Proverbs 27:21: Will Praise Destroy You?

A challenging task for one’s character is receiving praise. Some will deflect it because they have such low self-esteem and discount what is said. On the other extreme, some let it inflate their pride. Do we chase it? How do we handle it?

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.” Proverbs 27:21 (ESV)

“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, And a man is valued by what others say of him.” Proverbs 27:21 (NKJV)

The two translations of this passage provide insight about the virtue and danger of praise. Other proverbs encourage humility and discourage boasting about oneself. As promoters, we are biased when marketing ourselves even cushioning acknowledgement of our flaws with reasons, excuses, and reminders of our virtue. The wisdom of the collection of proverbs on humility, pride, and praise encourage us to not seek praise and, if it is to be voiced, let it come from another.

The introductory couplet compares man’s praise to the refining process for silver and gold. This is  a common theme used for faith in 1 Peter 1, the word of God in Psalm 12, and numerous other places. The intensity of heat melts gold and sliver releasing impurities to be removed. Likewise, through the heat of moral and physical challenges, a person’s character is either strengthened or weaknesses exposed. A “trial by fire” purifies the one who allows for improvement and sheds what is weak and wicked.

Praise for enduring tests

As the NKJV observes,  a man who receives genuine praise, not flattery, from others is one who has distinguished himself by his character, character developed through trial. Most men and women who are considered praiseworthy have overcome obstacles, endured trials, demonstrated self-discipline, and have distinguished themselves through achievement and excellence. One does not have to accomplish something great, as the world counts greatness. A person may be praised as a good parent, coach, or friend for what they have accomplished despite the challenges of life.

The test of enduring praise

The ESV and NIV provide another view of this passage. How a person reacts to receiving praise is also a test. A common quote in the business world is

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”*

An equally challenging task for one’s character is receiving praise. Some will deflect it because they have such low self-esteem and discount what is said. On the other extreme, some let it inflate their pride. It is best to accept praise graciously, thanking the person for their kind words, and move on with life.

A person can become so addicted to praise that they start to make decisions and act in a way that encourages praise. They need it like air and food. They wrestle with self-doubt and insecurity when they do not receive it and can’t enjoy when they do receive it because its pleasure is fleeting. The futility of chasing followers, likes, and views on social media arises from this warped sense of one’s worth by the clicks of strangers and friends. Some will neglect those who do care and are with them physically by staring into their phone, skipping across social media sites, feeding the need to feel significant. I encourage you to read my article, Could You Live Without Internet Celebrity for more insight into this danger we face.

One of my internal reminders is that I’m not as bad as my critics say nor am I as good as my fans say (I don’t know where I borrowed this from, perhaps Abraham Lincoln or Einstein). I enjoy praise as much as anyone but I do not let that define me nor is it the way I evaluate myself. As a Christian, my value lies in the relationship with God, not how men judge me. I must be careful, as I have written in this article, not to do my Christian service for the praise and honor of others. Some compromise their principles so they will not receive criticism. Others let praise for their godliness rest on them instead of directing the glory to God. Let us have the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:8, who said “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (ESV).

Can you handle the praise?

*Note: Most sources attribute this quote to Abraham Lincoln. I have not had a chance to verify this and am skeptical of attributing it since it appears most of the Internet quotes are attributed to Einstein or Abraham Lincoln.

Video – Lessons from the Song “Just As I Am, I Come Broken”

This was a lesson I presented at the 2016 Florida College Alabama camp reflecting on the theme song from camp: “Just As I Am, I Come Broken.” This is a beautiful adaptation of an old hymn that expresses the response of someone coming just as they are to God for healing and transformation.

This was a lesson I presented at the 2016 Florida College Alabama camp reflecting on the theme song from camp: “Just As I Am, I Come Broken.” This is a beautiful adaptation of an old hymn that expresses the response of someone coming just as they are to God for healing and transformation.

Own Your Life and Give Up Your Excuses

Kyle Maynard’s Story

Kyle Maynard wrestled in high school and in college for the Georgia Bulldogs. He set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and ascended to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. These would be amazing feats for anyone to achieve but they are more amazing when you consider Kyle Maynard’s physical condition: he was born with a condition known as congenital amputation. Most of his arms and legs were not there at birth.

