A certain man had three sons who grew up to wear his shoes, his socks, his shirts, and anything else they chose to take from his closet. He only tolerated their borrowing and returning—sometimes, not returning—his clothes. He lamented: “The words I hear most often from my children are ‘Thank you, Dad.’ I’d like to be given the opportunity to thank them for something!”
He had devalued the privilege of giving. Likewise, in our relationship with God, if we give our service without a spirit of gratitude, our involvement with Him becomes meaningless. Our spirit of giving is the foundation for genuine financial support and service.
The Giving Spirit
Paul counsels Christians to give thanks when they present their requests to God (Philippians 4:6). Even as zealous class secretaries petition God for spiritual and mental energy, for creative skills, and for tolerance to minister with disagreeable or tardy team members, they are encouraged themselves. Their spirit of gratitude transfers to their relationships with other members.
Paul thanked God for the Philippians because of their partnership in the gospel and because they shared in God’s grace with him (Philippians 1:3, 7). No one is called to serve in isolation; so thankfulness must underlie your interaction with your team members. This includes the giving of your time, expertise, experience, and your finances to support a team member’s ministry. Thankful giving helps cement giver and receiver in the pursuit of success.
Being thankful to God and to one another puts the focus on the privilege of service rather than on the reward for service. Such service is in recognition of gifts possessed rather than hope of compensation—intrinsic or extrinsic—for service rendered. So many of the negative feelings that can make your Sabbath School ministry stressful will give way to joy when there is an atmosphere of thanksgiving.
Maturity Is the Goal
Although you serve gladly in response to God’s goodness, you appreciate the occasional affirmation in the form of thank you cards, trophies, certificates, and wall plaques. Yet remembering that you serve primarily for God’s commendation wards off discouragement if people are not generous with their affirmation.
Sabbath School secretaries have the example of Jesus, who ministered to 10 lepers but received thanks from only one (Luke 17:11-19). He mentioned the lack of response from the other nine, but He did not express regret for healing them. His commitment to His purpose was not affected by a minimal show of thanks. He continued to give without keeping score of how much thanks He received. This was His direction to His disciples: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
When you receive thanks, it is wise to recognize the feedback and accept it graciously. You do not want to give the impression that you do not deserve affirmation; yet you must remember that God empowers and enables you. So you must find a way to receive thanks from the people and give thanks to God all in the same breath. People are expressing gratitude to God through you and you must not block its destination.
Paul taught that the will of God is for believers to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is more than a suggestion; it is a necessity for Christian maturity. Mature Christians get as much satisfaction from giving as they get in receiving.
You may have heard the old saying: “What goes around comes around.” Mature leaders must get into the circle and help it to expand.
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists