Reflections from a Recovering People-Pleaser
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23–24).
There are a myriad of ways to minister from a place of need. I am going to focus on the need for approval.
*J.D. Greear wrote, “I delight more in the approval of others than I do in the approval of God. I am an idolater. That is my depravity. … [However] when you are satisfied with God’s presence and approval in your life, you will no longer obsess about what everyone else thinks about you. … you no longer depend on their admiration for personal fulfillment. … in Christ, you have all you need for everlasting joy.”
Receiving more fulfillment from people than from God is a sin. I know this well, because it is one of my struggles. Fifty years and counting since I accepted Christ, and this sin still crops up. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4b we read, We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
God tested my heart, and I can honestly say that I am beginning to glimpse the depth of my sin. I deeply appreciate God’s pursuit of purity in my life. He has not given up on me. He loves me dearly. He is ultra-protective of my heart.
In my case, craving approval started with genuine gratitude from the workers in Africa. I admire global servants who live in tough places, and I enjoyed giving them rest (a retreat center) and renewal (a salon). Heart attitudes are a tricky thing; they can start out fairly pure and then be corrupted by our sinful nature.
In the years that we ran the retreat home, we received only one complaint. In the months that I had the salon, I received no complaints. I am sure the retreat home was not perfect, and I know my hair care was not perfect, as I was brand new at cut/color/highlights. The praise goes to the workers, who were extremely gracious and thankful. Unfortunately, in my depravity, I started craving the approval of people more than appreciating the approval of God. This was unacceptable to God!
If you were God, how would you go about showing your dearly-loved daughter that she was becoming captive to the desire for approval from people? Hindsight is 20/20. We had some difficulties in Southeast Asia. They included unfair condemnation, and one of my ministries crashed and burned. My God, who loves me dearly, wanted me to see how much I craved approval by taking some of it away.
God is in the process of freeing me from craving approval from people through His redemptive work on my identity in Christ, J.D. Greear’s book, and a wise, member-care provider.
How does one quit desiring the approval of people more than desiring God?
**Thomas Chalmers preached: “The only way to dispossess it [the heart] of an old affection, [such as needing approval] is by the expulsive power of a new one [intimacy with God].” God is so worth our affection!
The following are a few concepts to meditate on:
Who am I in Christ? Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1–2). An example: my mom dearly loved and sacrificed for me; as her child, I felt safe in her love. Naturally, I wanted to please her. However:
No human loves or sacrificed more for us than God our Father.
Who knows me fully and still loves and forgives me? O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. … You are familiar with all my ways (Psalms 139:1–3). God knows my thoughts and all my ways. He sees it all and still loves and forgives me.
No human can know, love, and forgive us more than God our Father.
Who protects me? The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge (Psalms 18:2a). As global servants, we all experience the storms of life, but God is our only truly-safe refuge.
No human is more of a steady “rock” and fortress in our lives than God our Father.
Who will never leave me? For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6b). As global servants, friends come and go all the time.
Humans leave; God does not.
Who cherishes and tenderly cares for me? He will quiet you with his love (Zephaniah 3:17b). Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (Psalms 17:8). I have a restless mind (past hurts, future worries), and at times I do not have the strength to shut it down.
We mere humans cannot fully quiet our minds; only God who cherishes and tenderly cares for us can.
Who can give me the power to fight people-pleasing as I rest in him? I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). How do “fight” and “rest” go together? We all need to fight for time in God’s presence, and the result is rest in Him.
Humans cannot give me strength like my all-powerful God can!
Question: Why are we so bent on wearing ourselves out trying to please mere humans?
I hope these concepts are sweet images of our Father who is worthy of all our affection. May we all fight for precious time with Him.
*Gospel—Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear
** The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers
Scripture references NIV1984 [emphases added]
Question to consider: Why are we so bent on wearing ourselves out trying to please mere humans?
About the author
Elisabeth Marie is married with three children. She served in Africa from 1997-2010 and SE Asia from 2010-2016. She is passionate about encouraging cross-cultural workers in various ways. First term: adjusting, mom/wife and office manager at an international school. Second term: started/managed a retreat home for overseas workers and facilitated Bible studies. Third term: started a salon for women serving cross-culturally (1 1/2 years) then moved to SE Asia and had a salon, facilitated studies, did a couple of "office" projects, provided hospitality for global servants and wrote a couple of books on member care. She greatly respects cross-cultural workers and desires to serve them in multiple ways (as God leads).View all articles by: Elisabeth Marie
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