Satan likes to make us feel small. He likes to make us feel like the world
doesn't care about what we're doing and like the things we may accomplish
don't matter. How many times have we all been in positions where people
we look up to don't recognize the work we're doing? There are few things
that feel better than being recognized by these people, but being ignored
can have an equally as powerful effect, just in the negative sense. We are
told throughout scripture that God sees us and that He sees what we are
doing and what we are going through. Yet, it's still easy to feel small in such
a big world that often feels like it doesn't care about you. My grandfather
presented a lesson on a similar subject years ago that really stuck with me.
So, I'm going to put out my own spin on a similar topic. I want to talk about
a man who very easily could have felt this same way. I want to talk about a
man named Thaddaeus.
To the three people reading this that recognize that name, congratulations!
For the rest of us, I'll give the run-down. Thaddaeus (also known as Judas,
the son of James) was one of the Twelve Apostles. Most people who know
Thaddaeus know him as a piece of Bible trivia more than anything else. So,
how can someone as important as one of the twelve apostles be so
obscure? Well, the answer to that is rather simple. Thaddaeus is mentioned
in any comprehensive list of the twelve from the gospels and Acts (Matthew
these lists is in John 14:22: "Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it
that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?"" Jesus goes on
to answer his question saying that He would be with those who love Him
and His Father.
And… that's it. That is the entire recorded history of Thaddaeus, one of the
twelve apostles. So, that poses the question, is asking that one question
the only thing of note Thaddaeus ever did? Don't get me wrong, some
people have more eventful lives than others, but I don't think anyone
believes Thaddaeus only did or said one thing of note in his entire life. After
all, he was one of twelve! He was called personally by Jesus to be one of
His disciples. He lived with, traveled with, and learned from Jesus directly
for years. He, like the rest of the apostles, was commissioned by Jesus to
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always,
to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). He, like the apostles we read
about in the New Testament, likely founded churches and wrote
inspirational letters. He surely taught many and brought even more to
salvation. Yet, none of that made it into scripture.
So, why does Thaddaeus get so little recognition? There's no easy answer
to that. God knows what we need to know and, therefore, what needed to
be in the Bible. For whatever reason, that didn't include Thaddaeus' work.
Does that take anything away from what he was doing? Certainly not!
Saving a life or a soul is an incredible thing, no matter how many people
know about it. In God's eyes, Thaddaeus surely did incredible things. God's
purpose for Thaddaeus was just different than the one He had for Paul or
other people in that vein.
The bigger question, I would argue, is how would Thaddaeus have felt
about this lack of recognition? I suspect many of us would be very
frustrated under similar circumstances. Yet, I don't think Thaddaeus would
have seen the situation the same way. Scripture teaches us to avoid
seeking the approval of man for our actions. Jesus tells us to "Beware of
practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by
them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven"
(Matthew 6:1). I don't know about you, but I would rather have God's
reward than the approval of the people around me. Furthermore, Paul
wrote that we can't seek the approval of man and serve Christ. "For am I
now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?
If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ"
(Galatians 1:10). This is all to drive home the point that our priority should
never be to be recognized by our peers. God is bigger than that. He sees
what we are doing, and He will reward us for it if our motivations are pure.
We should never be seeking glory for ourselves. Rather, we want to bring
glory to Christ. So, I don't think Thaddaeus would have been overly upset
about his "minor" appearance in scripture. Instead, I'm sure he found
comfort in knowing that God had a bigger reward in store for him than fame
So, we should never be chasing recognition or fame. God has bigger things
in store for us than a pat on the back. But, this shouldn't stop us from
encouraging others for their good works. We are called to encourage each
each other up (Ephesians 4:29) in order to spur one another on towards
good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The next time you feel like you are going unnoticed, know that God sees
you and that He has a reward in store for you. Then, turn that energy
around and recognize and encourage others to drive them to do good. If we
all do just a little better with these things, then there will be more than
enough pats on the back to go around, and nobody will even feel like they
need them! So we should try to pay a little more attention to what people
are doing around us. When you notice good things that people are doing,
let them know! Give them a pat on the back and don't expect one in return.
God's will be way better, anyway.