Jesus said in John 5:44, “How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” He was talking to religious leaders who were more concerned with getting compliments from each other than with pleasing God. The interesting thing is that by looking for approval from each other, they lost the ability to believe God. Having the good opinion of people became so important that it became an idol, a rival god.
Wanting people to like us is pretty normal, but it becomes a problem when we seek to please people first rather than to please God first. I know for me that I want others to like me, but I also get afraid of what people think. That fear, when it stops us from doing what is right, is a sin.
The book of Proverbs teaches us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Doing what is right and speaking the truth come first.
What can we do if we have been exalting people’s opinions above God? What can we do if we find ourselves bound and choked by fear–letting fear rule our choices rather than submitting to the Lord?
1) To begin with, we have to name sin for what it is. The word confess in the New Testament means to agree or to say the same thing. When we confess, we agree with God that we sinned–no excuses or trying to make ourselves look good. It doesn’t fool the Lord and we come up short of the forgiveness we are seeking. This year as God has been convicting me about being afraid of people (the Bible calls it the “fear of man”), I’ve had to confess it as idolatry and ask Jesus to forgive me.
2) Next, turn from it as much as you know how. Let the Holy Spirit sensitize you to those situations when you have a choice between fearing people and fearing God. How can you obey the Spirit instead of your emotions?
3) Pray for God to deliver you from your fears. Psalm 34 talks about this. I’ve been praying for several months now. I know that God is helping me, but I know I have further to go. One of my favorite proverbs comes to mind: “The wicked flee when no one pursues but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).
To return to the verse we started with, instead of worrying about people’s praise, let’s seek the lasting glory that comes from the only God.