According to his biography, his parents told him that the world would not be designed to meet his needs so he would have to find ways to adapt to how the world works. “With basically two elbows he can type up to fifty words per minute on a normal keyboard, eat and write without any adaptations, drive a vehicle that has little modification, and live on his own in a three-story townhouse in Atlanta, GA.” He can feed himself, shave, and otherwise take care of himself.kylemaynard

He had many challenges: he lost every wrestling match for most of the two years he competed but with an iron will and parents who supported him he won 36 varsity matches, defeated several state champions, and bench pressed 240 pounds 23 times and, with leather straps and chains, lifted 420 lbs. “In April of 2009, Kyle became the first quadruple amputee to step into the cage and compete as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter. Kyle’s focus is on grappling and ground fighting — he’s currently in his 7th year studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and now training with Renzo Gracie black belt Paul Creighton.”

The reason that Kyle had such success is that he took responsibility for his life instead of giving up because of his physical condition.

Taking responsibility means giving up your excuses

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told the Parable of the Talents. The master was going away and entrusted his servants with various sums of money and expected them to use that money to make more money for him. The master had different expectations for each man but expected all to prosper. He rewarded or punished the men based on how they used the talents. When the master returned, two of the servants had some success but one failed prosper. He thought he was playing it safe but the master was angry and punished him for being a wicked and useless servant.

This is a parable of judgment. The issue is not taking care of money but using what God has given us to His glory. God will judge us on how we use or waste our lives and the blessings He has given. Two men made a choice; one made an excuse.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God, Romans 14:12

What is “responsibility”?

There are many definitions available. For our purposes, one could define responsibility as:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control overs someone or something
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something
  3. The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization

Responsibility means trust is placed in an individual with expectation that they will fulfill their obligations without being told or threatened, accepting the good and bad consequences of their actions, and running to responsibilities instead of hiding from them.

Accepting responsibility is the essence of being mature

God has given us free will – the right to choose our course of life. We are not robots who follow a predetermined program. He does not force us to do His will or refrain from sin. Like the servants in the parable of the talents, we are given great freedom in what we choose to do with what God has given us. We are stewards of the life God has given us and He will hold us accountable for our actions or failure to act. God has given us control over how we live our lives.

I remember when I got the keys to my first car. The keys meant I had the freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted. I didn’t have to depend on anyone for a ride and I could go on dates. I was also responsible for paying for gas to fuel my freedom. I had to wash and clean it if I wanted it to look nice: no one did it for me. I was also accountable for the safety of myself and my passengers. One night I almost killed myself and two girls by being stupid behind the wheel. When I was given the keys to the car I was given freedom, responsibility, and accountability.

God has given us the keys to our life and with them freedom, responsibility, and accountability for how we use our lives. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 -17 that God’s word fully equips us for EVERY good work so we can’t blame God for not telling us what to do.

One of the most sobering passages of scripture is Romans 14:12: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We will have to answer to God for how we lived our life: the choices we made and the things that we failed to do. 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Our parents don’t answer for us. The preacher or elders don’t answer for us. We cannot blame or credit anyone else for how we have lived. We receive reward or punishment based on what we have done.

Some people fail to accept responsibility for their lives. Some churches filled with people who are spiritually weak and biblically ignorant having given no serious effort to their spiritual growth. Churches need spiritually strong Christians grounded in God’s word to live faithful holy lives and to serve God and others. In some churches a few are willing to step up and work and learn new responsibilities but they are surrounded by irresponsible people who are willing to let others work and do not challenge themselves to godly service.

Some people won’t grow up. Most kids know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, only wanted to play, and escaped from the real world to keep up his immature life. Far from being discouraged in our society, our emphasis on professional play, entertainment, and sexual promiscuity encourage a long period of irresponsibility. Some boys and girls do not want to leave play time to transition into the society of responsible men and women. I shocked a person who wondered why video games are intense and had language and other mature characteristics when I told her that video games weren’t made for kids, the biggest users are young adult men. I’m not condemning the playing of games because alcohol, laziness, non-electronic hobbies, etc. can limit a young person’s growth or lead people to perpetual adolescence. Though talking about spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 13:11 tells us there is a time to put away the childish things and accept responsibility.

