Isaiah 41-42 1 Thessalonians 1
“We continually recall before God our Father the things you have done because of your faith and the work you have done because of your love. And we thank him that you continue to be strong because of your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NCV)
When it was possible, Paul began his letters to the various churches he wrote to with compliments. He wouldn’t pull punches later, and in a few cases, he couldn’t think of anything good to say, but when he wrote to the Thessalonians, he had some very complimentary words to say. His message, though, focused not on nickels or noses, as we’re wont to do these days, he praised them for acting out their faith. He let them know that in spite of some of the suffering they went through, the fact that they worked to share the gospel because of their faith and love, and that they continued to hold strong because of their faith was well known. The great thing is that Paul recognized their accomplishments that happened because of their character and their relationship with God.
It’s hard to give compliments these days. A couple of years ago, someone posted a picture of their daughter that just finished nursing school. Most of the people raved about how beautiful she was. She was beautiful, no doubt about that, but as I read all those compliments, I thought, “This person has just finished nursing school, which requires a lot of commitment and work, and all people are talking about is how beautiful they are. They need to recognize her accomplishment!” At the same time, it’s easy to overvalue accomplishment. There are some people who have achieved fame in their field or have done some pretty amazing things who are rotten people. We’ve seen that especially as people have spoken out about the #MeToo situations they’ve been in. We do the same thing in religious circles when we judge churches on offerings and attendance. Paul struck a great balance here, one we would do well to emulate: he praised the work that they had done because of their faith and their character. What if we began recognizing inner beauty instead of outer beauty? What if we recognized spiritual growth and joy in the Lord instead of how many more people attended church this month. What if we recognized the faith that drove someone to great works instead of merely looking at their accomplishments? I believe that in the long run we’d see a much better world as people sought affirmation for being closer to God instead of buying the prettiest (or most handsome) clothes. Go ahead and compliment the outward beauty, or the accomplishments, but seek to recognize their inward beauty by seeing the worth in them that God saw.
Lord, You see past the outward beauty and look at the heart. You know the spirit of those who accomplish great things. You see the hearts of those who have tried and failed in their own minds. You love each and every one of these people. Help me to see their worth as You see it. Help me to love and appreciate people like You do.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.