“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:7).
I think that it is quite natural to want to receive praise from others for the work that we do. We are seeking an affirmation from others incessantly in some measure. Affirmation from our bosses, our spouses, our children, our peers, and countless others. I know that for myself, as a people-pleaser, this has been a huge problem for me and has caused me more trouble than I’ve previously realized. But I don’t think this problem applies to just “people-pleasers,” but to all of us.
It is curious to me that David, in Psalm 62 above, is not just saying that God is his “salvation” or just his “rock” and “refuge,” but that God is also his “glory.” What does glory mean? Depending on the context, the word “glory” means, in Hebrew, “weight” or even splendor and honor, etc. (see definitions and description here, here, and here). In a sense, when we think of glory, we think of soldiers after a victorious battle, riding through town with crowds along the sides of the streets and cheering in great jubilation, chanting the victory cry of the city, with confetti and decorations, of a sort, all around. We see soldiers pumping their fists as a sign of great triumph. When we think of glory we think of those that are worthy to be praised due to the great feats that they have accomplished. There is a problem, for ourselves, with this view of glory, though.
THE FRAILTY OF OUR OWN GLORY
The glory I’m seeking is not a glory I can ultimately produce or bear. The glory I’m seeking can only come from Another, from outside myself, namely, from God alone. The triumph, the praise I’m seeking (usually from others), cannot come from them or from myself. God ultimately triumphs for me and in my place. I will fail to triumph. I will fail to bring victory about. I will fail others and cause their mouths to cease singing my praises because I was not meant to bear or to receive such praises. The weight of the glory that others may give me is too “heavy” for me to bear. The fact that I fail shows others that their praises are misplaced and misdirected. When we are receiving such praises from people, we ultimately cannot handle it because we are not consistent enough to maintain the performance necessary to continue to receive those praises. In the end, such praise crushes us. Ironically, the very thing that we are longing for the most, the pats on the back, the cards and letters full of songs for us, the words of affirmation, the smiles of people, we cannot sustain because we are frail, weak, finite, and inconsistent sinners. In some ways what we find in seeking our own glory is a smuggling in of a works-based righteousness (Romans 3 and Ephesians 2:8-10) that’s attempting to earn salvation (and, thus, glory and praise!) through our spectacular deeds. The problem is that this house of cards cannot stand and will eventually collapse under the weight of it all. The parade will end. The clapping will cease. I will miss the final shot, or drop the ball on the last play of the game. My glory will cease and fade.
IT IS A KINDNESS WHEN GOD SAYS HE WILL NOT SHARE HIS GLORY WITH ANYONE
God is actually good and gracious to us when He says that He will give His glory to no one else (Isaiah 42:8) and that all glory is due to Him and Him alone. God is protecting us from the praise of others and from ourselves when He does this. Our failures are meant to show us, and others, that our salvation is founded upon Christ’s work alone on the cross. This is why, as one wise man said, we should close one ear to those that sing our praises, and open both ears to our critics. We must, as J.R. Briggs has pointed out in his book “Fail” (“Fail” book on Amazon) avoid the temptation to be “relevant, spectacular or powerful” because we will ultimately be shown to Not be relevant, spectacular, or powerful at some point, and we will let people down. We must show the people that God will never let them down. We must show the people that whatever good comes from us is from God. We must teach people to not sing our praises but to sing His praises instead. God alone is worthy of our praise. God alone is our refuge, our hope, our fortress, our strength, our shield, and our glory.
RECEIVING PRAISE CAUTIOUSLY
None of this is to say that we do not thank someone for doing a good job or that we utterly ignore someone who is trying to compliment us. Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” We are to encourage one another and to lift one another up. We must stir one another up to love and to good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25) so that sin and bitterness won’t set in. Receiving and giving encouragement is one reason we have a church family. We are there to lift up the bowing heads and raise up the drooping arms. We must encourage one another for the sake of the strength of the Body of Christ. However, as we receive praise from another, we must also remember that we are made of dust (Genesis 2:7) and that to dust we shall return (Several Scripture passages). Our glory is like the flower that’s here for a moment and then is plucked up and blown away (man’s fading glory like grass/flowers in Scripture). We must remember that there’s nothing we have that we did not receive (1 Corinthians 4:7). All that we have is a gift from God, and we should acknowledge that as such. If we don’t do this then ruin and destruction via a fall is soon to come (Proverbs 16:18).
SHIFTING THE WEIGHT OF GLORY
Just as we are not to find and place all of our satisfaction in a spouse or in a new job or in the latest gadget or a new boat or car or house (because none of those things were meant to bear the full weight of all of our satisfaction; only God is meant to bear that), so we are not meant to bear the weight of glory that others may give us for what we do. We must come to the place of humbly doubting our supporters in a healthy way and come to the place of eagerly believing our critics more than we do. Otherwise, we will become proud, obstinate, know-it-alls who won’t receive correction (Proverbs 15:10 in various translations) and will continue to hoard up praise that we cannot contain and will ultimately destroy us. May God help us to shift the weight of praise off of ourselves and onto Him where it justly belongs, since only He is strong enough to bear it, and since only He deserves it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the “Comment” section below!
- In what positive ways have you dealt with praise and criticism in the past?