The apostle Paul played an extremely important role in establishing the first century church (along with Peter and James). As a result, 13 of our 27 books of the New Testament were written by Paul. In Paul’s letters he provides an amazing testimony about his desire to receive approval from God for his work. At no time does Paul ever appear to care what others humans thought about him and his work because he only cared what God thought of his work.
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Today leaders receive high levels of pressure to be “people pleasures.” Sometimes good leadership gets confused with merely being charismatic and popular. However, the apostle Paul provides an example of how you should seek the approval of God and not the approval of humans.
PAUL DID NOT SEEK APPROVAL FROM PEOPLE ON EARTH
Paul’s work was something that caused him to receive persecution and hate from others during his ministry. However, Paul never said that he cared for the approval of others. He always sought the approval of God and never felt ashamed for doing the work of God. “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ” (Rom 1:16, NLT)
“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Gal 1:10).
PAUL’S LIVING MEANT LIVING TO PLEASE GOD
“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me (Phil 1:20-26).
PAUL WAS NOT ASHAMED FOR BEING IN PRISON
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ” (Rom 1:16). Paul’s life and ministry were dedicated to sharing the Gospel and spreading the good news about Jesus Christ. Even though this mission often caused him heartache, suffering, and exclusion from the Jewish community, he never felt ashamed for his work.
Paul reveals more about how he did not feel ashamed for being in prison when writing in his last days to Timothy, “And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of his good news. That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return” (2 Tim 1:11-12, emphasis mine).
A leader serves the people he can and he does not worry about what other people think. The approval you seek as a leader is the approval of God. It will be difficult to fight the desire to want to please other people but it is important to stay focused on pleasing the most important person in your life: God.
Question: What is an area that you have tried to seek the approval of people rather than God? What can you do to change that in the future?