The Awards Worth Pursuing

by Dr. Carla Cornelius, Christian Examiner Contributor |
The 89th Oscars broadcasts on the ABC Television Network. | Photo: Flickr/Adam Rose ABC

Every sector of human activity has established a hierarchy of awards to recognise exceptional achievement. Awards can be given at the end of a race or competition, or on a rolling, annual basis. The beginning of January saw the start of the prestigious film awards season where the Golden Globes (nominations and winner selected by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association), the BAFTAs (British Academy Film Awards) and the Academy Awards (hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and better known as the Oscars – all seek to celebrate and acknowledge excellence in film and television. The winners gain global fame and exposure, help to attract more sales at the box office and all other merchandising related to the winning entries. Those who worked on the productions in various capacities, from directors and producers, to cinematographers, costume designers and actors, will attract more job opportunities owing to the kudos and prestige generated by being awarded a trophy.

At the recent 2019 BAFTAs, the film "The Favourite" stole the show, winning in five out of 12 categories of nominations. In many ways the title "the favourite" is one we all covet. We seek to be the most popular, the most sought after and the most revered. Jesus turned our human logic on its head when he stated that, "...whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant" (Mark 10:43, NKJV).

What largely goes unnoticed is the fact that for every film which is nominated or wins, there are countless others which could have because they were equally excellent or ground-breaking. How well we respond to receiving or being denied an award depends largely on what drives our desire for excellence. Is it the personal sense of achievement which comes from a job well done, or is it receiving an award? If our well-being and self-esteem depends on external circumstances such as recognition from our peers, we will not derive any satisfaction from our work if we don't receive this.

God's economy is different. We are encouraged to, "...not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart" (Galatians 6:9, NKJV).  At the end of our time on this mortal clime, we will be judged and assessed on our faithfulness to God's call rather than how well we did in comparison to our peers. Ultimately, it is worth realising that God is tracking our every move, and it is He who will assess the efficacy of our work. The attitude with which we go about our work is more important to God than whether the task is performed to perfection. He has given us life, opportunity and the talents to fulfill what He has called us to do. So, it is only reasonable that we should do it for Him. There is a spiritual danger in focusing so much on the temporary trophies of this world that we forget to serve God first and foremost. As such, Jesus warns us not to "... lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21, NKJV).

The question arises – how much recognition is enough? The fragile human ego will always want more. Human pride will always want to prove it is better than others, when in God's eyes we are all of equal value even though we have different types of work to do on this earth. Sadly, we live in a world where certain occupations are valued more highly than others in terms of economic remuneration and public esteem. For example, does it make any sense that we tend to be more impressed by acting than professions such as nursing or teaching which do more practical good for humanity.

We need to discover the wonder of starring in our own lives. God's eyes are the camera filming the biopic of our lives in which we all star as lead characters. God's word tells us that "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13, NKJV). We are promised rewards at the end of our life's journey depending on how we used the talents He has entrusted to us. So, although salvation is an unconditional gift we do not earn but simply by believing in Jesus' sacrifice for our sins on the cross, our rewards are conditional upon how we have stewarded these talents.

Ultimately, the best reward is God Himself – to be forever in His presence will banish our existential sense of loneliness for good. Mary instinctively knew this. When Jesus came to visit, she sat at his feet to drink in his every word. Her sister, Martha, on the other hand was more interested in serving drinks to the guests (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus promises all who seek Him the "living water" which will forever quench their souls' thirst (John 4:13-14).

The temporal "water" of all the glitz and prestige this world has to offer will never quench our thirst permanently. Whether or not this world acknowledges our talent or hard work, must not become the driving motivation of our lives. Rather, let us pursue God Himself – the One whom we are destined to meet face to face, and whose heart's desire is to re-assure us, as He did Abram – "I am your shield; Your reward [for obedience] shall be very great" (Genesis 15:1, AMP).

–Dr. Carla Cornelius is a resonant voice in today's society and seeks to evaluate the spiritual challenges posed by contemporary popular culture in the light of God's Word. She seeks to communicate Biblical truths through freelance writing, books and publishing.