In my family, praise and recognition are about as common as breathing and sleeping. Any time someone did something well, like receiving good grades, cooking an excellent meal, or completing a given task, the whole family would acknowledge and encourage the action by rewarding, clapping, and even sometimes, throwing a party.
I picked up on this very quickly as a young child. I got so used to being recognized for almost everything that I came to expect validation for any and everything. At age three, I even purposely knocked over a lamp, looked at my parents, said, “I do that!” and started clapping, expecting them to join in the celebration of this “good thing” I did. I obviously didn’t understand that everything I did didn’t warrant applause or a reward.
This year, I’ve dealt with probably the biggest struggle I’ve ever faced and admittedly failed almost every test that came my way. After finally deciding that was enough was enough and that I was going to really obey God and submit to him in this area, I’ve been passing the tests left and right! You would think the victory of those moments would be enough, right? Well, I have to admit, for a split second after the last passed test, I thought, “Ok, Lord…now what? I did it! I passed that test, that thing You’ve been trying to get through my head all this time, so what do I get for my obedience?” It’s like I expected God, my Creator and Savior to give me applause and rewards for doing exactly what I’m supposed to do! How does that work?! Sometimes we can even go as far as to compare ourselves to others: “Well, Lord, I know wasn’t as bad as him, so why did he get promoted?” and “At least, I’m not doing that, so why can’t I get a new car?” and “She doesn’t even have a real relationship with you, why is she married?”
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV)
I love the way Elisabeth Elliot puts it in her book Discipline: The Glad Surrender: “[God] expects us to work, just as the designer of a precision instrument, if he understands the principles involved and designs it accordingly, expects the thing to work. It is no great credit to the instrument if it does.”
Are we to only obey to get something in return? Do we want God’s heart or God’s hand? Do we want righteousness or reward? Do we want Christ-likeness or credit?
Expecting a reward can take away from the preciousness and blessing that is faithful obedience. Expectation is just masked discontentment and halts what God is continuing to do. There’s a deeper lesson to be learned here…how’s your attitude? God looks at the heart of man. Is yours entitled? Jesus said it best: “The servant does not deserve thanks for obeying orders, does he? It is the same with you; when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are ordinary servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:9,10 GNT)
So how do we rid ourselves of an entitled attitude?
1. First, give thanks! Thank God for all that He’s done and what He’s going to do through you. Thanksgiving and gratefulness are tools to shake off discontentment and show us the reality of situations that we could possibly be building up in our minds. (“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT)
2. Remember, it should never be about you. In everything we do, we should be glorying and focusing on Christ. (“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 ISV)
3. Don’t beat yourself up if you may have a longing for a reward. Just because the thought pops in your head doesn’t mean you have to entertain it. (“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive everything thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5)
4. Lastly, keep going! (“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2 NLT) Continue to submit yourself under Christ’s authority. This is an attitude that God doesn’t want us to have so He will give us PLENTY of opportunities change it.
And remember, God sees you. He knows you. He knows when you are genuinely trying to be grateful and when you’re only obeying for the result of said obedience.
Now, of course, God does bless us more than we deserve just because He’s that good, but how self-centered and insulting to automatically expect a reward for doing exactly what is called of us!
The reward is obedience. The reward is acting on the faith that God equips us with. The reward is being one more step closer into the Lord’s ultimate plan for your life. The reward is holiness.