Instead of seeking responsibility, some are passively avoiding it. They let others do the work. They wait for others to direct them to work. We have a lot of boys running around in men’s bodies who will not do hard work, want others to do things for them instead of serving others, seek entertainment and comfort instead of embracing the mature satisfaction of rising to the challenges of life. Proverbs 10:5 reminds us “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”

Help others with their burden

Opportunity plus ability equals responsibilityThe Christian must rise to action to serve God, not hide or wait for others to work, but must seek opportunities to serve and rise to the task. John, in 1 John 3:16, describes a brother in need who requires an open heart and active hands to help him. Faced with this situation, the Christian should act if they can help. No one has to tell you to act: the situation calls you to action. When we encounter an opportunity to help, and we can help, then are responsible to act.

Be honest about your ability. You may not have the cash but can you use your time and energy to help the situation? Maybe the need isn’t financial, perhaps someone needs a friend, sympathetic ear, or word of encouragement.

Bear your own burden

We can help other people carry their burdens but everyone is responsible to carry their own burdens, Galatians 6:1-5. Some people will let you carry all of their burdens: do their work, make lots of demands on your time, etc. They might try to make you feel guilty for not doing more but remember they are responsible for their own lives.

Many years ago I spent several hours at the house of a husband and wife with marital problems AND problems raising their kids. I gave them some practical things to do to help in both situations. A couple of weeks later they called during the middle of some family time saying, “You need to come over here. We’re having problems.” I asked if they had followed the advice I gave earlier. They said “no.” I told them to discuss these things because I wasn’t going to come over repeat the advice they ignored. I didn’t feel guilty because they had ignored my help before. I would have sacrificed precious time with my family because these people were making poor decisions in their family and until they made different choices they would continue to have the bad consequences.

Conclusion

We have so many opportunities to let God’s light shine through us but we have to look for opportunities and act without being asked. Living this life will enrich your life and the lives of others and glorify your God.

What Price Will You Pay for A Good Time?

I met someone a few weeks ago that reminded me that when people choose to live time in sin, they not only waste that time of relationship with God and fellow Christians and good influence, He struggled with drug use and other immoral behaviors and was far behind his peers in career and life advancement because he is having to break from a terrible addiction. The consequences of his decisions are more than a damaged body. His dignity, self-respect, economic status, freedom, and relationships have been damaged. He is struggling to hold onto faith and rebuild his life.

A young man walks into the desolate desertSome are not addicted to drugs but become ensnared by immoral behavior. They start going to places they once avoided. They quit feeding on God’s word (if they ever ate deeply), occasionally snacking on devotional passages or positive verses while ignoring the call to holiness and righteousness demanded by the savior, and quit associating with Christian friends that will hold them accountable. Eventually they are drawn deeper into immorality, doing things they never thought they would do, and learning the emptiness of sin’s illusions.

IF they return to God (not guaranteed) they waste even more time trying to disengage from immoral behaviors and habits, emotionally wrestle with past sinful behavior, struggle to rebuild a relationship with God and those they have alienated, and rebuild their dignity and reputation. Sin leaves scars and the person will not be the same again. They can repent and strive to live a holy life and even accomplish some great things for God. Yet I have met some of the most active and enthusiastic Christians who mourn the decisions of an immoral past even though they know they are forgiven. There is an emotional price to sexual immorality and a relationship impact on future relationships. There is shame for actions taken and things said while intoxicated (Proverbs 23:29-35). More than this, there is the spiritual weakness while separated from God and His people and the loss of spiritual growth as one abandons serious personal Bible study, engaging in worship, and spiritual discussions with godly people. That time will never be recovered and the spiritual neglect will lead to a diseased soul.

It was sad seeing a guy who lost years to sin and more years to recovery because he wanted to enjoy the sinful life. It’s even sadder thinking of people I know who died during the time they wandered from God because they were with people doing ungodly things or never had time to return to God. I think also of some who became so involved in sin that they could not find their way back. Others felt they had done too much or really wanted to have that relationship with God they once had but felt but weren’t motivated enough to change. Sadly, their life is not better for having left the Lord. Jesus paid the ultimate cost to purchase their salvation but they crucified Him again to take the old life of sin from the cross and let it live again in them, Hebrews 6:4-8.

It reminds me of a friend’s wise, oft quoted, admonition: “Sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost more than you wanted to pay.”

