Proverbs 27:21 NIV
Flattery is something a person will say to our face but will not say behind our back. It’s insincere praise from an insincere motive. And the Bible warns us to beware of it: ‘A flattering neighbour is up to no good; he’s probably planning to take advantage of you’ (Proverbs 29:5 MSG). Solomon says that in the long run we’re better off with a person who will criticise us than a person who will flatter us. ‘He who rebukes a man will find more favour afterward than he who flatters with the tongue’ (Proverbs 28:23 NKJV). When it comes to flattery we should always keep these two things in mind: 1) Give praise sparingly but sincerely. When we praise others we should genuinely mean it, not just say it because we think it’s what they want to hear, or to make ourselves look good. 2) Receive praise wisely, without taking ourselves or the person giving the praise too seriously. When we receive praise from others we run the risk of thinking too highly of ourselves, and if we become used to the praise of others and then it’s taken away we can end up thinking too little of ourselves. Praise from others shouldn’t be a foundation for our identity, and it shouldn’t influence how we feel about ourselves or how we act. It’s God’s approval and acceptance, which we already have, that should influence us. Solomon writes: ‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.’ How we respond to praise, and how we choose to praise others, says a lot about our character. Let’s be people who give and take praise wisely.
Acts 3:11-5:42; Mark 3:13-19; Ps 127; Prov 10:19-21
Genesis 6:8 NIVUK
What does it mean to have God’s favour? The Hebrew word translated as favour is chen, which can also mean ‘grace’ or ‘acceptance’. The first time the word ‘favour’ appears in the Bible is Genesis 6:8, telling us that ‘Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD’ (NIVUK). God had decided to destroy the inhabitants of earth because they’d become so corrupted and evil. The only ones spared were Noah and his family, because Noah had God’s favour. He was ‘a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God’ (v. 9 NLT). He hadn’t allowed the world to influence and corrupt him, and instead stayed true to God, so God saved him and used him to re-establish the human race. One of the things that set Noah apart was his obedience to God. And our best example of obedience is Jesus, who ‘grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man’ (Luke 2:52 NIVUK). So how can we also find and grow in favour? It all starts when we surrender our lives to Christ and accept God’s grace and love, and continues as we show our obedience to God through the way we live. And as we do that, we’ll notice God blessing us in all kinds of ways. He wants to favour every aspect of our lives and help us in every possible way. But first, we’ve got to position ourselves to receive that favour by being obedient. If God knows He’ll get the glory for what He’s doing in our lives, He’ll bless us beyond our ability and beyond our resources.
Est 1-4; John 19:18-42; Ps 105:23-36; Ecc 7:5-8
1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV
There’s a world of difference between performing for people’s approval, and being free to minister to their needs because you know you already have God’s approval. Striving for approval is like any other drug; you can never get enough of it. And like all junkies, you go crazy when it’s withheld. It places you at the mercy of other people’s opinions, and as a result you live on an emotional roller coaster. That’s not how God wants you to live! Paul was free to speak the truth in love: to confront people or to be gentle with them. When someone told Paul they didn’t like him, he didn’t lose sleep over it because his security and self-worth weren’t built on their acceptance. “We speak as men approved by God” (v. 4 NIV). Paul didn’t go around comparing himself with others, demonstrating his superiority by trying to be top dog or the one who’s always in charge. Knowing he already had God’s approval set him free from such anxiety and meant he could enjoy the life God called him to. When we’re immature, we worry about what others think of us. But as we become more mature, we realize that most of the time they aren’t thinking about us at all. They’re too busy thinking about themselves – or worrying about what we think of them! Knowing you have God’s approval gives you the strength to deal with criticism and conflict because you’re secure in your identity. And your identity is this: You’re redeemed, called, and approved by God.
Soul food: Zech 1-4; Mark 14:1-11; Ps 39; Prov 24:26-28
1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV
We can often fall into the trap of people-pleasing. We find ourselves performing, or acting a certain way, in order to gain people’s approval. We become tied down by shoulds and oughts, thinking ‘I should do this’ and ‘I ought to do that’. When what we really need to be doing is meeting other people’s needs knowing that we already have God’s approval. When we’re trapped in the people-pleasing cycle we end up being controlled by the opinions of others and it can feel like we’re constantly living on an emotional rollercoaster. And that’s not how God wants us to live. Paul was free to speak the truth in love: to confront people or to be gentle with them. When someone told Paul they didn’t like him, he didn’t worry about it because his security and self-worth weren’t built on their acceptance. ‘We speak as those approved by God’ (v. 4 NIV). Paul didn’t go around comparing himself with others, demonstrating his superiority by trying to be the best or the one who’s always in charge. Knowing he already had God’s approval set him free from worrying about those things and meant he could enjoy the life God had in mind for him. When we forget that we already have God’s approval, and that our identity is in Him, we stress ourselves out trying to be everything to everyone. The truth is, living for God won’t always make us the most popular and people won’t necessarily understand us or our decisions. Paul wrote: ‘If my goal was popularity, I wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave’ (Galatians 1:10 MSG). But knowing we have God’s approval gives us the strength to deal with criticism and conflict because we’re secure in our identity.
Zech 1-4; Mark 14:1-11; Ps 39; Prov 24:26-28
1 Peter 1:19 NLT
The Bible says, “The ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ” (vv. 18-19 NLT). You must come to a place in your life where you are secure in who you are “in Christ”; where you don’t allow your sense of worth to be based on the opinions or actions of others. Stop trying to find your worth in how you look, or in what you do for a living, or in how people treat you. Your worth in God’s eyes is incalculable because Jesus shed His blood for you. “Precious blood, precious you!” Yes, you have faults. Yes, there are things about you that need to be changed, but God is working on you just as He is on everybody else. Don’t let somebody else dump their issues on you. You’re a blood-bought child of God! Don’t allow them to make you feel worthless or useless because they don’t know how to treat you right, or love you as you deserve to be loved. Don’t spend your life trying to win their acceptance or approval. You’ve already been accepted and approved by God, so make sure your validation and sense of worth come from Him. You’re redeemed by Christ’s blood, covered by Christ’s blood, and accepted through Christ’s blood. And since His blood is “precious,” that makes you precious too! Satan, who’s called “the accuser,” would like you to forget that and see yourself only in the light of your flaws and failures. Instead, get up every morning, look in the mirror, and announce, “I am precious, because I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus!”
Soul food: Ezek 27:25-30:26; Mat 16:13-28; Ps 80:1-11; Prov 15:11-14