So, who likes praise?
Let's be honest, we all like to hear "job well done" don’t we? Especially if we tend to put full effort into everything we do. What happens then when we give it all we have, when we give it our best, and we don’t get the recognition we think we should? When our business, ministry, event or idea doesn't get the feedback or results we had hoped for, we can easily be left frustrated and discouraged.
On the other hand, maybe you do get praise, maybe you are told all the time you are doing great or that you are terrific - which let’s be honest is likely true - but you don’t hear it or allow yourself to believe it. Maybe you wake up each morning or go to bed each night and instead of hearing the affirmations you find yourself asking “What am I even doing? Who am I, to do any of this? I don’t have what it takes. How can I lead others when I don't even believe I can?”
Sometimes the ‘signs following’ we are waiting for, are not from God but from the people and the world around us. Understand though, trouble comes when we measure our success or whether we have done enough, by the attention, the recognition, the results, the praise or I could add the comments, the likes and the shares, we receive. More often than not, disappointment and frustration come when our motivation to keep going is sought from the world.
Colossians 3:23 says - “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
We work, we minister, we build our lives - for One. One voice. One mission. One reason - JESUS. He is our Audience of One.
This is not to say that we can’t lift one another up and celebrate all the amazing gifts and talents God has given each of us. Actually, I think this verse can be seen as a reminder to us as leaders, parents, friends and employers to create a positive, encouraging space that nurtures growth and confidence so that those around us can more freely “work with all their heart for the Lord”.
We are all blessed by encouragement, so go out wherever you are and be generous with praise, celebrating kingdom excellence all around you. Then when the compliment comes your way, receive it (yes, I know this is hard sometimes). Say thank you, stand confidently and receive it as affirmation of what God has placed in you, of what God has done. Finally, don't feel like you have to apologize or minimize what God is doing in your life to make anyone else in the room feel more comfortable. As the scripture above says - work at whatever you do with ALL you heart and for the Lord - and shouldn’t the Lord get our best, our everything, without us holding back?
So compliment, encourage and praise what God is doing in those around you, and receive what comes your way, but don’t let that worldly affirmation or compliment define your worth. Remember, when the event is over, the work is done, the message is preached...when the hugs and smiles and adrenaline are gone…it is God and God alone who sustains us in all we do.
In those challenging times, when the world is silent and my efforts feel like they are empty or flat, when I wonder if anything I am doing even matters. I quietly ask myself “What if this is just the 4th day?” and I am usually motivated to keep going. What I mean by "the 4th day" is in reference to the story of Joshua and the bringing down of the walls of Jericho. A story you can read in Joshua 6 where after what was likely exhausting obedience mighty “signs followed”. The massive city walls did come crashing down, but in order to experience that, Joshua and his men had to wait until day 7 and I have to wonder what it felt like on the 4th day. A day when very likely they were tired and though scripture doesn't mention much about the experience walking, I wonder if there was any doubt if all that effort would accomplish anything in the end. They were walking by faith, in obedience around the enormous city of Jericho trusting that God would show up in the end. Imagine if they had just quit on the 4th day? If we are working unto the Lord we must persevere regardless of the discouragement we may feel, trusting God that signs will follow.
Remember our goal is not to hear the world's praise but to one day stand before the God who lovingly created us and hear Him say ‘well done good and faithful servant.’ Matthew 25:23
So let me ask you to consider: What do you need to persevere through in order to hear and see God as your audience of One?
Is it a lie you believe about your value or your capacity, that you need to let go?
Is it unrealistic expectations?
Is it control?
Is it fear?
Then consider: What or who is defining your excellence?
The voice of a friend or family member?
Affirmation from an employer or client?
Finally, remember working unto the Lord sometimes is a long hard road. It can feel like we have been walking in faith for ages and there will be moments that we will want to give up on the dreams or vision that we believe God seeded in our hearts. We can get tired and we can start to give less and less of ourselves. But today, I want to encourage you - on the hardest days (on your “4th Day”) to persevere in faith and obedience.
Give your best to God - and keep going, trusting that the 7th Day is coming and the walls will come tumbling down…signs will follow! Until then, allow God alone to define what is excellent and praiseworthy in all that you do and work unto the Lord remembering He deserves our everything - after all, He already gave us His.
Written by Rebecca Doner