Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
We all know this saying, “you are entitled to your opinion.” This statement embraces differences in the way we approach a subject, but it really means “it doesn’t bother me that you don’t see it my way.” Truth be told though, other’s opinions, especially when we are the subject matter, do have a grip on us. When these hard-to-hear opinions are offered by people who matter to you, like a parent or a boss, it really eats us up inside.
An example I could think of is when our parents critique the way we parent. I so wish that I could just say “that’s just your opinion, but we are the parents here!” Instead, I respond with anger and frustration, and attempt to prove them wrong. The fact is, I want them to agree with me because their approval on this matters.
In the start of the passage, Paul rebukes the believers in Galatia for deserting the true gospel he preached about the grace of Christ. He gets worked up as he saw these early Christian being swayed away from the truth. Then Paul states this rhetorical question about who his authority is. This verse is a great reminder to me when I get tangled up in seeking earthly approval. Before getting too deep into my frustration or, sometimes, the feeling of defeat; I take a deep breath and remember whose approval matters most to me.
We should respect and listen to the opinions of others as God does provide great earthly counsellors to help us grow, but remember who our real master is. God’s approval is the one that really matters and “who He says I am” is the truth.
Whose approval are you working so hard for in order to win it?
Next time you get tangled up in it, practice “who He says I am” by:
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9–10
How do you understand a partnership? Normally a good partnership consists of people working together, communicating well, sharing tasks, complementing one another’s abilities, and sharing work and reward. Is this how you see your life with God? Perhaps you might not think of yourself as partnering with God: firstly, it’s a rather unequal partnership; secondly, communication seems difficult; and, thirdly, it’s not clear how God wants you to partner with Him.
But to think this way is to ignore an essential pattern of scripture and perhaps to miss the point of prayer.
God made humans to work with Him, not for Him. God wants people to be His co-workers, irrespective of their ability but depending on their availability. All the great servants in the Bible were people He chose to be a co-worker: Moses, Elijah, Nehemiah, and Peter to name a few. God did not need them to work for Him, He wanted them to work with Him and was prepared to wait until they were listening and learning… that is where prayer comes in.
Prayer is neither a matter of telling God our plans and hoping He will bless them nor making a series of well-meaning requests, but finding out His plan, so we know what to ask for in the first place.
As Jesus showed us, we are to seek out God’s heart for His Kingdom and how this involves us. Prayer is a listening, working partnership.
Of course, it’s an unequal partnership but that doesn’t seem to bother God: He is delighted with our stumbling, weak-willed attempts to work with Him. In thinking of your life or a person you want to pray for, ask God what is on His heart, what are His plans, and what does He feel? Gradually you will find your mind becoming clearer and you will know what to pray for and, indeed, pray powerfully.
Let us practice to be God’s partners by:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Do you have a regular morning routine before heading off to work, school or otherwise getting the day started? It might involve waking up at a set time, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast, and so on. My mornings typically follow a similar pattern as just described. After leaving my flat, my day continues with a 30-minute bus ride to the office.
I use my commute to settle my heart and mind as I break open the Word and converse with the Lord in prayer. That time with the Lord is especially important to me as I know the day ahead will contain episodes of stress, temptations and other situations that may cause me to sin.
To prepare for those encounters, part of my daily prayer is asking the Lord to help me be salt and light to those around me and to be able to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit as listed in the verses above.
While I am far from perfect, starting my day with the Lord and reciting those verses reminds me of the importance of those qualities and helps me to calibrate my heart and mind with a Christ-like perspective.
Let us practice starting the day off right by:
… My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:7
The elation of Easter Sunday was quickly tempered by news of the tragic bombings in Sri Lanka – a stark reminder that we still live in a fallen world, as if we needed reminding so soon after the shocking similar event in New Zealand.
But my first thought was not to pray for those involved in this far-away disaster; that came only when I was prompted by a chat group message from someone with a personal connection in Sri Lanka calling our group to pray for those affected. Until then, I subconsciously categorised the tragic events merely as “World News”. So often, the scope and potential of our empathy and prayers are limited by an inward-looking, compartmentalised approach to the world around us.
What does that say about our progress in being transformed by the renewing of our minds, loving our neighbour like ourselves, or going out into the world and making disciples of all nations? Limited progress, right?
In the Isaiah verse above, God was referring to His temple being a house of prayer open to all nations; however, now that we have that privileged access, surely we should be exercising it in “prayer for all nations.” So, let’s not be so complacent and self-absorbed. How about adding a God-sized non-personal prayer request every time we ask Him to help us out with something personal or family related? Global warming, Brexit, US-China trade wars, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Libya, ISIS, AI, the wealth gap, New Zealand… and now Sri Lanka, and Ukraine again – there is no shortage of such mega issues, but they will not get much prayer coverage if everyone limits their outlook to personal matters.
Let us move beyond a limited “inward” prayer perspective by:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Luke 14:28–30
While these verses have a number of powerful implications, I will touch on a very straightforward aspect of Jesus’ words.
Clearly, Jesus expects us to plan and consider aspects including “the cost”, which can be more than just the financial component. The Lord gives each of us unique skills and talents; He has provided time and resources. He has the expectation for us to use them for His glory.
Remember Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23–24, “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you are were doing it for the Lord, not for people... You are serving the Lord Christ.”
Obviously, your plans should be God-inspired, God-directed and God-assisted. It is important to go to the Lord in prayer in all aspects of your life, especially in the workplace.
God does not want you to be mocked if the project is not finished and you do not want Him to be mocked because you are a child, servant and believer in Him.
Also, remember not to be a mocker. Ephesians 4:29 makes that clear: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Let us choose God’s plan over man’s plan by: