Links Daily Devotional

The Praise We Want

“How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, NIV)

No kidding, it is always nice, when you have visualized a difficult shot then pulled it off just as you imagined, to hear those confirming words from your playing partners, “Nice shot!”

We all know that we’ll sometimes draw that same praise when the result looks good, even when we didn’t hit it the way we intended. Then the praise may ring hollow in our own mind, but the words can still be nice to hear. In fact, they can be intoxicating.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time had grown to love the praise that came from one another.

You know how this works. A bunch of cohorts come up with their own criteria for greatness—often a list of things they are already comfortably doing. Then they pat each other on the back for achieving what others are not. If they are particularly strategic, they also manage to convince a few bigwigs (say a Caesar-appeasing tetrarch or a high priest) to join their congratulatory system. All the “little people” know exactly what’s going on, but they’re too powerless to speak up.

Into this very scenario walked Jesus of Nazareth, an outlier among rabbis, hailing from the backwater and consorting with prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus possessed no interest in the praise of the ruling party. He lived for the affirmation of only one: the Father in heaven.

When Jesus spoke to these leaders about where his authority came from, he always pointed to the Father. At the same time, he insisted that they had no such connection, though they desperately clung to their Abrahamic genealogical lineage and their Mosiac religious descendancy. In John 6, Jesus told them that all this in-house glorying kept them from the one thing they most needed: a saving faith in the Messiah who stood before them.

Notably, those “little people” had no such hesitation. They believed John the Baptist’s heralding of the one who would come, and they believed Jesus now that he stood and taught among them. Jesus did not seek the praise of the people (John 7:41), but in living for the Father he gained their adoration too.

Here is the lesson for us, who otherwise get it backward. Live first for the affections of Christ and you’ll gain the appreciation of earnest people; but live first for the praise of men and women and that’s the only praise you’ll gain (Matthew 6:2).

Jeff Hopper
March 20, 2014
Copyright 2014 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.