Though it is talking about adultery, read Proverbs 5:7-14 in the context of being seduced by sin, replacing the seductive message of the woman with the deceptive appeal of Satan, and ponder the price of a life alienated from God:

And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.” (ESV)

Blocking God’s Light

Reflecting God’s Light

Jesus called His followers to be “lights in the world,” Matthew 5:14, but we do not generate light; we reflect it. Jesus is the light of the world who gives light to all men, John 1:1-9. God’s word enlightens us, Ephesians 1:17-19 and gives us light, 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. The Bible describes our conversion as enlightenment, Hebrews 10:32.

Christians are being transformed into the glory of Jesus, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18. We shine as lights because we reflect the glory of Jesus as we are transformed and His life is manifested in ours, 2 Corinthians 4:11. We see this in the life of the apostles who were bold because they had been with Jesus and reflect His character, Acts 4:13.

 

We reflect the light of Jesus both from being illuminated within and being in God’s presence. The closer we get to the light, the more brightly we will reflect the light. The farther we get from Jesus, the less we reflect His glory. Our light shines to illuminate others (Matthew 5:16; 1 John 1:5-7; 1 Peter 2:11-12) Christians must walk as children of light, Ephesians 5:6-20. Christians must love as children of light, 1 John 2:8-11. Even our enemies should be hushed by lives reflecting God’s glory, Titus 2:7-8.

God’s Light in a Dark World

As the light of God’s word shines brightly into the world, it should be reflected brightly in the Christians as they are scattered in the dark world. The light of God’s word is ever shining in the world but the light of a Christian’s life must be shining as well. Some may not initially read God’s word but may listen to it being spoken by one who is living it.

We live in a world filled with lost souls who need the gospel message. We have God’s word that can illuminate their hearts and kindle a flame within just as it did with us. We have many tools that can be used to communicate the word – numerous evangelism books and suggested approaches that can help us communicate the message. The best evangelism program is a Christian who has a passion for leading lost souls to Jesus.

Blocking God’s Light to the World

The light of the physical world demonstrates how we reflect the light of God onto the world: God is the sun, the source of light. We are the moon, reflecting God’s light onto the world. Our light is not a bright, and is reflected, but it is effective for its purpose.

In a solar eclipse the moon, though infinitesimally small compared to the sun, is positioned directly between the earth and the sun blocking the sun’s rays so that midday is darkened. The sun still shines bright but its light is blocked while the moon is in the way.

Solar & Lunar Eclipses. Vector.Christians can bring attention to themselves instead of directing the glory to God. Remember in Matthew 5 Jesus said the world should see our good works and glorify God. Some want attention for worldly things: look at me because I am beautiful, rich, funny, talented, muscular, successful, etc. They want people to focus on them for what they have or their physical appearance (sensual pictures and self-promotion on social media encourage this). They want people to focus on them, not Christ in them.

Even though we are small, we can come between the world and God,and block the glory of God from being seen in those whom we could illuminate with His truth. Instead of reflecting God’s glory onto the world, we are in the way and bringing darkness instead.

In a lunar eclipse the earth blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the moon. Although the Earth is smaller than the sun it can completely darken the moon when it moves between the moon and the sun.

When we let the world get between us and God, our light diminishes and can go out. We can be so obsessed with things of this world: money, entertainment, sports, pleasure, work, etc. that we have little time to be enlightened by God’s word or shine that light for others. Jesus warned, in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:19) that the cares of the world, deceitfulness of riches, and other things choke out the word. Great heroes of faith. like Moses, forsook the earthly pleasures and treasures for eternal rewards, Hebrews 11:24-26. Sometimes we will not give up habits, attitudes, or thoughts that are ungodly and diminish the light that does shine from our lives. Pure lives reflect the most light.

As I noted before, we reflect the light of Jesus both from being illuminated within and being in God’s presence. The closer we get to the light, the more brightly we will reflect the light. The farther we get from Jesus, the less we reflect His glory.

  • Are you continually feeding the light within by studying God’s word and letting it transform you?
  • Are you removing things in your life, habits, attitudes, and thoughts that inhibit the light from shining?
  • Are you embarrassed about your faith? Hiding your faith under a bushel instead of giving light to others?

Let’s remove anything from our lives that inhibits the full glory of God from being reflected onto the dark world and let God illuminate us on the inside and before others. If you are not a Christian, why not let God illuminate your life and transform it into glory through Jesus?