If you have felt any of these things, then this quote is for you! I ran across it in J.C. Ryle’s book Holiness the other day. He was discussing the seven 'epistles to the churches' in Revelation 1-2 and, in this section, was focusing specifically on the repetition of the words spoken by the Lord Jesus in the passage: 'I know thy works.' If you have ever been tempted to believe that nobody sees or appreciates your labor, let this quote encourage you.
The Lord Jesus knows the works of all His own people, and will one day reward them. He never overlooks a kind word, or a kind deed done in His name. He will own the least fruit of faith, and declare it before the world in the day of His appearing. If you love the Lord Jesus, and follow Him, you may be sure your work and labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.
Think what encouragement there is here for every honest and true-hearted believer. You see no beauty in any action that you do. All seems imperfect, blemished and defiled. You are often sick at heart of your own shortcomings. You often feel that your whole life is one great arrear, and that every day is either a blank or a blot. But know now, that Jesus can see some beauty in everything that you do from a conscientious desire to please Him. His eye can discern excellence in the least thing which is a fruit of His own Spirit. He can pick out the grains of gold from amid the dross of your performances, and sift the wheat from amid the chaff in all your doings. Your tears are all put into His bottle. Your endeavours to do good to others, however feeble, are written in His book of remembrance. The least cup of cold water given in His name shall not lose its reward. He does not forget your work and labour of love, however little the world may regard it.
Jesus loves to honour the work of His Spirit in His people, and to pass over their frailties. He dwells on the faith of Rahab, but not on her lie. He commends His apostles for continuing with Him in His temptations, and passes over their ignorance and want of faith (Luke 22:28). 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him' (Psalm 103:13). And as a father finds a pleasure in the least acts of his children, of which a stranger knows nothing, so I suppose the Lord finds a pleasure in our poor feeble efforts to serve Him.
Can’t you just picture a father who gushes over a stick figure drawn by his child? In the world’s eyes, it’s no work of art. But the father loves it and values it because he knows his child worked hard on the drawing and did his best to please him.
Just like that father, our Heavenly Father looks at our efforts and our heart rather than the end product. Oh, that we would learn to do the same!