What do you do when others get all the credit?

When I was in the fourth grade, Mrs. Casey assigned the class Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. I didn’t just have to read it; I had to memorize it! Holy cow, what nine-year-old has the stamina and time to memorize a poem?? I had things to do and TV shows to watch. (Batman and Star Trek were on prime time.)

Fast-forward forty years. For our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife and I are standing at the site of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. (I’ve told you before I’m a history nerd.) I can still remember Longfellow’s poem (er, most of it) about the events that led up to the first battle of the American Revolution, including the midnight ride of …

William Dawes?? Who in the world is William Dawes?

The patriots knew the British were going to move toward Concord to capture their storehouse of arms. As soon as they knew the exact route the British would take —y’know, the lanterns in the Old North Church—Dr. Joseph Warren sent both Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn the people and especially get word to Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

William Dawes

The men were assigned different routes. Dawes had the longer route—17 miles—and he had the more dangerous route. He rode through the Boston neck which was heavily guarded by the British.

What Dawes did was no less spectacular or patriotic than what Revere did, so why has he been overlooked? Simple. Revere had better press—his own. Revere wrote his own account of his midnight ride, and apparently he forgot he was only half the team. Then Longfellow came along in 1860 and popularized Revere’s account with his poem that kept nine-year-old boys memorizing stanzas instead of watching Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.

William Dawes has not been the only person who didn’t get the credit he deserved. I’ve been overlooked, and I’m sure you have too.

  • Your accomplishments have always been in the shadow of your sibling who could do no wrong.
  • Your neighbors all around you get “yard of the month,” and you’re still waiting for the honor.
  • The co-worker has less experience but seems to hit it off with the manager, so he gets all the breaks—and promotions.
  • The Bible study leader fawns over guests and the group members who show up once every six weeks, but you’re there week-in and week-out—and you’re the one who makes the coffee.

I know what I’m about to say may sound trite, but God notices you when others don’t. The greatness of what you do is not defined by how many people notice. Do your work, do it well, and you will be rewarded. Maybe not right now, maybe not for years, and maybe not until you stand before God, but your diligence and faithfulness to the task matters far more than the temporary applause and notice of others.

In the Old Testament, Jonathan was known for three things: (1) He was the son of King Saul; (2) he was best friends with David; and (3) he was a warrior. First Samuel 14 records a significant victory Jonathan won for the Israelites, but read the story carefully. The account is all about Jonathan and his armor-bearer. Jonathan didn’t do it alone.

“Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre” (1 Sam. 14:14). 

We don’t even know the young guy’s name, but he did something significant! I’d like to think that, one day, you will stand before Jesus Christ. He will call attention to the kind act no one noticed or the faithful service you did that was taken for granted. In that moment, the multitudes of heaven will applaud. Who knowS, maybe they’ll even shout your name.

But all that won’t matter to you. All the praise and all the attention you deserved but never received will fade in importance. Instead, you will just stand in love and worship before Christ who says to you:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”


Related post: When You Feel Overshadowed