My first stint as a counselor at one of my church's youth camps in Texas provoked me to deep thought. As I drove home, the events of the previous week soaked in—all the laughter and pleasant fellowship, the fun and sometimes challenging activities, the dorm chants, the bright faces of the kids, and so much more. It was unforgettable.
What impressed me most was the joy that came from serving as counselor. Some may ask, “Why?” Being a counselor is a challenging task, requiring much personal sacrifice. For nearly five straight days, I was dirty and sweaty. Each day, I was one of the first up and last to go to bed. Eight hours of sleep was not an option. At times I was physically and even mentally exhausted. Towards camp’s end, I could sense that my patience grew a little thin, yet I remained positive and focused my attention on the campers: “Don’t play with that dead turtle!” “Where did you put your towel?” “No wrestling on the top bunk!” All of this was more than worth the end result: seeing my campers having a good time, challenged to improve old skills and learn new ones, doing things the right way (with some prodding) to produce positive results. The whole experience was greatly rewarding.
As I meditated on these things—especially how much sacrifice is required from the camp counselor, and why some people choose to be counselors year after year despite the hard work—it appeared paradoxical. On a human, carnal level, giving so much of one’s time and energy with no tangible return seems nonsensical. Are camp counselors inherently crazy people? Or do they simply understand the joy of service and sacrifice?
With this thought, my focus shifted gears. I began to think of all the sacrifices God has made for us—His children. I thought of the very greatest sacrifice, that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of how much love God really has for us to send His Son to die for our sins. I thought of the joy I felt when I saw the campers having fun the right way. I thought of the joy God must feel when He sees us living abundant lives, the way He always intended (John 10:10). This is a mystery to the world, but not to God’s people. As the Apostle John wrote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
Perhaps the greatest reward of camp, for me, came when I found an unexpected “thank you” message on my phone, left by one of the campers. He thanked me sincerely for being his “coach” and listed various things he was thankful for. His simple “thank you” was more than enough for me. How pleased God must be when He sees us living a way of life that produces blessings, and when we give Him thanks for all He has done. I remembered a saying regarding how much God wants us to succeed: “Brethren, God is our biggest cheerleader.” Amen to that!
Have you counted the blessings God has given you personally, especially His offer of grace through our repentance, baptism and obedient acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice? I would encourage you to do so. And think of God’s joy when we thank Him and obey Him.
Not everybody may have the opportunity to be a counselor or a mentor to young people. Nevertheless, we are all meant to serve in some capacity—to sacrifice our time and energy to help one another. This giving way of life is a mystery to much the world. But it is a way of life that works—and it brings great joy! If you have the chance, work to strengthen the lives of those around you, young or old. You will thank yourself in the end.
The Tomorrow’s World magazine article “Do It With Your Might!” may be of great interest to you as you strive to do so.