Our culture has an obsession with underappreciation. Everywhere you look there are discussions about this topic. I cannot think of many subjects that are discussed more in the sports world; there are always and forever discussions about which player is the most underappreciated or which position generates the lowest amount of recognition. Look around and you’ll soon find discussions of songs, films, actors, blogs and books that are underappreciated—that are not getting the attention they deserve. It seems that we are always looking for the next breakout hit, the next breakout actor or song. We’re all looking for people who are just a little bit better than we might surmise from their current position. We’re looking for people whom we feel deserve better than what they’ve had so far.
“Appreciate” is one of those multi-faceted words. It can have several meanings, yet most of these are insinuated together when we use it. The most common meaning is “To recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of.” I can also mean “To be fully aware of or sensitive to; realize.” Yet it can also suggest “to be thankful or show gratitude for” or “to admire greatly; value.” So when we declare our appreciation for a film, for example, we are suggesting that we recognize its quality and the magnitude of its contribution to our lives or to film in general. We are thankful for it and admire it.
Of course when we seek something that is underappreciated we are looking for something that has quality and significance, yet does not receive the recognition that we feel it deserves. We find something we admire and seek to recognize it before others so that they, too, can come to know and appreciate it. We are suggesting that something has not gotten the praise it deserves. We are suggesting that a person or thing gets its significance from the value and importance we place on it.
Though I have met him only a few times and have never spent any really significant time with him, C.J. Mahaney is a man who has had a profound influence on my life. His books and conference messages have made a deep impact on me. They have challenged me on a level that I am not often challenged. But there is something that has probably had an even deeper impact on me. Whenever I hear people speak of C.J. I hear things that affirm that he does not just write good books, but that he lives what he teaches. People who spend time with him continue to say that he walks the talk. He is the real deal. I admire that greatly. I’m sure we can all think of times that we have found ourselves disappointed in the reality of those we admire. Far too often people present themselves in one way publicly, but in another way privately.
I think that the ministry of C.J. Mahaney would be considered underappreciated by many. But I also think he wants it that way. Ask C.J. how he’s doing and he’ll always reply, “Better than I deserve.” And isn’t that the truth? With that little phrase he preaches the gospel to himself and others, and allows himself to focus on what is true: that he has received far more than he deserves. He has received more talent, forgiveness, love, and appreciation than is his due. When peering into the pages of Scripture, he sees that, despite all he has done to advance the kingdom, despite all the praise that he receives, he is overappreciated. He deserves nothing, but gets so much more.
As I have pondered underappreciation, I have come to see that this is exactly where Christians ought to be. Yet far too often we seek to raise ourselves or other people to a level that is simply too high. It would be interesting to know how some people become popular within Christian circles. Sometimes we look at the men (or women) leading huge churches or massive, international ministries and can only wonder how they achieved such a position. So often it seems that they have forsaken the gospel and sound theology, yet somehow have been propelled to great heights. Surely there are people with greater talent, greater gifting and more holy lives laboring throughout the kingdom. They may preach from the pulpits of tiny churches far from the lights and the cameras. They may labor overseas as missionaries in near-total isolation. They may drive the buses or taxis you took to work this morning.
Jesus taught us “blessed are the meek.” The meek are the humble, those who show humility and submission before God. They are the underappreciated, yet those who know that in reality they are overappreciated. They have nothing to offer God, but have been accepted by Him. They are aware of the significance of the gift that has been given them. They are aware that they have gotten better than they have deserved.
Blessed are the underappreciated.