At the high school graduation ceremony this week, the principal stood before an audience of 700 capped-and-gowned scholars and said, "Stand up if you have received an award for academic achievement." A smattering rose to their feet and then sat down again. The principal then said, "Stand up if you have received an award for athletics." A different subset of students shot up and then returned to their seats. Next the principal said, "Stand up if you have received an award for service." Once more the embossed pattern on the bleachers shifted to a new configuration.
Today I saw my friend Kristen, who had also attended the event. Kristen has no children of her own but is a "mother" or "big sister" to more than a few church youth group kids and Burmese immigrants and her own troubled niece and nephew. When I asked what she thought of the graduation, she said she thought there were some awards missing:
"Stand up if you have completed the entire four years in your third language and still managed to get C's."
"Stand up if your mother is a drug addict and you were raised by your somewhat crazy grandmother, and you still passed."
These are achievements that will never be seen by people and never be acclaimed at a high school awards nights. But the Lord knows them all.
Likewise, the Lord knows which church leaders are popular and dynamic and effective because they are endowed with a naturally charismatic personality and energetic constitution. And He also knows those who have little natural endowment, or talent, or health, or what we call resources, and yet die to themselves and show up for work every day for the sake of Christ.
And I am quite sure that Awards Night at the Judgment Day (Revelation 22:12) will look very different from what we saw in the Cheltenham High School auditorium on Tuesday evening.