Monday, June 9, 2014

For the Praise of Men or God

   As a long time devotional writer, it is easy to get into a slump where you wonder if anyone is reading what you write.  That's when my dear husband reminds me, "Are you doing it to please men or God?"  For me, that is easy to answer.  Twenty some years I have been writing that I might encourage others and stimulate their thinking.  I do it because I felt led by God to do it.  However, my husband makes a very good point and one that all who serve God in some capacity need to ask themselves.
     Long ago, I counseled with a pastor during a difficult point in my life.  He said something that has stayed with me all these years.  He said that when anyone ministers to others out of their need to be accepted or applauded they will end up hurting others.  He went on to say that he knew of ministers who crashed and burned because they were more interested in advancing their agenda rather than God's.  What they needed, he indicated, was to deal with old wounds and acknowledge the sin of pride in their lives that kept them from truly serving others without the need for recognition.   This does not apply only to those in ministry but to all of us as Christians in whatever capacity we serve.
After all, how can we point out the speck in our brother's eye when we have a log in our own? (Matthew 7:4-5).
     When it comes to performance, the Pharisees were the best.  They prayed on street corners, wore longer tassels on their robes, chose the best seats in the synagogues, gave alms to the poor and were well acquainted with the scriptures.  In short, they looked good in public and people were impressed.  Yet throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about what really matters.  Matthew 6:3-4 says:  "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."  This was a direct contrast to what the Pharisees were doing.  They wanted men to praise them and notice what kind things they were doing.  Jesus goes on talking about prayer in verse 6 of Matthew 6:  "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."  Again, the Lord tells us not to stand up on the street corner as the Pharisees did so everyone can see us pray, but we are to go into our private prayer closet as we come to God.  Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts the life of performance for the benefit and adulation of others with a life of service lived out for God.
     In His teaching of the disciples, Jesus made it clear that if they wanted to be great they must first be a servant of all.  Mark 9:35 reads:  "And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.'"  He also instructed them concerning their witness and ministry.  Matthew 5:16 says:  "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Notice that Jesus says that our good works will give glory to God.  No where does He state that our good works should gain us praise, recognition and fame.  No, we were created for God's glory not for our own.
     Our world is so performance oriented that it is easy to get caught up in wanting to be famous, recognized, and patted on the back.  There are many award shows that do just this for outstanding music artists as well as actors, and it is easy to get caught up in this mentality.  However,  the Lord has called us to live, instead, for His glory for He sees all we do on this earth and is a rewarder of those found faithful.
     Naturally, we all need encouragement and kind words from one another.  This helps all of us keep on doing our job, our ministry or persevering during hard times.  I know I love hearing from those who have been touched by something I write.  It helps me know that in some small way the Lord has used my offering to bless another.  Our goal should not be to become famous, but to make God famous through whatever ministry and service we offer to others.  Do we see the difference?  May we never be like the Pharisees that Jesus warned us about seeking the praise of men, but rather, let us be humble in our hearts and servants to all for the Lord who sees what we do in secret will reward us.  Selah!

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