I don’t think that I am a vain person – I have never sought fame. If the truth be told, I am an introvert. All of my life, I have been satisfied with being in the background, but for some reason, God continues to thrust me out into leadership positions. Because I am committed to doing my best to obey Him, I give my best to do what He calls on me to do. But I will admit that, like the next guy, I appreciate being appreciated. It is the rare man who doesn’t need an “attaboy” from time to time.
You guys know what I’m talking about, don’t you? When someone comments on your physique, you sort of bow up a little. Or when someone grabs your arm, you flex those muscles just so you can see that look of appreciation in the other guy’s eyes. I believe that most of us need, if not crave, those moments of affirmation. When we get them, we walk a little taller, smile a little brighter, and speak a little more confidently.
And I will tell you the truth, as a pastor, I have stood at the door of the church and listened to all kinds of comments — everything from half-hearted compliments of sermons that I have preached knowing it was just because my people wanted to encourage me to outlandish claims that my message had changed their lives. I’ve watched men sleep through entire sermons only to be the first out the door telling me what a great message it was. Don’t think I’m being critical. I was told long ago that if I am the one putting them to sleep then it’s my responsibility to wake them up. I’m just saying that I know the difference between a true compliment and one that is not. In fact, I have been on the receiving end of some pretty high praise from some pretty important people, but I’m not going to try to impress you by sharing those stories. Suffice it to say that I have been the beneficiary of every type of “praise” that is out there.
But nothing has affected me like I was affected this morning. You see, on Wednesday mornings, I teach a Bible Study at the Morgan County Mental Health Day Treatment. My purpose is to relate biblical truths that lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I will admit that I add a heavy dose of the gospel, but I don’t try to push Jesus on these people who are hurting in a variety of different ways. Even after I have done this for months, I feel that I barely know anything about the forty-plus people that attend each week. I know that they have different mental abilities, emotional issues, and diagnoses that would probably blow my mind. But I have become to them “The Preacher” or “The Doctor.” And they have become my friends. I think about them during the week. I pray for them regularly. I look forward to seeing their smiling faces when I walk into the room. And today, when I finished teaching them about the power of faith and the kind of faith that God honors, they clapped. Yep. They applauded. It was not coerced. I didn’t manipulate them. They just offered a sincere, heartfelt expression of their love and appreciation for me, and I’m going to tell you, the smile on my face was huge. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I wish everyone could experience the kind of joy that filled me at that moment.
And I gotta tell you, I think that I am making a difference in some of their lives even though I get asked the same questions week after week, but I know they have made a difference in my life. I am a better man, a better pastor, and a better Christian because of them.