“God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—HEB. 6:10.
1. What natural desire do we all have, and what does it include?
HOW do you feel when someone you know and respect forgets your name or, worse still, does not even recognize you? Such an experience can be very discouraging. Why? It is because each one of us has a natural desire to be accepted. The type of recognition we desire goes beyond being identified by others; we also want some acknowledgment of who we are and what we have accomplished.—Num. 11:16; ftn.; Job 31:6.
2, 3. How can the desire to be appreciated become distorted? (See opening picture.)
2 Like many other natural desires, though, our desire to be appreciated can become unbalanced, distorted by our imperfections. It can make us crave inappropriate expressions of recognition. Satan’s world fuels a desire for fame and acknowledgment that distracts attention from the one who truly deserves to be recognized and worshipped, our heavenly Father, Jehovah God.—Rev. 4:11.
3 In Jesus’ day, some religious leaders had the wrong view of recognition. Jesus warned his followers: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in robes and who love greetings in the marketplaces and front [“best,” ftn.] seats in the synagogues and the most prominent places at evening meals.” He went on to say: “These will receive a more severe judgment.” (Luke 20:46, 47) By contrast, Jesus commended a poor widow whose small contribution was likely not recognized by others. (Luke 21:1-4) Jesus’ view of recognition was obviously very different from that of others. This article will help us maintain the right view, the one that Jehovah God accepts.
THE GREATEST FORM OF RECOGNITION
4. What is the greatest form of recognition, and why?
4 What, then, is the greatest form of recognition that we can strive for? It is not the kind of attention that people seek in the academic, business, and entertainment fields of this world. Rather, it is the kind that Paul described for us in these words: “Now that you have come to know God or, rather, have come to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again?” (Gal. 4:9) What a wonderful privilege it is to “come to be known by God,” the Supreme Ruler of the universe! He is willing to have an intimate relationship with us. As one scholar stated, we “become objects of his favourable attention.” When Jehovah acknowledges us as his friends, we achieve the very reason for our existence.—Eccl. 12:13, 14.
5. How do we put ourselves in a position to be known by God?
5 Moses experienced such a blessing. When he pleaded with Jehovah to allow him to come to know His ways more fully, Jehovah replied: “I will also do this thing that you request, because you have found favor in my eyes and I know you by name.” (Ex. 33:12-17) We likewise can receive wonderful blessings when Jehovah comes to know us personally. But how can we put ourselves in a position to be known by Jehovah? We do that when we come to love him and dedicate our life to him.—Read 1 Corinthians 8:3.
6, 7. What could cause us to lose our relationship with Jehovah?
6 However, we need to maintain our treasured relationship with our heavenly Father. Like the Galatian Christians to whom Paul wrote, we too need to avoid slaving for “the weak and beggarly elementary things” of this world, including seeking its acclaim. (Gal. 4:9) Those first-century Christians had progressed to the point of being known by God. However, Paul said that the very same brothers were “turning back again” to empty things. Paul was, in effect, saying: “After you have come so far, why would you return to the foolish, valueless things you left behind?”
7 Could we find ourselves in a similar position today? Yes, we could. When we first came to know Jehovah, we, like Paul, may have given up prominence in Satan’s world. (Read Philippians 3:7, 8.) Perhaps we gave up opportunities to receive higher education, or we may have turned down promotions or the possibility for making more money in the business world. Our musical talents or athletic abilities could have potentially led us to fame and wealth, but we turned our backs on all of that. (Heb. 11:24-27) How unwise it would be for us now to view such good decisions as ‘missed opportunities’! Such thinking might lead us to seek out what we already determined were among “the weak and beggarly” elements of this world. *
STRENGTHEN YOUR RESOLVE
8. What will strengthen our resolve to seek Jehovah’s recognition?
8 How can we strengthen our resolve to seek Jehovah’s recognition and not that of the world? To do so, we need to remember two important facts. First, Jehovah always gives recognition to those who serve him faithfully. (Read Hebrews 6:10; 11:6) He deeply appreciates every one of his servants, and he views it as “unrighteous” to ignore those who are faithful to him. Jehovah always “knows those who belong to him.” (2 Tim. 2:19) He is “aware of the way of the righteous” and knows how to rescue them out of trial.—Ps. 1:6; 2 Pet. 2:9.
9. Give examples of how Jehovah has shown his approval of his people.
9 At times, Jehovah has shown his approval of his people in outstanding ways. (2 Chron. 20:20, 29) Take, for example, the way Jehovah saved his people at the Red Sea when they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s mighty army. (Ex. 14:21-30; Ps. 106:9-11) This event was so spectacular that people in that part of the world were still speaking about it 40 years later. (Josh. 2:9-11) How encouraging it is for us to remember such displays of Jehovah’s love and power as we face the long-foretold attack by Gog of Magog! (Ezek. 38:8-12) At that time, we will be especially grateful that we sought the recognition of our God and not that of the world.
10. What aspect of Jehovah’s recognition must we keep in mind?
10 We also need to keep in mind a second important fact: Jehovah may give us recognition in ways we may never expect. Those who do good deeds purely to be seen by men are told that they will have no reward at all from Jehovah. Why? Their reward has already been paid in full when they receive praise from others. (Read Matthew 6:1-5.) However, Jesus said that his Father “looks on in secret” at those who do not receive due credit for the good they do to others. He notices those acts and repays each person accordingly. However, at times Jehovah rewards us in unexpected ways. Let us consider some examples.
