An inclination that lies deeply in human beings is that we want to have “credit” for the things we say and do. At the fall, sin entered human nature, and thus even our best deeds, if they are not worked by God, became contaminated by sin. The fact of the matter is that we cannot do anything of ourselves which is truly worthy of receiving any honor.
A big enemy has been, and still is, to be acknowledged by people around me. Because it binds me and controls me so I’m not free to do the good that God works in me, and which I want to do.
If I have done something good which is worked by God, like being obedient to a scripture verse that has become clear to me, then the honor is God’s, and not mine.
Although this understanding lies there as a good foundation in my life, it definitely does not mean that I will never be tempted to seek honor. Because I am tempted – if I’m not aware of my nature, my thoughts are occupied with how I appear in the eyes of others. It is in my mind that temptation arises, and that is where it must be combated.
How can temptation be combated?
An important part of the full armor of God is mentioned in Ephesians 6:17: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. For my part, it has proved to be the most effective weapon against temptations, and thus also against thoughts of receiving honor from people. The good thing about the Word of God – or scripture verses – is that they can be used again and again. The sword is not for single use. And it works every time.
There are some scriptures that I have used when the thought of honor has arisen. The first is in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” It’s a great weapon! Often I just say to myself, “What do you have that you haven’t been given?” The answer is: Nothing. Everything is by God’s grace, and all the honor belongs to Him. If I look for credit anyway, I steal something that does not belong to me. If I give God the glory, everything falls into its rightful place and I get a wonderful freedom from the heavy burden of standing before the face of man with the things that I do.
Another scripture that I have used as a weapon is in Romans 3:27: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” As well as Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” And that’s what I want, after all. Being a servant of Christ who can do good and bless those I meet in my way.
My focus must be to seek God’s glory, let Him guide me, and to find His will with my life. And in any case, the focus must not be to let myself be controlled by other people’s opinions and honor.
What does God say?
People’s opinions are changeable; sometimes they praise you right up to the clouds, other times you can be criticized. It’s not that which is important – but rather what God says about my life and my motives.
I am still tempted from time to time to seek honor from people, for example, thinking that I did something really well, or getting puffed up when I get praised or being afraid of criticism and being talked about in a negative way. But what is so great is that I know my enemy, and I know my weapons, and I know how to take up the fight. Then my heart and mind can be kept pure, and that brings happiness and joy. It sets me free to hear what God wants to say to me.