Listen to the edition of Alive in Christ Radio: Seeking Man’s Approval
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Through careful research and examination, we are able to determine that we seek to please people rather than God due to “fear.” The term used in the Bible for seeking to please people rather than God is “fear of man.” In the Gospel of John, John shares about some people who rejected Jesus because they were afraid of consequences:
John 12:42-43: 42Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.
If we venture back in time, we are reminded that in the first century, banishment from the synagogue was a very serious matter. People were actually excommunicated from the synagogue and were also ostracized from society as a whole. It has been stated by Christian minister and author William Barclay that secret discipleship is a contradiction in terms for, “either the secrecy kills the discipleship, or the discipleship kills the secrecy. Banishment from society was too high a price to pay, so people lived a lie because they were not big enough to stand up for truth. They preferred to stand well with men rather than with God. They thought far more of what men thought of them than of what God thought of them.
In other words, we are affected by fear of man as we are concerned more with how we are perceived by human beings than how we are viewed by God. The Bible has a word for substituting something in God’s place—idolatry.
Never substitute any person, place, or thing for your love and obedience to God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit.
What Makes Us Insecure?
Insecurity comes as a result of placing confidence and trust in people and things that can be swiftly taken away. I encourage you to think about just how futile and unproductive this foolish mindset is. Imagine what our lives would be like if we were to go about allowing other people to define who we are—if our every action was controlled by what others think of us or how others behave toward us. Imagine our sense of worth hinging on the encouragement of other people, or the lack thereof. Our self-esteem would go up and down just like a yo-yo. We would live each day without a sense of security.
True security comes from one place and one place exclusively. Real security comes from placing our faith and trust in what can never be taken away from us—real security comes from the love of God. Consider this truth: We can narrow down every reason for seeking God’s approval instead of the approval of people to Psalm 20:7.
Psalm 20:7: Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.
As an example of how seeking the approval of others opens the flood gate to insecurity, please carefully consider the following:
- A church leader who places their faith and trust in their church would wind up devastated when criticism comes from their church members.
- An employee places their faith and trust in their boss who shows no encouragement, the employee winds up discouraged with a weakened moral.
- A parent whose gauge for worth is derived from their relationship with their child, the child rebels and the parent winds up feeling worthless.
Make no mistake, without the power of God there are plenty of things to fear in this world:
- Losing a job at the hand of an ungodly employer for refusing to compromise their integrity in the workplace.
- Losing a job as a teacher for allowing Christian principles to affect how we approach certain subject matter.
- Being accused of child abuse because we try to follow the Biblical guidelines of loving discipline.
- Having our reputation dashed by a gossip who has an axe to grind.
- Losing an election because our beliefs go contrary to the voter’s opinions.
People are Flawed by Nature (Human Existence)
Be it your husband, wife, parents, children, friends, professional colleagues, and every other human we may come into contact with are flawed by nature—by human existence.
Romans 3:20: For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
In other words, every human, no matter who they are, falls short of God’s glory.
Isaiah 64:6: We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
In Every Situation, We Have Choice
We can seek the approval of broken humans, or we can seek the approval of our perfect, almighty, sovereign God—Our heavenly Father.
People’s Opinions Do Matter
Before we move further here, please allow me to state that I am in no way advocating a cavalier attitude toward what others think about you. A person who seeks to please God does not have this kind of arrogant attitude of “I don’t care what people think of me. I’m going to do whatever I want no matter what anyone thinks of what I say, or how I act.” Often times, people are belligerent—not because of their allegiance to the perfect will of God, but out of pride and self-centeredness.
James 1:2-18: Faith and Endurance: 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
9 Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
Our Need for Approval
The need for approval in and of itself is not a sin. This desire was placed within us by God so we might seek His blessing. In fact, Paul encouraged his young protégé Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Jesus was motivated by His primary mission to please the Father and to do His will. His passion was to glorify God. In other words, our Lord was one who sought approval, but His constant need for approval was a healthy condition—a need for the approval of God.
The Gospel writers notably explain that Jesus heard the sound of God’s ovation. In fact, God affirmed His approval of Jesus in at least three ways. One way God demonstrated His approval of Jesus was done audibly. Jesus heard God’s approval spoken by the Father at His baptism when God acknowledged, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11, Matthew 3:17, and Luke 3:22).
