Sally Field when she won an Oscar for best actress gave what may be the most memorable, and misquoted, line of any awards speech. “You like me, you really like me”. That line is not a direct quote but it is the impression many remembered and has since been referenced and copied in so many other places. The quote highlights the vanity of awards shows in general but it expresses a truth that most people want to be recognized and loved. What better way to be loved than recognition? Paul opens his letter to Thessalonica telling them that he remembers them before God for all their faithful works.
3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV
If an Apostle wrote a letter to my church letting us know that we are in his prayer and that he appreciates the hard work I would be ecstatic. What an encouragement this letter must have been. Actors work hard and so few of them achieve the kind of success that comes with an Oscar win. There are many people who have toiled long nights, put in hours of practice, and have spent personal wealth all at a shot of becoming a star. Yet how many of them receive the recognition that is due? I think it is the case in all professions that recognition is hard to come by. If we all desire recognition for earthly temporary things what about recognition for the things heavenly eternal things? We do not generally take that kind of recognition well. Worse yet many want to avoid spiritual conversations altogether. But Paul wanted the church to know that he saw their works in Christ. In the second letter to this same church he made the point again but provides a little more detail on what he is praising them for.
4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV
Now this kind of recognition is not the kind that comes with positive press, overnight success, or financial gain. Paul is using words like work, labor, and steadfastness in the presence of persecution and afflictions. This sound an awful lot like drudgery, sorrow, opposition, and operating far away from the world’s approval. In fact, this sounds like a people who might rightly say of the world “you hate me, you really hate me!”. Paul is recognizing them for the fact that they have endured the awfulness of life for the sake of Christ. Jesus points to a future time before he returns where Christians will be persecuted and one can see where Paul sources his comments on the glory of one enduring under harsh conditions.
22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22 ESV
The apostles are gone and they have left only the words inspired by God and a historical legacy. They cannot write an encouraging letter directly to me or my church today. However, these words of encouragement that have been left speak of recognition that no Oscar winner could ever dream for. The Bible tells us that God himself will recognize the endurance and the labor that is done in His name.
10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. Hebrews 6:10 ESV
The kind of works and love that God is looking to recognize is an unselfish work that gains glory not for the servant but for God himself and sadly that is where the Oscars and most recognition go wrong.
3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 ESV