[Well done good and faithful servant]
Well, it’s that time of year again. The rain has begun to fall, and the leaves will soon take on their golden hues. This time of year always feels more like the start of a new year to me.
Though I haven’t been making the trek to school for a couple of decades (+) now, and we don’t have any children of our own to send off, September always makes me think of going back to school. (Okay, so we do have a pair of furry babies, but they’re homeschooled *ba-dum-ch*)
Looking back to my school years, my fuzzy perspective was always so incredibly deflating and discouraging. The lies that I believed about myself kept me constantly in that “I’m a nobody” mindset. Even encouraging words or deeds did very little to boost my confidence back then.
On two occasions through those years, however, I was presented with a certificate that stated this: Most Improved Student. At the time, unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as significant to me as it should have been. I would have preferred an award for excelling in Art or English, so when I didn’t receive recognition for something I believed I had a fighting chance at, it confused me. I didn’t really understand my certificates.
I couldn’t see my certificates as they should have been viewed—as proof that I was making some progress and that my teacher was pleased with me.
It wasn’t until grade 12 that I finally received the “Well Done” that I desired from my Art teacher, Mr. Leonard. I was proud of that achievement. I worked for it and it warmed my heart to know that Mr. Leonard was pleased with my work.
The thing I really respected about Mr. Leonard was that he didn’t grade solely on ability; he also graded you on your effort. In fact, he had zero tolerance for those who took his class believing that Art would be an easy or “free” grade. He made you work for it. He even handed out homework assignments.
I can remember the day that he tossed two students out of the classroom who were clearly there for the free ride.
Good for Him! I respected that. He not only dealt with those who had no respect for him and his course, but he also set a precedent for the rest of the class.
I wasn’t the top student in my class. In fact, I really admired a very gifted fellow peer’s stunning artwork. However, Mr Leonard saw something in me and encouraged that. He framed our art pieces and showcased them in the teachers’ lounge.
Looking back, I feel as if our Lord and Savior’s teaching style is similar to that of Mr. Leonard’s.
Mr. Leonard made it clear what he expected of his students, and he didn’t tolerate anything less than our best effort. Jesus, too, won’t tolerate those who are lukewarm, so His instruction to His students is this: “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Or in other words be well rounded and mature. (Matthew 5:48)
He tells us that it isn’t enough to love only those who love us. He questions us, saying, “What reward do you get?” (Luke 6:32) We must do more than others, and our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, for as Jesus warns us, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless it does. (Matthew 5:20)
As God Himself does, we must love those who persecute us; we must even pray for our enemies. He expects us to do the homework.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ –Matthew 7:21-23
As those two slackers discovered, when they caused their own expulsion from Art class, if you’re heart isn’t in it, you don’t belong in the classroom.
Jesus too echoes this sentiment when he says, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). He also says this: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)
These are hard words, but for a good and loving reason.
Plowing requires that you have you keep your eyes on the task before you. To look back would cause your plow lines to become crooked.
If we aren’t committed to Jesus, we too become crooked. Jesus is the one who keeps us plum. He is the cornerstone of our faith, after all, and if we don’t have Jesus, we’ve gone right off course.
From this perspective Jesus seems like a strict and tough teacher, but I respect that.
He has to be. Sometimes the lessons are difficult and can even be painful, but that discipline strengthens our weak areas.
Our Teacher is also extremely kind, patient, merciful, compassionate, faithful, and forgiving.
The Lord doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. He spends that time on us individually as my encouraging and very well respected (at least by me) Art teacher did.
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” –John 14:21
Well Done (Matthew 25:21)
There will be rewards and even awards for those who are faithful with what God has given them. The greatest of all of them, in my opinion, is to hear those wonderful words “Well done good and faithful servant.”
If I had viewed my “Most Improved Student” certificates as I should have, I would have viewed them much more as I view these words that I strive to hear from my Father in Heaven: to know that He was pleased with how I spent the talents He gave me.
Like my Art teacher Mr. Leonard, Jesus wants to see us do well. He has given us everything we need for every good work: Himself; the gifts and comfort of the Holy Spirit; Scripture; and family in Him to support us. With God working in us, we can excell with His great help!
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. –Revelation 22:12