It lies deeply in us human beings that we want people to like the things that we say and do. After the fall (Genesis 3), sin came into human nature, and human nature became sinful, and thus even our best deeds, if they are not worked by God, are influenced by sin. The truth is, that of ourselves we cannot do anything that is good enough to receive any praise.
When this desire to be seen and liked controls or binds me, I am not free to do what God works in me, for example, speaking up when someone else is gossiping.
And if I have done something good that God worked in me, for example, being obedient to a verse in the Bible that has become clear to me, then it is God who should be honoured for it, and not I.
Even though I know this very well, it does not mean that I will never be tempted to “seek” praise and honour. If I am not watchful, my thoughts can easily be busy with how the others see me and what they think of me. It is in my thoughts that the temptation starts, and that is where I must take up the battle to fight against it.
How can I take up the battle against temptation?
An important part of the “full armour of God” is named in Ephesians 6:17: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. For myself, it has been the most powerful weapon against temptations, and thus also against thoughts of wanting people to praise or honour me. The good thing about the Word of God – or verses in the Bible – is that they can be used again and again. The “sword” can be used again and again. And it works every time.
There are some Bible verses that I have used when the thought of wanting to be praised came up in my mind. The first is in 1 Corinthians 4:7 (NCV): “Who says you are better than others? What do you have that was not given to you? And if it was given to you, why do you brag as if you did not receive it as a gift?” This is a very good weapon! Many times, I just say to myself, “What do you have that you haven’t been given?” The answer is: Nothing. Everything I have and am, is by God’s grace, and all the honour and praise belongs to Him. If I look for some praise anyway, I steal something that does not belong to me. If I give God the glory, everything falls into its rightful place and I become free from the heavy burden of always wondering what people will think of what I do.
Another verse in the Bible that I have used as a weapon is in Romans 3:27 (NCV): “So do we have a reason to brag about ourselves? No! And why not? It is the way of faith that stops all bragging, not the way of trying to obey the law.” As well as 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.” And that’s what I want, after all. Being a servant of Christ who can do good and bless those I meet in my way.
My focus must be to seek God’s glory, let Him lead me, and find His will with my life. And I should not let myself be controlled by other people’s opinions and by what they think of what I do.
What does God say?
People’s opinions change all the time; sometimes they praise you, other times they criticise you. That is not what is important – but rather what God says about my life and the reasons I am doing things.
I am still tempted from time to time, for example, thinking that “I myself” did something really well, or getting proud when I get praised, or being afraid of criticism and being talked about in a negative way. But what is so great is that I know “my enemy”, I know where I am tempted so easily, and I know my weapons, and I know how to take up the fight. Then I am not bound and controlled by what people think of me and my heart and mind can be kept pure, and that brings happiness and joy. Then I am free to hear what God wants to say to me.