Worldly success doesn’t necessarily indicate God’s approval. In many areas of life, God’s standards are at variance with humanity’s. Don’t just follow the crowd, realise that you must give account to God for what you do (Rom 14:12). Seek God’s approval of commendation and praise by living uprightly before Him rather than needing the acceptance of humans, and doing what is contrary to God’s standards (Act 5:29). The Pharisees craved the favour and praise of men rather than of God (Jn 14:43).

God delights in people whose hearts are open and yielded, who walk uprightly before Him because they discern correctly and are filled with the fruit of righteousness so bringing glory to Him (Mic 6:8; Phil 1:10). “Do your best to present yourself to God, as one approved, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

To have another’s approval means we have diligently done what was asked or expected of us, being good stewards of what has been entrusted to us (Mt 25:14-30). “We have only done our duty” requires a clear understanding of another’s desires (Lk 17:10). If we are ‘giving the orders’ it is our responsibility to clearly explain what is expected –

Am I as quick to voice my approval, as I am to criticise?

demonstrating, giving instruction, advice and feedback. Regularly monitor your efforts to ensure they are acceptable and up to standard, even asking ‘Is this OK?’ Be prepared to accept correction and amend your ways. Even if what another person has done is not up to your standard, if they have done it to the best of their ability, give positive encouraging feedback. This will persuade them to try again while negative criticism might mean they give up.

While we should endeavour to do what pleases others and be ‘other focused’, we must not violate the Lord’s commands or compromise our principles but do all He instructs (Deut 13:22; Josh 1:8; Rom 15:2). Sometimes we have to take a stand on issues. Jesus said, “I always do those things that please the Father” (Jn 8:29). No wonder God said of Jesus, “with Him I am well pleased” (Mt 17:5). If we do what God wants we will bring Him joy and glory besides receiving the commendation “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

King Saul sought the approval from his 'visible' soldiers. He considered this of greater importance than obedience to the direct command of an 'invisible' God. Through this people-pleasing act he forfeited the kingship (1 Sam 15:3,24,26,30). Similarly, in Jesus day some people believed His message yet refused to follow Him because they "loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Jn 12:43). This wrong stance can lead to eternal separation from God, by making the approval of others a higher priority than God (Mt 10:32,33; Mk 12:30). Our motive should be to live for His glory, seeking His approval not man's (Col 1:10). We are ultimately answerable to God, and this accountability carries eternal ramifications. We should not make decisions based solely on the level of approval we believe we will receive and thus avoid negative feedback. The motivation of a person who must please others at any expense reveals inner insecurity and evaluates approval with personal value. A fear of rejection, criticism and abhorrence of conflict means they will forgo their own desires to conform to the requests of others. Our relationships should be marked by honesty and unconditional love, not compliance to oblige under constraint of forgoing the closeness of connection.

Jesus loved and served people as He lived, bringing glory to God through His obedience and was known for His gracious words and actions (Lk 4:22; Jn 8:29; Act 10:38). Yet when it was warranted He was not afraid to act and speak out the truth regardless of the

Seek His approval, not man's

reactions He would receive (Mt 23:15; Jn 2:14-16). Living according to God's values creates a tension with those who would like us to fit in with the world's deteriorating standards.

See also: accept/acceptance, accountability, commendation, compromise, conflict, examine, obedience, others, peer pressure, rejection, success.