1 Corinthians 4:1-2 – “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
If you have ever been on a mission trip that included some sort of work project, you’ve probably been challenged with the frustration created by our American-productivity mindset. Many times, youth mission trips are led by ambitious youth pastors and hyped up students wanting to “do good for God.” It is not rare for these teams to leave frustrated at the lack of work they accomplished in the time they spent.
Eight years ago, I led our youth group on a mission trip to Costa Rica. We were given details of a work project at a local Alliance church that we would help accomplish that would leave our Wausau Alliance Church mark. When we got to this church, the work we were given was vastly different than our expectations. The project had been delayed due to paperwork hang-ups in the local government. Instead of building an addition to this church, we instead moved dirt from one place to the next. That was our productivity that week: we moved dirt.
A different mission trip I helped lead while I was in seminary was to a remote village in the Himalayan mountains of India. The closest road was a three-hour hike down a mountain and back up another mountain. Travel in this village was entirely dependent on the condition of the walking trails on this mountain. Because of the monsoon season that was just weeks away, we were tasked with the hard labor of rebuilding some of the trails so that they could withstand the monsoons. Our work was hard, we were productive, and we concluded from our American-productivity mindset that we were “successful.”
Praise God that He doesn’t base our worth and value on our productivity! He doesn’t charge us to be productive or successful; He charges us to be faithful and obedient. While those two mission trips were vastly different when it came to our productivity, they were almost identical when it came to our attitudes, our hearts, our ambitions, and our faithfulness. While one trip seemed more “successful” than the other, I do believe God was honored in our faithful service. At the same time, I did feel guilty that we were not more successful in our trip to Costa Rica.
This burden of success can be an incredibly heavy burden to bear. Kent Hughes learned very quickly the struggle of this pursuit of success in pastoral ministry: “We had discovered that the miserable yoke of worldly success is so crushing because it is a burden that God’s servants were never meant to bear.” Your success in ministry is not your burden to bear. Your success as a father of your family is not your burden to bear. Your success as a godly wife to your husband is not your burden to bear. The burden of success is a crushing burden. It is a burden that God offers to bear for us, if we will just be faithful!
In your work, in your service, in your ministry, let your goal be faithfulness. Let your desire be to be declared a good and faithful servant. What burden of success do you need to place on the shoulders of Jesus? How do you need to be deprogrammed from the American-productivity mindset? As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4, we are simply servants who are called to steward faithfully.