I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2
The story is told of Carlyle who had a very devoted wife. She sacrificed everything for his sake, but he never gave her a single expression of appreciation for which she yearned. In the course of time, she came to regard herself as the most miserable woman in the city and evidently died of heart hunger. After her death, Carlyle, reading her diary, realized the truth. A friend found him at her grave suffering intense remorse and exclaiming, “If I had only known!”
Now, it has been said that the deepest of human needs is the need to be appreciated. Whether we are rich or poor, old or young, fat or slim, we yearn for appreciation. And when that yearning is satisfied, we practically bloom. That makes appreciation an essential element of human relationships.
What then is appreciation?
Simply put, it is:
a feeling or expression of gratitude
a favourable opinion of something or someone
recognition of something or someone’s qualities
a written or spoken statement of somebody’s qualities
To appreciate, in a lot of sense, is to increase in value. But one of our greatest problems in life is that we are so caught up in our pursuits that we often forget to appreciate the process. We forget to appreciate the journey, especially the goodness of the people travelling with us or those we meet on the way.
It was Mary Kay Ash who said, “There are two things people want more than sex and money: recognition and praise.” According to Mother Teresa, there is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. It therefore behooves us to be constantly mindful of the people around us. Nothing can substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise.
Now, our text is taken from the last chapter of one of the most profound books in the Bible on the subject of salvation and God’s grace to humanity. But it moves from theology to relationships in a very deep way. Apostle Paul lists, with vivid descriptions, his appreciations for people who had been partners with him in the ministry one way or the other.
Commenting on that chapter, George Antonakos said: “It’s a peek at relationships…. You know he didn’t have to do that, he could have just tied it up in one nice neat package, but he lists the names of people. And he recounts each one of them in a particular way and reflects on how they had blessed him. The very distinct impression that we get from this list is that everything that has come before, all the rich theology, the rich explanation of the gospel was communicated and transmitted through the appreciative relationships that the people of Rome and Paul shared together.”
The truth is, appreciation inspires a sense of worth and motivates people to do more. As Gary Henry said, “Expressing appreciation is like grease on the gears of a machine…it makes others do their work much better!” And true appreciation for others often eliminates destructive criticism, gossip and divisiveness.
This reminds me of the story of Napoleon Bonaparte. His genius had been attributed to many things, but, above all, he was a superb natural leader of men. Like any wise leader he was aware that his own success would have been nothing had his men not been willing, even eager, to follow him. Obviously he could not know and personally inspire every man in his vast army, therefore he devised a simple technique for circumventing this difficulty. Before visiting a regiment he would call the colonel aside and ask for the name of a soldier who had served well in previous campaigns, but who had not been given the credit he deserved. The colonel would indicate such a man. Napoleon would then learn everything about him, where he was born, the names of his family, his exploits in battle, etc. Later, upon passing this man while reviewing the troops, and at a signal from the colonel, Napoleon would stop, single out the man, greet him warmly, ask about his family, compliment him on his bravery and loyalty, reminisce about old campaigns, then pin a medal on the grateful soldier. The gesture worked. After the review, the other soldiers would remark, “You see, he knows us–he remembers. He knows our families. He knows we have served.”
You may not have an army like Napoleon, but then
- your spouse, if you are married
- your children
- your parents, if you still have them
- your friends
- your colleagues in the office
- your business partners
- your school mates
- those who have helped you one way or the other to accomplish your dreams…all deserve some appreciation
So you have more than an army. In fact, you have armies. Develop an attitude of appreciation for the moment. Seize every second of your life and savour it – use it to enrich others and humanity. Above all, appreciate God; appreciate the life God has given you and all with which He has endowed you.