As I watched a special program honoring the brave firefighters of 9/11, the unusual scene on TV struck me. The husky, muscular men on the screen, eyes brimming with tears, were being honored for their service. While being congratulated for their heroic acts, these men conveyed a profound sadness. Why? Because despite their heroic efforts, many lives were still lost that September 11th. When someone's life is at stake, only 100 percent success seems to be worthy of celebration, and discouragement can be a plague that haunts every failure.
Every day in crisis pregnancy centers across America, people work tirelessly to rescue innocent, unborn children. Similar to these firefighters, CPC workers can easily become discouraged in their ministry. When women walk away undecided or decide to abort, volunteers feel more than sadness. They often feel ineffective and wonder whether their investment of time and effort is making a difference. We need an objective measuring rod to help us grasp the significance of this important task. We can draw hope and encouragement when we consider five ways that God says He measures the success of our job.
OFTEN MANY HOURS
ARE SPENT CLEANING
FLOORS, PAYING BILLS,
AND DUSTING SHELVES.
IS THIS REALLY THE
MINISTRY TO WHICH
WE ARE CALLED?
First of all, in God's view our success is based on the significance of our task, not our material rewards. In a world where success is often measured by salary, it is important to remember that the importance of a job is not always reflected in pay scale. Many people working in pro-life fields are volunteers or severely underpaid staff. Parade magazine recently reported that Britney Spears makes significantly more than brain surgeons, but no one would question who has the most significant task. Jesus did not even have a tax bracket, and yet without His work on the cross, all humanity would be lost. We can give information to save a baby's life from abortion, but also offer Christ's matchless gift of eternal life to the mother. That, as they say, is priceless. Matthew 6:20 reminds us that we are laying up treasures in heaven. Besides, when we work for God, the retirement plan is unbelievable and totally tax-sheltered.
Second, God says that success is measured by obeying His Word, not pleasing our clientele. Most CPCs do not serve the rich and famous. In fact, many women come who have been using the system to help them support an immoral way of life for many years. It is difficult to spend hours counseling, helping, and praying for women who do not seem to appreciate what we are doing and who appear to be taking advantage of our services. But Jesus called us to be servants, just as He was a servant. In fact, when Jesus was on earth, His clientele was much the same as ours. He ministered to the outcasts, the downtrodden, and the needy, and He asks us to take up this same ministry on His behalf. In Matthew 25:40, He said, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." We will hear "thank you" some day in heaven from the One we were truly serving on earth.
Third, we are reassured that our success is based on our dependence upon God, not our own competency. As humans, we often make mistakes. One day in our CPC office someone used the large pink layette plastic bags to empty the trash. That same day a client came to pick up her layette for her daughter and walked out with three pink bags, one full of trash. Mortified, the office personnel realized they could not even contact her. Human error—it happens. This incident is humorous but others are not. We are often plagued by what we should have said or done that might have made a difference in a woman's decision. But in the end, no one can rely on his or her own adequacy to do this work. 2 Corinthians 3:5 says, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God." As long as we admit our weakness and rely on God's supernatural power, we are guaranteed God's blessing and success in our efforts.
Fourth, success and significance are not based on our job description, but rather by our heart motivation. When new volunteers come to our center, they are starry-eyed about saving babies and often do not realize that working at a CPC also requires many menial tasks. Putting together layettes or sorting baby clothes can be fun. But often, many hours are spent cleaning toilets, mopping floors, paying bills, and dusting shelves. Is this really the ministry to which we are called? Colossians 3:23-24 answers that question clearly. "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." Each job is important—not only for the ministry, but to God.
Fifth, God says success is not based on results, but on faithfulness. This is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome for volunteers, since each conversation carries the weight of a life or death decision. Failure seems to haunt us with discouraging visions of people who would have done things better. In the Bible, we read the account of Jesus sharing the gospel with the rich, young ruler. At the end of the conversation, the man walked out the door unconvinced, like so many of our clients. Did Jesus fail? No, He gave the truth and offered a way out, but the man refused to accept it. Jesus faithfully did His part, and that is all He asks of us. At the end of life, He will not judge us on the reactions of those we ministered to, but rather on our faithfulness.
In reviewing God's standard for success, it is obvious that all CPC workers deserve far more than a television special to honor them for their service. They deserve a heavenly reward that only God can give. For that reason, I would like to encourage each worker to continue to serve until they hear God say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Jeannie Vogel works at a CPC in Flint, Michigan. She can be contacted at email@example.com.