“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
“The fear of man brings a snare, but whosoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe.”
Many battles take place in the heart of man struggling to make choices that will effect what our fellowmen think about us. We like others to think well of us and very often we make decisions with the wrong motive – to please men, because we fear what they will think or say about us. Scripture clearly says that the fear of man brings a snare when we are more people conscious than we are God conscious.
The scripture in 1 Samuel 15 records the event of disobedience in King Saul’s life that led to his downfall. When the prophet, Samuel, speaking as the oracle of God, confronted him with his failing, Saul’s greatest concern appeared to be what the people thought of him more than the displeasure he had caused the Lord through his disobedience. 1 Samuel 15:30 King Saul says to Samuel, “I have sinned, yet honour me now I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel….” If Saul had been more concerned about what God thought of his transgression instead of the people, his heart would have been broken before the Lord for the sin of his “good idea” that had opposed the word of God, and then maybe history would have recorded otherwise for Saul. Psalm 51 of David clearly teaches us the path of repentance to a forgiving God. Verse 17 of this Psalm declares “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.”
Jesus spoke very clearly on the subject of looking for the praise of men. John 5:44 “How can you believe, who receive honour one of another, and do not seek the honour that comes from God only?” Also, speaking about Jesus in John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
The Spirit of God will bring conviction to our lives when God has been given “second place” by our thoughts, words and actions to others as men pleasers. There is only one healthy fear for a child of God and that is a reverent fear of the Lord. Our first scripture quoted above declares it is the beginning of wisdom in God’s eyes.
When I make a decision to please man instead of God I will suffer the consequences of my choice. God in His great love for me will mercifully send His Holy Spirit to show me the error of my way. I can humbly repent and learn from my experience. The test will come again and the promptings of our Guide in life will encourage me to make a stand to live to God and not to man. These are big learning curves in our lives until it becomes a way of life. Our Lord Jesus only did the things that please the Father, John 8:29, Jesus speaking of His Father declared, “…..for I always do those things that please Him.”
When God sets me free from living to people I find tremendous liberty. My life can either be a performance, where I am related to people and what they think of me, needing their tick of approval for my identity, or my life can be an expression of worship to God, living firstly to Him and dying to what people think of me. My identity is in Christ, not man’s opinions of me.
Many of us have had the experience of being especially blessed of God through a particular person. They have been the channel that God has used to minister His life and light to us, sometimes even as a mentor. The danger then can be that we slavish believe everything that comes via that channel without testing it. Our spirit will only witness to truth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and will quicken the proceeding word of God to us individually. Our mentors are only a signpost that should point us to Christ, to follow Him and not men. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice,”….it is the birthright of every Believer to witness to the word of God for our own lives. We have to learn to weigh up the words of men and “watch the witness!” God can speak through any man, any channel, but it is our responsibility before the Lord to test what people say is truth.
There comes a time in our walk with the Lord when He requires us to go beyond the channel (the man) He has used in our lives, – a big challenge to live to God and die to what man thinks of me. If I do not have a relationship with the Spirit of truth I will be unable to discern what is true. It is wrong to so esteem a man that we believe everything they say without testing it, and it is also dangerous to the man because it can feed his flesh. The important thing is to esteem what God has put in the man and to see that the truths ministered to me that have been such revelation and brought about such life changing liberty, have all been OF God. We thank God for the obedience of the man in faithfully bringing the message, but the source of power and change is God alone, and He receives all the glory, not man.
In maturity we must choose to stay in relationship with those who have delivered words to us that they deemed were OF God, but we had no witness to, and on the other side of the coin, when we deliver a word to someone and they discard it because of their believing otherwise, we must stay in a loving relationship from our standpoint, and not write them off in our heart. We must learn to disagree without being disagreeable and maintain a loving spirit, remembering that my identity is in Christ, not man’s opinion of me! I can do what I think is right in man’s eyes and miss God, or I can choose to do what I believe is right in God’s eyes which may bring displeasure to man. Ultimately our times are in His hands, but we make our choices as the Lord presents them to us along life’s highway.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 declares that time and chance happen to all men…..We have divine appointments in our lives which present opportunities for us to make right decisions for God’s purposes in us, resulting in His peace and blessing. May we learn sensitivity to the guidance of His Holy Spirit to recognise the crossroads of decision which can result in another measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ deposited in our being.
There was once a famous violinist. One night he performed his music to a packed hall of hundreds of people, gathered together solely to enjoy his performance on the violin. The audience were enthralled by the young man’s rendering of tunes that could first raise your emotions to leaps of joy and then, suddenly, to take you to mournful depths that would move your emotions to tears. At the finish the young man stood and bowed to the audience as they stood to their feet in applause and raised the roof with their loud appreciation of him. A friend and colleague said to the violinist, “You must be so thrilled hearing the applause of so many men!” The violinist looked his friend straight in the eye and said, “Look up there to the balcony of people on the right. Sitting in the corner is an old gentleman, he is my tutor and has taught me all I know. One smile. one frown from him means far more to me than the praise of all these crowds here tonight. I keep my eye trained on the man on the balcony!”……selah! Let us learn to keep our eyes on “the man on the balcony”…..our beloved Heavenly Father, looking for opportunities to please Him. His love for me is unconditional, unchanging and cannot be earned, but my life, by my choices can receive the warmth of His smile of approval. To please Him is a small thing when compared with all He has done for me..
May our choices be to live to God and not as men pleasers.