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An Audience of One

“How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”

~ John 5:44

Charles Spurgeon once said that the jewels of the Christian are his/her afflictions.

I’d add that those jewels are rarely seen by human eyes.

The word “blessing” means to speak well of. Blessing is the word from which the term “eulogy” is derived. (The Greek word translated “blessing” in the New Testament is eulogia.)

Sadly, most of us wait until someone dies before we eulogize (bless, speak well of) them. (I’ve written on this previously, in fact.)

Let’s be clear. We have but one Person to please. Impressing people isn’t the name of the game. Today’s heroes are tomorrow’s zeros. The story of Paul and Barnabas in Lystra teaches us this lesson in spades.

The story is found in Acts 14:11 & 19. In the space of 8 verses, the same people who set out to worship Paul and Barnabas were ready to send them to their deaths. What changed their minds about the two apostles so radically and rapidly? The “evil report” (rumors) leveled by Paul’s detractors in Pisidian Antioch and Iconium. 

“The power of death and life is in the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

Such is the nature of fallen mortals.

Recently someone wrote the following on their Facebook wall. Here’s what they said:

Over the years, I have watched Frank Viola respond to misrepresentation, unjust criticism, and the like. In my limited experience, he has been the most gracious and mature of anyone (including myself

) in his responses online to criticisms and in the way he addresses issues with a real gift for treating people with respect even when there is sharp disagreement.

This surprised me. Why? Because I assumed no one notices.

I’ve raised a standard of my life to not care if people notice such things or not. Because I have but one Person to please. And so do you.

At the same time, such “Barnabas-lifts” have a way of encouraging us on the journey. They are gracious reminders that God does in fact notice when we lay our lives down for His sake. With that thought in mind, let me leave you with three related thoughts to ponder:

  • Make a daily decision to live unto God rather than unto humans. Seek to please Him alone. As difficult as it is, lay down the desire to be a “man pleaser.” If you live to please humans, you’ll have your reward here and now (Matt. 6:5). Also, remember what happened in Lystra. Some who will sing your praises today will end up condemning you tomorrow.
  • If you see someone doing or saying something that inspires and encourages you in the Lord, let them know about it. You don’t know what difference it could make in their lives. It may be a needed word given in due season. One of my spiritual disciplines (practices) is to express gratitude and appreciation to those who have touched or enriched my life in some way. I try to never let that slip.
  • An exhortation from one beggar to another: Keep sacrificing. Keep losing. Keep laying your life down. Keep loving your enemies. Keep blessing those who despise you. Keep refusing to return fire upon those who bad-mouth you. Keep pouring your life into others, even if those same people never acknowledge it and others never notice. Keep freely sharing what God gives you, even if some steal your words and make them their own without giving you credit. Keep faithfully serving your Lord without looking back.

Why? Because there is One who is watching. And only His opinion matters.

I find it fascinating how Jesus connects having faith with seeking God’s approval alone:

 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, ESV)

To lose sight of this is to live on the mere human level where numbers, praises, applauses, Twitter followers, Retweets, blog views, etc. determine your happiness.

In other words . . . live before an audience of One.