Anyone who has served in the military for a long period of time will be familiar with this notion: One must grow and get promoted – or get out. Remaining a junior enlisted soldier-sailor-airman-marine or a junior officer until retirement, is not an option. The military requires its members to rise in rank, take on greater responsibilities, and exert a greater sphere of influence if they hope to reach retirement.
Perpetual Promotion ≠ Growth
There’s a problem with this dynamic, however. It does not necessarily reflect God’s distribution of gifts to people or the callings He places upon them. God wants people to grow, yes. But the circumstances that facilitate this growth may not come from the path of perpetual promotion. Gaining rank, obtaining higher positions, achieving greater notoriety, and earning a bigger paycheck do not guarantee the kind of growth God desires. In fact, none of these may come close to the path He calls us to follow.
Consider the career paths of these people. First, there is Dr. Leila Denmark of Athens, GA. Following an internship at an Atlanta hospital, she opened her own practice in 1931. Through her hard work, she helped develop a vaccine for whooping cough. But Dr. Denmark never made it her goal to become “the rising star in medicine.” She continued serving her small community for the next 73 years and did not retire until she was 103 years old. And even this was a “mandatory retirement.” Her eyesight had become too weak for her to perform exams and medical procedures. But by the end of her service, she was treating the great-grandchildren of her original patients.
Then there was Ron Akana of Boulder, CO. He became a “flight steward” with United Airlines in 1949. He continued serving passengers for the next 63 years, all with the same airline. He finally retired at the age of 84. And over his career he traveled more than 20 million miles – the equivalent of 40 trips to the moon and back.
Look also at Allan Ganz of Peabody, MA. Ganz began working on his father’s ice cream truck in the late 1940s, at the age of 10. He was compelled to stop when he turned 19, transitioning to serve two years in the military. After his service was up, Ganz immediately returned to work for his father once more. Then, in 1977, at the age of 40, he purchased his own ice cream truck, starting his own business based on what he learned from his fathers. Today, Ganz is still hard at it, selling ice cream to kids at the age of 83. He owns the Guinness World Record for the longest career as an ice cream man – 73 years.
Growth Out of Order?
Now look at Jesus’ earthly “career.” Obviously, the path He followed was not upward, but increasingly downward. According to Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus – who dwelt for all eternity at the Father’s right hand (John 17:5), “made Himself nothing.” He took on the role of a servant and humbled Himself to the extreme by dying the disgraceful death of crucifixion. Yet, in the real world of heaven, Jesus is exalted above all, and at His name every knee bows and every tongue confesses that He is LORD.
Yes, for the servant of Christ, the way up is often down. Look at Joseph and Moses in the Old Testament. Frequently God causes us to grow through obscurity, humiliation, and service without recognition or reward. Those are the circumstances which stretch us and purify our motives.
Therefore, if promotion and recognition have eluded you, do not be discouraged, as if something is wrong or “out of order.” If you continue to labor without reward in the land of obscurity, remember the many saints in the Bible and the people mentioned above. They were all successful because they faithfully followed the path God mapped out for them. The military’s interpretation of success is far too narrow and doesn’t jive with life’s realities.
God has His own specific plan for you and He alone judges whether your life is a failure or a success. If we faithfully and sacrificially serve Him and do His will, then we will most certainly hear His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the eternal joy of your Master, Jesus Christ.”
Dear Father in heaven, please purify my heart and my motives. Help me to be faithful in all You call me to do – regardless of earthly rewards and recognition. In every task, help me to look beyond my earthly master and to dedicate my efforts to You. Amen.
(Information from: Uncle John’s Old Faithful Bathroom Reader, pp. 11-12; https://boston.cbslocal.com/2018/07/27/ice-cream-man-allan-ganz-peabody/)
The content of this article comes from “The Warrior’s Bible” (2014) and is copyrighted by Life Publishers International. Used with permission.