Today’s Thought has been in the hopper for quite some time. I have mulled over and over for at least six months now. The title is an expression that my wife has periodically brought up in conversation with me for why we should do the things that we do. It’s all for the Kingdom of God. That’s a tough one isn’t it?? To live your life doing things for an “audience of one.” For those who are believers in Christ, you know the “Christianese” answer right? “Of course my reasons are only for the glory of God,” but if you’re being honest, I’m sure that from time to time, you too have looked for that “atta-boy” or “atta-girl” after you have gone out you way to help someone or do something. This is something that I have struggled with for most of my life both before becoming a Christian and after. Yeah I would believe that my motivations were pure but in reality I would look for the approval of others or recognition for the “good deed” that I had done. I think this photo captures my point…
We all want to have our efforts appreciated. When you look at this performer he sure is enjoying the accolades from the audience, but the real question is…could you still put forth tremendous effort to a theater like this?
That is the true test! Can we still labor for God and work our hearts out with no acknowledgement at all? Can you spend yourself even if no one ever knows what you did? That is what I want to unpack today!
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The Apostle Paul addressed this perfectly in this Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
That last part is particularly convicting to me. If we call ourselves a follower of Jesus Christ and live our lives trying to please others, you have to evaluate who is “LORD of your life”. YOU or GOD?!
At first I did not even realize this character flaw but God used my wife to challenge me why do I do what I do? “Am I trying to win the Approval of human beings or of God?” It wasn’t until I attended the Act Like Men conference back in November 2014 that God opened my eyes that I needed to address this issue in my heart. The conference was based on James MacDonald’s book with the same name that reveals what Biblical Manhood is.
During the conference MacDonald invited the men to respond to what God was speaking into their hearts. I was one of these men on my knees repenting of how I sought after the praise of people over the glorification of God. Oftentimes it is hard to see the chinks in our armor and how self-absorbed we can be. I think Paul David Tripp nailed it when he said:
“Be aware that the kingdom of self is a costume kingdom. It does a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.”
Wow! Could it be that we are completely hoodwinked or deceived to believe that we are serving God while all the time really serving ourselves??
It’s not until recently that I realized why I had sought the approval of others so vehemently. God has been working mightily in my heart for the past couple weeks. In the last post called ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★, I talked about my experience with the men of Zaragoza while on a missions trip to Mexico. As part of my testimony, I shared about how my father wanted nothing to do with me once my mom and I moved from Pennsylvania to New York. As I prepared for the Bible Study, God revealed to me that I not only had a father wound, but one from my grandfather as well. The move to the TriState area (NY) was not for a change of scenery but out of necessity because we were out of money; and so we moved into the house that my mom grew up in. We lived in the upstairs apartment from my grandfather but even though there was only a floor separating us, we might as well have lived on another planet. The journey to, and “life in the city” was overwhelming for this country boy. Though it was only a 2 hour and 15 minute drive, life was completely different. Instead of dirt roads, there were miles and miles of freeways. I went from riding my bike everywhere to taking a city bus or subway. And from being rejected by my father to my grandfather.
As a boy of 12 years old, I was excited to get to know my grandfather but unfortunately I found out pretty quick that he wanted nothing to do with me. So as I experienced a second arrow to my heart, a deep ceded need for a man’s approval was birthed. In his 2001 groundbreaking book “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” John Eldredge spoke about how every man has received a wound or wounds in their life from their father regardless of how good they might have been. He made this profound statement about how this injury is dealt with:
“Men either overcompensate for their wound and become driven, or they shrink back and go passive. Often it’s an odd mixture of both.”
I have realized that my drive and aggressiveness in life has been motivated unconsciously to prove that I am worthy of love and have “what it takes.” At the time I did not realize that the rejection of my father and grandfather had cultivated a deep need for the approval of those in my life, especially men because of the absence of any masculine influence. And a result, my motives behind why I would help others was more for commendation than genuine love of others.
Back in 2014 I dealt with the symptom of the issue but not the root. I did not fully know why I was so desperate for attention but now I am much more in tune with the cause; and have truly come to terms that I must be motivated by, and content with, the audience of the One!! I need to keep this on the sticky side of my brain!
I am going go old school and go to the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 10:31:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
As part of the Temptation Series, we have unpacked about avoiding the consequences of alcohol and gluttony which you may be thinking why am I using this verse now, well I’m glad you asked. Chapter 10 deals with idolatry, about the danger of worshiping things that do not please God (alcohol, gluttony and partying – See 1 Corinthians 10:6-11). We need to be aware that giving ourselves over to anything other than God is a slippery slope. The last part of verse 31 is what I want to focus on.
This is something that can radically change a person’s life if they will put in the work. It is really easy to focus on yourself, as Tripp said the kingdom of self does “a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.” So it’s not just enough to be helping others and serving God, we need to always be checking our motives!
In this self-promoting, indulgent world it is very easy to get derailed by all the “highlights” of people’s lives tweeted and shared online; and seek the approval from the world instead of our Heavenly Father. If we are not careful we can become imprisoned to the acceptance we receive on social media. I read this quote somewhere and thought it was perfect…
“A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
If we seek to be changed, God will answer. In Ezekiel 36:26, He spoke through the project and said,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Amen? Do you want that? I will close with these song lyrics from Francesca Battistelli’s song called “He Knows My Name” in which she proclaims…
I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh
Check it out and let the lyrics wash over your soul!
The question remains…
Why do you do what you do??
Is it for God or for man’s approval?
Is it enough to be famous in your father’s eyes only?
I pray you will be!
If you want to dig deeper into understanding how loved you are, check out:
And for the men, here are the posts of what I learned from James MacDonald’s book called