the good work.”
On the other hand, I recently found myself wondering why appropriate action by dedicated disciples of Jesus should “stand out” to us and seem so impressive (maybe with a “Wow” response from us). Over and over I have been blessed to witness members of the church acting in the humble, holy manner which God expects from all of us. Why does that sometimes grab our attention as if it is so out of the ordinary? Probably because too often what we observe saddens our hearts since it involves people failing to carry out God’s will in their lives. Let me share some encouraging examples.
I see Christian parents telling their children to do something (or not do something), and the children do not sass their dad or mom. They simply do what they are told with no facial or verbal response which would indicate that they despise doing what their parents are “forcing” them to do. Because we frequently see young people and small children disrespecting and rebelling against their parents, it seems impressive that two people’s offspring actually submit to them. I find it terribly tragic that proper honor and obedience (Ephesians 6:1-3) should seem so extraordinary.
Nearly thirty years ago I preached at a congregation which I had never visited before. Prior to that day, I knew none of the members there and none of them knew me. I can tell you this, though, I left there shaking my head in amazement. I was impressed. I was encouraged. Why? Because their attendance at Sunday Bible classes, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening worship, and mid-week Bible study was almost identical. The week I was there, for the four gatherings which I just mentioned, their highest attendance was 155 and lowest was 150. I know there are circumstances which can prevent saints of God from attending a particular assembling of His people, but brethren, our goal ought to be 100% attendance by 100% of our members at 100% of our services! It saddens me to think that followers of Jesus putting the Lord’s affairs first in their lives should come across as being so impressive (Matthew 6:33). Why should not the attendance pattern which I have just described be the norm and not the exception?!
How refreshing it is to see a married couple speaking to one another with kindness. When they are not together, they always speak in a positive way about their spouse, too. How encouraging! But, wait a minute: should that not be “normal” behavior? Should not every couple treat each other with courtesy? (1 Peter 3:8). Should not every wife and husband love each other unconditionally (Ephesians 5:25) and speak to edify one another? (Ephesians 4:29). It is sad when we are so accustomed to seeing couples being hateful to each other that we are impressed by a husband and wife treating each other in a Christ-like way.
Not long ago I was a guest speaker at a congregation. I was encouraged by the kindness and friendliness shown to me by the membership in general, but I especially noted the action of two young people when I was there. I had never met either of those young ladies previously, but they made a special effort to search me out (one before services and the other afterwards) to introduce themselves, welcome me, and express appreciation for my coming. Here is my question: Should not all members show a spirit of hospitality and a pleasant, welcoming spirit to our guests? (Hebrews 13:2; Romans 16:16). It is sad that I honestly considered those two young folks’ approach to be impressive because it is so different from what many saints of God do when visitors come their way.
A Christian family goes to the beach and later posts photos on social media. Their photos show everyone dressed in a non-flesh-flashing, non- provocative manner. They make a special effort to dress modestly, being thoughtful of others who will see them (1 Timothy 2:9,10). Good for them! Again, it saddens me that their choice to dress in such a fashion stands out as noteworthy. Why is that? Because a number of those who call Jesus “Lord” have no sense of shame (Jeremiah 6:15) when they publicly reveal their thighs, bellies, and chest.
I have had my spirits lifted in recent times to see brethren working diligently to reach out to lost people with the gospel. They take “the Great Commission” (Mark 16:15) and “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:9,10) to heart. Common members of the church were into “evangelism” in the first century (Acts 8:4). Why does it seem so special when we see that today?
May God help us to give Him what He deserves: our very best. “And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation . . .” (Hebrews 13:22).
— Roger D. Campbell