The word used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke to describe God’s pleasure with the Son is eudokeo, a word describing one’s favor resting on another. In other words, the pleasure of God rests on those who fulfill His purpose and do His will.
The second way God demonstrated His pleasure toward His Son was by allowing Jesus to witness miracles and be used as God’s instrument in performing wonderful signs. In John 9, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind, but Jesus’ opponents questioned the source of Jesus’ power. The man who had been healed replied, “But if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31).
Jesus Himself considered these miracles to be evidence to the crowds that He had been sent by God. For example, when Jesus appealed to God for Lazarus to be raised, He prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42).
A third way God showed His approval of His Son was demonstrated in the resurrection of Christ. After Jesus was raised, Peter and the apostles were ordered to stop preaching in the name of Christ. The disciples ignored the orders of religious leaders and were brought before the perplexed Sanhedrin.
The authorities rebuked the disciples again for teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter’s and the apostles’ reply was simple, “We must obey God rather than men! God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel” (Acts 5:29-31).
So these followers of Jesus considered the resurrection of the Lord both an affirmation of God’s approval of His Son and incentive for them to obey God rather than people. The reply of the apostles to the council may be stated another way: “The worse thing you can do to us is kill us like you did Jesus, but God undid your malicious actions. God raised Him from the dead. Now if we have to choose whether we will obey God or you, we will obey God. We desire His approval, not yours.” Jesus phrased the same conviction this way: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
God’s Approval Matters Most
Sometimes God’s commands just do not make sense to our human thinking. For instance, “Joshua, march monotonously around that wall over there.” Noah, I want you to build an ark.” “An ark, LORD?” “What is an ark, LORD?” “It is something to protect your family from a lot of rain.” “What rain, LORD?” “Just build the ark, Noah!”
Of course there was the time when God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of a luscious-looking fruit. He gave orders through Elisha to Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River. He told Gideon to reduce the size of his army to a fraction of what Gideon thought he needed to win. These commands made little sense at the time, but God had unique reasons for giving these instructions.
God also had sufficient reasons for His instructions to us. For example, we are to worship no other gods except Him because He is the only one who can save us and provide for us. All other objects of worship are dead.
We are not to commit murder because life is God’s sacred creation. Think about it, without this prohibition, none of us would be safe and society would take a tumble. We are to remain faithful to our own spouse so that the home is stable and families are strong. God has plenty of reasons for wanting us to seek His approval.
Following God’s commands may even add years to our life: “The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short” (Proverbs 10:27). Thus, if we want to hang around for a while longer, we must choose to revere God and to be obedient to His will.
We do have the capacity to understand some of God’s commands, but others, we may never understand. Our responsibility is to remain obedient anyway. You see, if we choose to serve God obediently, out of holy reverence for Him, God guarantees our protection until the day we are mature enough to understand fully. Sometimes God reveals the rationale. When He does, be grateful. However, if He doesn’t tell us why, our obedience will bring about His blessing.
We will most likely never fully understand Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his precious son Isaac. That divine command couldn’t have been made complete to Abraham. The results of Abraham’s actions were as follows: just as Abraham was preparing to thrust his knife into the flesh of his son, the angel of the Lord called out and said, “’Abraham! Abraham! … Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’” (Genesis 22:11-12).
Then the angel added this declaration from the Lord: “I swear by myself, declares the LORD; that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of your enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:16-18).
The individuals whose lives have glorified the Father share one common trait: they overcame their need for human approval so they could be obedient to God. With divine help, we can, too. They were imperfect human beings. They were flawed just like we are. They had moments of insecurity just like we do, but the same God who helped, guided, and supported Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, and countless others will give us the same victory.
Let us be Holy Spirit-filled. Let us stand strong and obedient in Jesus. Let us seek God’s approval in all things, and never place man’s flawed assessments, opinions, or approval in front of God’s perfect will and purpose for our life. Let us pray to gain God’s approval in all we might do. Amen.
May almighty God bless you always,
Founder, Executive Publisher
Christian Times Online