Summary: If you devote your life to trying to please others you will find yourself enslaved to their opinions and approval.
If you’re not involved in our Student Ministry at Green Acres, you may not know that it’s called “The One-Ten Student Ministry.” Do you know why? It’s not because the Student Center is located on Highway 110. It’s because the theme of the ministry is found in Galatians 1:10, a verse we’re going to be examining today.
This is the third message from Paul’s letter to the churches in the region of Galatia because he was upset that false teachers had already infiltrated the young churches teaching a new gospel. It wasn’t the gospel of grace Paul had preached.
I once heard Vance Havner say he had been reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, and then he read Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Havner said, “Personally, I find Peale appalling and Paul appealing!” Well, in the case of this letter, it’s not a play on words to say Paul was simply appalled by what was happening in the churches. These false teachers were telling the Gentiles that they had to become Jews before they could become Christians, a message some of the Jews in Jerusalem endorsed.
When Paul wrote this letter he was still somewhat of a “newbie” in the Christian ministry. The real Jewish-Christian VIPs were in the church in Jerusalem. Now, when you’re on an upward career path like Paul, human wisdom says one should try to impress the VIPs, the “big boys.” You should go-along to get-along. But not Paul. Here’s what he had to say about changing his message to impress others.
Galatians 1:10-12. “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 want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”
A verse must be pretty powerful if a ministry chooses it as its name. And in this case it is a good choice. Most people spend their lives trying to please others, but Paul challenges us to the take the road less traveled and live our lives to please God. That’s a pretty important matter to settle in your own life. Are you living to please others, or to serve God? In this message I want to talk about the Perils of People-pleasing, then I’ll talk about the blessings we receive when we live to please God.
I. THE DISEASE TO PLEASE: SYMPTOMS OF APPROVAL ADDICTION
Everyone wants to be liked. When actress Sally Field won her second Oscar for her role in the 1984 movie Places in the Heart, she gave a memorable acceptance speech. She said, “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Many of us, like Sally Field, think we are good people only if other people think we are good people.
Wanting to be liked is a natural feeling. I want all of you to like me, and I like all of you—well, most of you. From the time we were children we craved a pat on the head, or a pat on the back. We lived to hear someone say, “Atta’ boy!” or “Atta’ girl!” We all have a natural appetite for people to like us and accept us. But an addiction is when a normal appetite is corrupted and it starts controlling you. For instance, we have a natural appetite for food, but some people crave food to the point that eating starts controlling them: They have an eating addiction. I didn’t know this before this week, but “Approval Addiction” (along with its first cousin Co-dependency) is a recognized as a real issue in the mental health field.
Dr. Annette Colby writes: “An addiction is something that controls people—it is something they feel they cannot live without, or something they feel driven to do in order to relieve pressure, pain, or discomfort of some kind. Someone addicted to drugs, for instance, will do whatever he needs to in order to get another ‘fix’ when he begins to feel uncomfortable. Approval addiction is much the same, but instead of running to drugs to heal the hurt, those who suffer from it seek people’s approval. When they feel unsure and shaky about themselves, they look for a ‘fix’—they seek out someone to comfort them and reassure them everything is all right and they are acceptable. Being overly dependent on approval from others, and fearing their disapproval, comes from the belief that others are responsible for our worth.”