A former mentor of mine went to be with the Lord on Thanksgiving Day this year. I wrote a post which you can read, Paul Stanley, if you haven’t already done so as to how he impacted me.
In that post I quoted a prayer that Paul had pasted in his Bible until shortly before his death when he took it out and gave it to a close friend.
“Lord, I renounce my desire for human praise, for the approval of my peers, the need for public recognition. I deliberately put these aside today—content to hear your whisper, well done my faithful servant.”
I have been praying this heartfelt prayer for myself for a few weeks now and it continues to have a profound effect on my thinking and attitude.
Here are some thoughts:
Many years ago I ran across John 5:41 in the New Living Translation, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me.” I can still remember my thoughts when I first read it. I said to myself that of course people’s approval or disapproval means nothing to you. You’re God and don’t need approval or disapproval to feel a certain way. For me, however (at the time I first read it) it means a lot. When people approve of me, applaud me, like me, etc. I feel good and when they don’t, I feel like pond scum. I prayed then and there (and still do) that Jesus would help me not be unduly affected by praise, or the lack of praise, from people. This is a life-long pursuit. I get tired of being up and down emotionally due to what others say, or don’t say, about me.
Paul Stanley’s prayer hit home for me and reminded me of the internal battle I fight daily to live for Him and not for human praise, affirmation from peers, or the need for public recognition of some kind to help me feel good about myself. It’s disheartening for me to read what happens to people in general and leaders in particular when human praise, approval and affirmation takes on a bigger role than it should.
It’s what author Os Guiness called “Living for an audience of one.” That one being God. Yes, content to hear your whisper, well done my faithful servant. Why isn’t this enough for me I continue to ask myself? Jesus, why are you not enough?
There is something dangerous and harmful inside my fallen nature that craves constant human praise and approval. There are many problems with this, chief among them being that whatever I receive never seems to be enough to satisfy me—being very honest here. When John Rockefeller was asked how much money it takes to make a man happy his reply was, “Just a little bit more.” So it is with seeking after and craving more praise and affirmation from people—Just a little bit more would be desired and nice to have. I then do and say crazy, stupid things to solicit more and more praise and affirmation. I will be tempted to manipulate people and situations to get what I think I need. It’s a losing game that never truly satisfies.
“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true and in him there is no falsehood.” John 7:18 ESV. Jesus is speaking of himself here, but it certainly applies to me as well.
It raises the question as to whose glory I’m seeking in what I do, say or write. Is it my glory or God’s glory that’s at the heart of what I do and why I do it? A tough but essential question to ask myself on a regular basis.
I read of a missionary couple who after many years of faithful service had taken a ship back to the United States. It turned out that then-president Teddy Roosevelt was on that same ship. When it docked there were thousands of people waiting for Roosevelt’s return and to welcome him home. The man turned to his wife mentioning all the people who had shown up to greet the president, but sadly nothing that no one was there to welcome them home. To which his wife replied, “But we’re not home yet.”
O blessed truth! One day I will be home with you who died for me and lives inside me by the power of the Holy Spirit. You will welcome me and I, by your grace, will be content to hear, “Well done my faithful servant.” Jesus, help me be genuinely content with that and to keep my eyes fixed and focused on you the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).