Of Kicks and Crowns

The fruit of the Spirit is … faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22 NIV

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master. – Matthew 25:21 RSV

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. … the Master you are serving is Christ. –Colossians 3:23, 24 NLT

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

“I knew I shouldn’t have sent that manuscript evaluation before the guy paid me,” I grumbled to my husband one night at the supper table. “Now I’ll never get paid. What do I get for being nice? A kick in the pants.”

“No,” he said, with a knowing smile. “Another jewel in your crown.”

“And what about that book order I sent on good faith that the lady really did just put the check in the mail, like she claimed?” I continued, ignoring his comment. “Twenty-two bucks may not sound like a lot, but we could really use that money now.”

He grinned. “Another jewel in your crown.”

I wasn’t in the mood to hear about jewels in my someday crown. We needed money in our checking account. My freelance work wasn’t just slow—it had come to a screeching halt.

I thought of all the books and bookmarks I’d given away, the hours I’d spent—way more than I was paid for—painstakingly editing mediocre manuscripts because I felt each author deserved my best work. I thought of all the work I’d done gratis—articles written, workshops taught, manuscripts edited. I thought of all the recent opportunities for writing, speaking, and editing that had fallen through. I thought of the paying job doing something I loved that I gave up because I believed God called me to write full time. And now doors were slamming shut in my face.

Weren’t you supposed to be rewarded for doing the right thing and being faithful?

“You know the verse about ‘casting your bread on the waters and after many days, you’ll find it again’?” I said.

Sensing I was on a roll and nothing he could say would derail me, Dean didn’t even nod.

“Well,” I continued, “my bread must have gotten water-logged and sunk, or gobbled up by fish and fowl.”

Faithfulness isn’t easy. Especially when you’ve done all the Good Book says to do, and you don’t see the fruit of your labors.

When you’ve trained up your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and they choose not to follow it. When you’ve faithfully brought your tithe into the storehouse (Malachi 3:10), but the windows of heaven remain shut tight. When you’re kind, thoughtful, and pleasant to people, treating them the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), and they’re snippy, rude, and thoughtless in return.

Sometimes I get tired of doing the right thing. Of being the nice guy. Nice guys get taken advantage of. They get ignored, overlooked. They’re overworked and underpaid. And, like me, they sometimes become battle-weary and weak, vulnerable to doubt and despair.

We can give in or choose to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), remembering that “He who called us is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and will keep His Word (Isaiah 55:11). Even when we’re faithless, God remains faithful because He cannot be false to Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

These days I find myself repeating the words of Jim Cymbala: “Though in my heart I’ve questioned, even failed to believe, He’s been faithful, faithful to me.”

How can I be any less?

Dear God, I’ve poured my heart and soul into what You’ve called me to do, but, for all my labor, I see little, if any, fruit. I feel like such a failure. Help me to persist and persevere in the face of disappointment and discouragement and to leave the fruit up to You. Remind me that You have not called me to be successful, but to be faithful. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Matthew 25:14–46.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

A Little Bit of Run Support

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

During our son David’s last year to play college baseball, my husband and I were on the road from February until May, catching as many games as we could. So we got to know and appreciate the boys who backed up David when he pitched. They were an amazing group of young men.

We heard apologies when an error was committed, allowing a runner on base. We witnessed the disappointment they felt when they weren’t producing the hits needed to win and when they knew they weren’t playing up to their potential.

Yes, there were slumps—in batting and in pitching. But when a player was down, others encouraged him and took up the slack. When David came off the mound after a bad inning, the guys lined up to give him high fives and let him know they still believed in him.

And even though he was disappointed in his performance and upset with himself, I was proud of the way he encouraged the other young pitchers when they, too, struggled. No one understands what a pitcher feels coming off the mound after an inning when he’s given up runs, extra-base hits, walks, or hit batters. When he knows he’s let his team down. No one, except someone else who has experienced it.

When I prayed for David to have his best year ever, I was thinking ERAs, wins, and all those stats that don’t really show how much he matured as a ballplayer, a leader, and a man. And how self-centered that prayer really was.

But in spite of myself, God answered my prayer. Not in impressive stats for David, but in blessing the team as a whole—and in opening my eyes to the reality that David was having his best year ever—because he was on a team that knew what a team was and acted as one. No egos tainted the dugout. No self-serving attitudes strutted around the field.

They all were stars who took with them into life the lessons they learned on the ball field and in the dugout—lessons they taught me as I watched them: That it’s not about me, but about us. It’s not about being served and pampered and catered to, but about serving and loving and encouraging when the chips are down. It’s saying, in action, “I believe in you” after a poor performance. It’s not about what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. It’s about ignoring the pain and playing hurt because you know that others need you. It’s about having a good attitude when the coach gives another guy the position for which you think you’re better qualified and for which you worked so hard.

It’s about learning the vital importance of submission and obedience and making the best of things. It’s about keeping on when you’ve given all you’ve got, only to come up short. When nothing goes your way—when the balls you hit always seem to fly right into the opposing player’s glove and the balls the other team hits always manage to find the gaps, when a bad bounce allows the other team to score the go-ahead run, when the umpire makes a bad call that the turns the momentum of the game—you keep on fighting and don’t give up, give in, or give out.

It’s about letting pain and disappointment be the teachers they are meant to be and hone your character as good innings and victories cannot and will not. Our deepest pain and disappointment are usually the places where we can best help others.

“I knew if we gave David a little bit of run support,” the second baseman said after one win, “he would be fine on the mound.”

A little bit of run support—isn’t that what we all need?

Dear God, help me to stop thinking about myself and open my eyes to those around me who can use “a little run support.” Amen.

Read and reflect on Romans 15:1–7; 2 Corinthians 1:3–7

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.