We, as human beings, like to be successful. We like to be praised. We like to get attention. Even introverts and shy people find pleasure in accomplishment. Sometimes this desire gets twisted and we seek attention in unhealthy ways, or by making ourselves stand out in irregular ways or we revel in unhealthy attention. But our worlds naturally revolve around ourselves and since we were created for relationship, we engage one another and thrive on approval and adoration. This is so much a part of our nature, in fact, that one of the five basic ways people give and receive love is “words of affirmation”. Some people, in order to feel loved, need to give and/or receive praise.
As Christians, our lives are focused on praising God – as He is the one who deserves all of the glory and honor because of creation and everything in it. But at the end of time, when He separates the believers from the non believers, there will be some to whom He says,
“Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
– Matt 25.21
God Himself, the only one worthy of all praise and honor will praise and affirm His faithful servants. The creator of the universe, the sovereign over creation, the one who has authority and will judge every human being and welcome some into Heaven and condemn others to Hell, He will praise some people.
Are you living in such a way so as to receive that welcome and praise when you meet Him face to face?
We spend much of our time and energy trying to impress other people. We long for and even need affirmation and encouragement from our friends, spouses and coworkers. But how much do you long for and need the affirmation of God? On that last day, only His opinion will count, and it will be His word that determines your eternal fate.
Hear me, I am not saying that we can earn our salvation or eternal life. But Jesus clearly stated that the way we show our love for Him is to keep His commandments:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
– John 14.15
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”
– John 14.23
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
– 1 John 5.2-3
Salvation is not a static occurrence. It is a lifetime of effect. When God works in someone’s heart and saves him, He enables him to obey. God, in fact, makes it a pleasure to obey. Consider a mother who tells her children to clean up the toys before bedtime. The children ask, “Mom, can you help us?” If the mother barks back, “No! I told you to clean up, now do it!” The children will feel defeated, they will obey, but out of obligation. They are slaves. They have been given an order and will comply, but without joy, and often looking for a way to do it only half way. If the mother responds, however, “Yes! I bet I can pick up the cars before you pick up the blocks!” Then obedience suddenly becomes a joy. The children are engaged with their mother, they see her leadership through example, and they do it willingly. They are not slaves to a command, but willing participants in that which needs to be done. And not only that, they preform better.
As with any analogy, the picture fails at the level of God’s enabling us. He gives us the command, but instead of getting down on the floor and doing half of the work, He gives us the strength, ability and conviction to obey from within. It is Him working through us. He is active in the obedience by enabling us to comply with joy. When the Spirit abides within us, we find pleasure and joy in obeying and following the commands of God. Thus we clearly understand that the love of God is keeping His commandments and they are not burdensome to us (1 John 5.3).
It is true that as long as we are in the body our flesh and sinful nature will war against the Spirit which indwells us:
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
– Gal 5.17
There will be times that our flesh pushes back against the commands of God, and we will have to fight for righteousness. There will be times that we do not want to do what we know we should do. But in those moments, let us consider the fact that God sees everything, He knows everything, and in the end it is only His approval that matters. He promises that those who keep His commandments will shine like the morning sun, they will be glorified, and they will enter into His eternal and perfect rest.
“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
– Matt 13.43
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
– Rom 8.16-17
So let us firstly turn to God, and embrace the Spirit that abides in us. Let us allow the Spirit to live and work through us, and enable us to joyfully obey. Only His opinion ultimately matters, so let us stop striving for the affirmation of man. Let us fight the good fight of faith, such that on that last day He will welcome us and say,
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”