Little else makes me more uncomfortable than when a well-meaning friend heaps praise on my husband or me for our work in ministry. It is uncomfortable because a huge part of me not only loves the praise but longs for it all the while knowing it is not mine to have or desire.
This longing is a manifestation of pride. John Piper says, “There are two kinds of pride. There is the pride of the strong that praises itself, praises himself. And there is the pride of the weak that craves other people to praise me.”
Jesus addresses this pride-driven appetite for human applause in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
All Glory Belongs to the Lord and He is Jealous For It.
The only boasting that belongs in ministry is the boasting Paul references when he quotes an Old Testament prophet (Jeremiah 9:23-24) in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” We know this, yet ministry tempts us to steal God’s glory.
I rob God of his glory every time I accept praise on behalf of my husband’s well-delivered message and when I receive praise like it is owed to me. Scripture speaks to this folly.
Whatever your ministry, you are to do it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). You are to serve those around you by the strength of the Lord so that God might be glorified (l Peter 4:11). Ministry is not for my glory or to gain admiration but for God’s fame and glory.
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”
How Should We Respond to Praise?
How Do We Encourage like 1 Thessalonians 5:11?
Below are a few well-meaning comments I’ve awkwardly received in the past alongside more appropriate God-glorifying statements. After stumbling to respond to these remarks far too many times, I’ve learned to prepare a few basic replies to the most common statements.
Instead of, “Your husband’s message was powerful / He’s my favourite preacher.” Say, “I’m thankful that God is really growing my faith through this preaching series.”
Reply: Praise God! I love how God teaches us through our brothers and sisters.
Instead of, “Your book touched my heart / I love your writing/speaking.” Say, “I appreciate the way your writing/speaking focuses me on Christ. God has used this to speak to my heart.”
Reply: Praise the Lord! It was my prayer that God would take this offering and use it for his glory. God is good.
Before you craft your own response to praise, pause and search your heart. God is more interested in what drives the heart than a correct outward response to the spotlight (Matthew 23:27). Are you driven by an all-consuming desire to bring glory to the Lord? Is your ministry really about the fame of the Lord and not you? If not, it is time to repent.
Finally, Matthew 5:16 encourages us to let our light shine so others will see our good work and give glory to God.
Did you catch that? Your light shines to bring glory to God.
Not to you. Not to your husband. Not to me.
Lord, may it be so.