I remember the day vividly. As a second year student at my college I knew what the annual awards ceremony would entail. My high expectations for the results of the day were evident in my cheery demeanor. I dressed carefully for the evening event, wanting to look my best when I walked across the stage to receive an award.
During my first year I had seen others winning awards for their active involvement and leadership in our Christian college. As someone who didn’t compete on sports teams I was glad to see a broader focus at my school that honored those who contributed in other areas as well – music, art, worship, journalism, etc.
I contributed a great deal to my college – not because I wanted to win an award, but because it mattered to me to make a difference. Yet, this day, I was looking forward to being recognized for holding some key leadership positions in the student body and being actively involved on many fronts.
As I sat in the large crowd, I waited anxiously for the ceremony to begin. It was with immense surprise that I saw the head of the athletic department take the stage. In the year previous, the sports awards had been a whole other event. Gradually, his words sank into my brain. There were to be no awards for strong academics or active involvement in the school leadership. The awards that year were only to be for those who excelled in athletics.
Keenly disappointed, I left the school gym and went back to my dorm room. It was not how I figured my day would work out. I struggled to fathom why my school didn’t place any value in successes other than athletics. As I pondered it all my mind went back to my last days in grade nine when something similar had happened.
In my junior high school, the top academic grade nine girl and boy each got a big award at the end of the year. Throughout junior high I consistently excelled and I was earning top marks over everyone else except for one male classmate. Naturally I assumed I would be getting the female academic award.
It was another day where I sat in shock as I realized they had read the names out for the award winners and mine wasn’t given. To this day I am not sure how or why that came about. I know everyone sitting around me was shocked. It was a hard hit and it affected me deeply. I had worked so hard and now all my striving for academic success seemed to be for nothing and the disappointment was immense.
Somehow it seems that whenever there has been an opportunity for me to have an accolade, I have missed out for some reason – usually a reason of which I am not aware. At other times something interfered with receiving recognition. I have graduated three times and have never once got to wear the cap and gown and walk across the stage to accept my diploma because various life circumstances made it impossible for me to attend.
While it is not something I dwell on, I really do wonder why I haven’t been permitted to have some of these worldly honors. Many Christians receive acclaim for work they have done, why not me? My wall has no trophies or plaques that say I am successful. I have no commendations or pictures taken getting my high school or university diplomas.
Yet in my life it seems that God is working things out in a different direction. I am reminded again and again that I am to do things for God’s glory and not my own. God makes it very clear that I don’t need any worldly shows of acclamation to prove that I am a success. In His eyes I am fearfully and wonderfully made – His precious child. What other accolade do I need than that?
In a world where air brushed photos of fashion models grace magazine pages and Twitter and Instagram highlight everyone’s minute successes, it is easy to feel that we don’t measure up. The important thing to note here is that we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to anybody. I know – that’s easier said than done. I am guilty of making comparisons more often than I care to admit. Yet, this is a key factor in the Christian life. God intricately designs each of us and His creation is good. We all matter to Him and are all equally important and precious to Him.
Scripture is clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We will never measure up on our own. No worldly honors will ever make a difference in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter how much good we do – we are lost unless we believe in the saving grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Good works do not save us. It is by faith alone that we have eternal life with Jesus in heaven.
Doesn’t that make you want to throw in the towel and say why bother to do anything good? The thing is, God did make us with specific skills and abilities which we can use in His kingdom. We should be doing things to minister to others and share the Gospel – not because it gives us personal brownie points but because our faith in Christ compels us.
Life will have its discouraging moments. There are lots of those recently with restricted contact and upset livelihoods. Yet, we are called to serve – to reach out with God’s love to those around us. We shouldn’t do it to be noticed. We shouldn’t serve for personal gain. We should fill our lives with Christian actions because it is what we are built for and what ultimately fulfills us.
Thankfully I am not defined by the awards I have or the degrees I hold. I am only defined by God the Father who made and sustains me. I am His beloved child. On days when I feel discouraged, it helps to remember that God loves me and keeps His promises.
It is my joy and privilege to serve my Lord and seek to make a difference in this world. I find it helps me immensely when I get outside of myself and my own worries and concerns and instead think about the needs and lives of others.
I pray that you also will find ways to have a positive impact in your own little corner of the world – not for the recognition it might bring, but instead work in God’s kingdom because that is what He calls you to do. There is so much joy you can bring to others in Christ’s name. You can make a difference.