A HUMBLE YOUNG WOMAN RECEIVES UNEXPECTED RECOGNITION
11. How did Jehovah show recognition to the young woman Mary?
11 When it came time for God’s Son to be born as a human, Jehovah selected a humble virgin girl, Mary, to be the mother of this special child. Mary lived in the insignificant city of Nazareth, far from Jerusalem and its magnificent temple. (Read Luke 1:26-33.) Why was Mary chosen for this privilege? She was told by the angel Gabriel that she had “found favor with God.” Mary revealed her deep spirituality when she later spoke to her relative Elizabeth. (Luke 1:46-55) Yes, Jehovah had been observing Mary, and he granted her this unexpected privilege because of her faithfulness.
12, 13. In what way was due recognition given at the time of Jesus’ birth and when he was taken to the temple 40 days later?
12 When Mary eventually gave birth to Jesus, Jehovah did not honor any of the prominent officials or rulers in Jerusalem and Bethlehem by letting them know what had happened. Angels appeared to lowly shepherds who were caring for sheep in the fields outside Bethlehem. (Luke 2:8-14) These shepherds then visited the newborn baby. (Luke 2:15-17) How pleasantly surprised Mary and Joseph must have been to see Jesus honored in such a manner! Consider the contrast between Jehovah’s way of doing things and that of the Devil. When Satan sent astrologers to visit Jesus and his parents, all of Jerusalem became agitated at the news of Jesus’ birth. (Matt. 2:3) This very public announcement of Jesus’ birth ultimately resulted in the death of many innocent children.—Matt. 2:16.
13 Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary was required to present an offering to Jehovah at the temple in Jerusalem, about six miles (9 km) from Bethlehem. (Luke 2:22-24) As Mary traveled with Joseph and Jesus, she may have wondered if the officiating priest would make some special acknowledgment of Jesus’ future role. Recognition did come, but not in the way Mary may have expected. Instead, Jehovah used a “righteous and devout” man named Simeon, along with an 84-year-old widow, the prophetess Anna, to acknowledge that this child would become the promised Messiah, or Christ.—Luke 2:25-38.
14. What blessings did Mary receive from Jehovah?
14 What about Mary? Did Jehovah continue to show her due recognition for faithfully caring for and raising his Son? Yes, he did. God had her actions and words recorded in the Bible. Apparently, Mary was not in a position to travel with Jesus during the three and a half years of his ministry. Perhaps as a widow, Mary had to stay in Nazareth. But even though she missed out on many privileges, she was able to be with Jesus at the time of his death. (John 19:26) Later, though, Mary was in Jerusalem along with the disciples during the days leading up to Pentecost when holy spirit was poured out. (Acts 1:13, 14) She was likely anointed along with the others present. If so, this would mean that she was given the opportunity to be in heaven with Jesus for all eternity. What a beautiful reward for her faithful service!
JEHOVAH’S RECOGNITION OF HIS SON
15. While Jesus was on earth, how did Jehovah show his approval of his Son?
15 Jesus did not crave to be honored by the religious or political leaders of his day. But how encouraged he must have been when Jehovah acknowledged him on three separate occasions by speaking directly from heaven. Just after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, Jehovah said: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17) Evidently, John the Baptist was the only other person who heard those words. Then, about a year before Jesus’ death, three of his apostles heard Jehovah say about Jesus: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved. Listen to him.” (Matt. 17:5) Finally, just a few days before Jesus’ death, Jehovah again spoke to his Son from heaven.—John 12:28.
16, 17. How did Jehovah honor Jesus in an unexpected manner?
16 Even though Jesus knew that he would experience a shameful death, falsely branded as a blasphemer, he prayed that Jehovah’s will be done and not his. (Matt. 26:39, 42) “He endured a torture stake, despising shame,” not seeking recognition from the world, but only from his Father. (Heb. 12:2) How did Jehovah show that recognition?
17 While on earth, Jesus expressed his desire to return to the glory he once had in heaven with his Father. (John 17:5) Nothing indicates that Jesus was hoping for more than that. He was not expecting some sort of heavenly “upgrade.” But what did Jehovah do? He honored Jesus in an unexpected way by resurrecting him to “a superior position” and giving him what no one else had received up until that time—immortal spirit life! * (Phil. 2:9; 1 Tim. 6:16) What an outstanding acknowledgment of Jesus’ faithful course!
18. What will help us to avoid seeking approval from this world?
18 What will help us to avoid seeking approval from this world? Keep close in mind that Jehovah always gives recognition to his faithful servants and that he often rewards them in unexpected ways. Who knows what unexpected blessings await us in the future? But for now, as we endure the hardships and trials of this wicked world, let us always remember that this world, along with any recognition it may offer, is passing away. (1 John 2:17) Our loving Father, Jehovah, ‘is not unrighteous so as to forget our work and the love we show for his name.’ (Heb. 6:10) Yes, he will show us favor—perhaps even in ways we cannot imagine now!