I believe it was Os Guinness who first used this phrase. The concept always forces leaders to ask themselves who they are trying to please. It’s very tempting to try to please people and to do what I do with them in mind, rather than doing what I do with God in mind. Brad Jenkins, Lead Pastor of Anthem Church in Tulsa shares some excellent ideas on living for the approval of God, not the approval of people!
Originally published by Brad Jenkins
Most people live for the approval of man rather than the approval of God.
King David is incredibly inspiring to me. He was a poet, musician, shepherd, warrior, and king. After Jesus, David is the most mentioned person in the entire Bible. That puts him ahead of Moses, Abraham, Peter, Paul, and John. That’s quite remarkable.
Most importantly, he is the only person in the Bible described as “a man after God’s own heart.” That phrase has always captivated me. I want something said about my life that sounds like this. In fact, recently I have begun praying, “Father, give me a heart that loves you, above all else.” That feels like the right kind of prayer for every Christian to pray on a regular basis.
This journey is personal for me. My Father’s middle name is David, my middle name is David, and my oldest son’s middle name is David. The men of our family are endeavoring to live out our manhood in the same way that King David did.
What sets David apart from so many others is his attentiveness to the will of God.
His heart wanted God’s heart. He continually made decisions that God approved of and rejected options that God had forbidden. Even when no one around him understood.
This was different than King Saul. Saul lived for the approval of man. He talked about wanting the approval of God, but his actions said otherwise. Eventually, God had to remove Saul and appoint a king “after God’s own heart.”
The Bible calls the fear of man a snare and a trap.
Most people live for the approval and affirmation of man. People after God’s heart live with a different kind of fear – the fear of God. The Bible calls the fear of God the beginning of wisdom. Why? Because the person who fears God above all else has learned to pay attention to the only One who truly matters. They have learned to live for an audience of One.
Living for an audience of One means that I seek first and foremost to please God.
This is incredibly rare. Most people live for the approval of the many. They make decisions that they know others will approve. They go along with the crowd. They blend into the culture. They live a safe and ineffective life.
Very few live primarily for the approval of God. The problem is that if you want to be used by God, you have to love God and the things of God. And you have to be willing to ignore the things of this world. Even when others disagree. Even when it hurts.
As a pastor, sometimes people have ideas, suggestions, and critiques. And different interpretations of the Bible. Often those are from within the church I pastor. But more broadly, they come from culture. Sometimes I am tempted to follow the crowd and let their opinion weigh too heavily on me. But people don’t need a spiritual leader who leads for an “audience of the many.” They need a pastor who lives for an audience of One. And that, by God’s grace, is what I have intended to do over the last 20 years of pastoral ministry.
But this topic isn’t primarily for pastors. This is for everyone who calls themself a Christian. We are called to listen to the voice of the One above all others. We (as Christians) ask for the advice of those around us, but we cling to the words of Christ. We go out of our way to serve and help those around us, but serving God is our highest calling. We want others to like us and approve of us, but we want God’s approval most of all. Whenever these goals are in conflict, we decisively choose his approval and affirmation above all else.
This is all that God wants from me. I don’t need to be brilliant, beautiful, successful, famous, or well-liked. I just have to care about what is on His heart and do what He says.
If I will do that, the sky is the limit. God can do the rest. And the good news, by God’s grace, is that I can do this. It’s not out of reach. I have this potential inside of me. My past does not disqualify my future. I can choose to put God first and leave all the consequences to Him.
If you want this to be true of you, I encourage you to take a few moments right now to pray. Consider placing your hand on your heart and sincerely pray the prayer I have recently begun praying over myself, “Father, give me a heart that loves you, above all else.” Tell God that you intend to live for an audience of One for the rest of your life. By God’s grace, and your consistent commitment to this promise, I know He will answer your prayer.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
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