All of us want to impress somebody. All of us are looking for approval, but we can look for that approval in different places. For some, it’s in a hard-to-please parent. For others, it’s in the adulation of the masses. For some of us, it’s merely in the handful of our friends that we most respect. Occasionally, someone is just trying to please himself. And then there are the people who want to impress God, who want His approval. This last category has what the Bible calls “the fear of God.” All the previous categories practice what the Bible calls “the fear of man.” Perhaps needless to say, the Bible takes a dim view of “the fear of man” but highly commends “the fear of God.” We are told to expect negative consequences to fearing man and positive consequences to fearing God.
There is a rational basis for this difference in views: human beings can only hear our words and view our actions, while God can see our hearts. Therefore, to be a “people-pleaser” can never be fully satisfying, either for us or for the person or people we’re trying to please. They can’t see our motives and therefore can never fully understand why we do anything we do. For that matter, we often can’t see the fullness of our own hearts and don’t fully understand why we do everything we do. God, however, is able to look on the totality of who we are and make reasonable and fair assessments of our thoughts, words, and deeds.
In addition to being the wiser choice, pleasing God also has the benefit of, generally speaking, making us more pleasing to people. That is, in seeking God’s approval we become better parents, more industrious workers, kinder neighbors, and so on. Yet there are times when pleasing God will actually make us displeasing to people. What will you do when that happens? For, believe it or not, pursuing God’s approval could bring you more hostility from the world than you have ever before experienced. What will you do when people criticize you, judge you, and condemn you…all just because you’re doing the things God wants you to do? It will please God even more if you bear up under that unfair suffering and don’t return evil for evil. In fact, He would have you give a blessing instead. For this is just the sort of thing that He does with His critics all the time.
The other good thing about seeking the approval of God is that He will never unreasonably withhold it. That is, He is always willing to be pleased. You can’t say as much for people.
Most of all, keep in mind that seeking the approval of others will distract you from seeking the approval of God. Seek the approval of God and let the chips fall where they may regarding everyone else’s opinions.
For more context, see this overview.
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