I was going through some boxes in my closet the other day, when I came upon a few I had yet to open from last summer when we made the move down to Tennessee. Instead of finding what I was looking for, I found a box labeled “Memories.” In this box was a bunch of old stuff from grade school and high school. I found some old football and baseball letters, some wrestling metals, and a few awards and certificates. It sparked the question in my mind, “Why do I hang on to all this junk?”
Why do we? Why hang on to the hardware, the certificates, those medals and awards, sometimes for years? While they bring back fond memories of days gone by, I think the biggest reason we keep these is because they symbolize our accomplishments. They remind us of the approval we got from our teachers for our perfect attendance in grade school. They remind us of the praise from our coaches in high school and college. Maybe it’s the nostalgia we feel, thinking about how proud of us our parents were for accomplishing such things. I see the same thing play out in my own children. My three-year-old brings me a painting of our family, proud as punch of her masterpiece and hoping that her daddy will share her sentiment. When she receives that affirmation, her smile lights up the room. Growing up, we all want approval.
As adults we still crave that approval, don’t we? We want all of our Facebook posts to be “liked.” We want our employers to see us at our best. We want to be commended for a job well done. We want to have a good reputation with our peers and our coworkers. And of course, the approval of our spouse is of the utmost value.
But our most important relationship, and the approval we seek most as Christians, is from our Heavenly Father. Yet His approval doesn’t come from medals and awards given to us on this earth. Even an offering in the plate on Sunday or bringing items for the food bank won’t merit a pat on the back from God in heaven.
Look at it this way, if we had a box of awards from God for our lives lived to His service, we would tear open that box to find nothing of our own accomplishments inside. When we look in the mirror, we have to bow our head in humility for we have done nothing to earn our Heavenly Father’s approval.
But look again inside that box. On the bottom is a small wooden cross. This is our award. This is our medal. Our approval is found in Christ alone. This was made most clear to us at Jesus’ Baptism by the Jordan River when the heavens opened up and the Father himself said, “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased." (Mk 1:11) God is pleased with you and me, because He is pleased with Jesus. And the Apostle Paul reminds us that God, in his grace, made us like Jesus when he says, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Ga 3:26-27)
Now, that doesn’t mean our Lord doesn’t want us to show Him our thanks. He wants us to volunteer in our churches, serve our communities, or offer comfort and help to someone who’s hurting. Yet we as Christians don’t volunteer or serve seeking our Heavenly Father’s approval through the work we do. That approval is already ours through Jesus’ blood, shed at Calvary.
We serve because of what was done to earn our Heavenly Father’s approval. There isn’t a medal, certificate, or award that could compare to the gift of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s a gift which allows us to look forward to the day when our eyes close in death; when we finally appear before our Father in heaven who, for Jesus sake, gives us His final approval saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant…come and share in your master’s happiness.” Mt 25:23
Our Father’s approval, the approval which outweighs all others, is ours through Jesus.
Blessings to you all as your summers come to a close.
Pastor Andrew Stuebs