As a member of my local YM\YWCA for the past 20 years I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people. Considering myself to be an extravert, getting to know people and allowing them to get to know me has come easy. Being an outgoing person has also had its benefits in regards to evangelism and I’m proud to say that some of my best ministry memories have happened while lifting weights while at the Y.
Being well past the whole look as good and be as strong as I can stage in my life, the Y life has become more about socializing and investing back into the community than anything else. I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations over the years and one that took place recently hasn’t seemed to escape my mind. It has, on more than one occasion, left me wondering how others see or view me and even more than that, how I am portraying myself or my faith to those around me.
It was during another, not so intense training session, that a gentleman I had known for some time approached me to converse. Knowing that I was a Christian and active in the community, he had asked how things were going and what I had been up to lately. I shared with him victories seen in the youth ministry I was leading as well as the fundraising event I was co-directing this year to benefit several shelter’s here in the city, one of whom I currently serve as a member of the board. It was at that point the conversation shifted in a direction I did not expect; one that left me humbled while concerned at the same time.
In wearing my faith on my sleeve so to speak, I’ve had those times where those around me have heaped or wanted to heap praise on me and this was one of those times. The gentleman seemed eager to state that he always thought I was a great guy and that he wished there were more people like me in the city. I remember laughing to myself as he was saying it; thinking of a few friends who would immediately object to the thought of a few more fountains of useless knowledge roaming the streets. But as he spoke, there was something that wasn’t sitting right with me and I tried to object.
Like the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1 v 12 – 13, I knew who I was before I met Christ so like Paul I want to be sure Christ gets all the glory for who I am today. I tried to state during the conversation that I wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread and that, even with Christ, I still had my flaws and struggles which leave me in need of Christ every day. Not interested in that, he highlighted the conversation with an aura he said he could see around me. While my wife may have said it was just gas, I was praying it was the Holy Spirit and from there the conversation ended with a thank you.
Receiving praise is not something I have ever been comfortable with and for good reason. Like Gandalf, when implored to take the ring of power by Frodo, I have found myself wanting to scream “Don’t tempt me Frodo”. The temptation to believe one’s own hype, to enjoy your own smell so to speak is real and I can relate. A closer look at scripture reveals this to be one of the best and most often used tactics of Satan in bringing many a good person down.
Humanity has consistently found itself in trouble when becoming self-reliant or when ignoring or rejecting the creator. Everything from the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11 v 1 – 9) in the Old Testament to King Herod (Acts 12 v 20 – 23) of the New Testament exemplify this for me and prove what is said in Proverbs 1 v 7 and Proverbs 9 v 10, that of “fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom”, to be true. So, if there is a danger, if it is deadly to misunderstand or misappropriated praise; if the enemy is to use praise as a weapon, what is one to do? How is or should one respond? Thankfully scripture highlights some great examples for us to mediate on.
Acts 10, Acts 14, Revelation 19 and 22 all outline times where man and even angels were tempted to receive praise, honor and glory. In each instance the praise, honor or glory was rejected or better stated, reflected to the one most worthy of it; that being Jesus. I love Peter’s response to Cornelius’s bowing down before him in Acts 10. In the verse Peter states:
“Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
Not that I’ve ever had anyone bow before me, I do share Peter’s sentiments in that I, Sean Bosse, would be remembered like every other Christian; as one who worked out his salvation with fear and trembling; Philippians 2 v 12.
In closing I do feel the need to say God can be glorified in our giving and receiving of praise as piety and Godliness is not a matter of self-esteem but more about the boldness we have in Christ alone; we just have to be aware. As Gandalf said to Frodo in responding to why he did not want to take the ring he says that his desire would be for good but through him it would do evil. I understand this when reflecting on my own failures in the area of my pride. Paul states it best in Romans 12 v 3:
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you.”
I believe it is in this thought that we can finally and rightly prioritize God, our needs and the needs of others to the betterment of the world we live in. I pray for these eyes and these ears as I pray them for you fellow believer; or non-believer.
God Bless – Sean Bosse