Summary: In order to free ourselves from obsessive attraction to approval and praise we must press the escape key: Embrace Grace Seek only the praise of God and Change our Story - let God re-write our personal narrative

We read Galatians chapter 1 together.

Today we’re going to focus on just one verse from Galatians 1.

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

This is the first in a series of messages based on Galatians:

Freedom from Addiction

Addiction 1, The Problem:

Addiction to Approval and Status the Praise of People

Let’s read that verse again:

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I suppose everyone suffers from this problem. It’s common to humanity-the desire to be liked and praised, even, if possible, to be adored by people.

I certainly suffer from this ailment. I’d rather be liked than disliked. And there are times I haven’t been happy with being disliked by people, especially when I felt I had done everything right and nothing wrong-that I didn’t deserve this dislike or unkindness . . . but it’s the nature of life on this planet that if you do anything worth-while some people will rejoice with you and some will find reasons to not like you.

The great 6th Century preacher John Chrysostom agreed

“I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.”

“The trouble with most of us is that we'd rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” Norman Vincent Peale

And the problem isn’t just our nature-there is a problem in our training.

This isn’t so much an issue where I grew up-in the US, an entire nation has elevated “not caring what other people think” to a cardinal virtue. I was raised in the land of the rugged individualist, who shows his value most when everyone is against him and he does what he thinks is best anyway.

But rugged individualism is not preached as a virtue in India. Instead children have drummed into them from early on that they need to please their parents, their aunts and uncles, their teachers, and anyone else who happens to have authority over them, or who can grant them favours and blessings. In India “pleasing others” is often elevated to the level of a cardinal virtue.

The rugged individualist who ignores everyone else to march to the beat of his own drum may march right over those God calls him to love.

Yet he who constantly seeks to please others will meet an equally abhorrent doom-he will fail to please God.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about seeking favorable words from others-mostly warnings:

Proverb 7:21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk (flattering lips). 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

If you’re looking for flattering words, beware-the seducer awaits you on the corner.

Proverb 26:28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

And if you speak boastful words to impress others, you have to be careful as well.

When I was younger, you couldn’t talk with me more than five minutes before I had given you a list of some of my supposed accomplishments-not that I had really accomplished anything, but I wanted to talk about the things I figured you might be impressed by.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:1-2

Yet the praise that another may give should not give you too much of a boost:

Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet. Proverbs 29: 5

So, seeking praise and approval of others is a trap, a snare, a pit to be avoided. Yet at this point of the message you may still have a question gnawing away at the back of your mind, “Why has he called this series ‘Freedom from Addiction’? What does addiction have do with pleasing people or seeking their approval?”

If that question is in your mind, I’m glad you asked it.

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