When I first moved to Jackson, Georgia I subscribed to the local newspaper. It’s called the Jackson Progress-Argus. I have no idea what an Argus is but it sounds painful.
One of the first editions I read of the Jackson Progress-Argus was called The Best of Jackson. Over the previous month, readers voted for their favorite politician, waitress and local celebrity. Flo, the lady that’s always chewing gum and saying “Kiss my grits!” won all three categories in a landslide.
There were two other categories that stuck out. One was best restaurant. I made up my mind to eat at that fine establishment. The other category was best church. My church didn’t win. Not even close. But I made up my mind that we would next year.
I made this decision because I’m a lot like Herod. I like to be glorified.
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man.” Acts 12:22 (ESV)
I keep forgetting that it never ends well for us when we seek the approval of other men. Thankfully, Herod is there to remind me.
Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. Acts 12:23 (ESV)
I’ve never seen an obituary like that in the Jackson Progress-Argus.
But sometimes the praises of men come your way even when you’re not looking for them. Like when Paul and Barnabas healed a man who had been crippled since birth.
And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Acts 14:11-12 (ESV)
Paul and Barnabas convinced the mistaken crowd to stop. I might not have been so quick to do that. I mean I am a pastor. And a father. And a faithful husband. So what if someone wants to pat me on the back? Or offer a sacrifice to me?
Again, my memory fails me. I keep forgetting that crowds can be terribly fickle. If you don’t believe me, see how many Miami Heat fans you can find today. Now, wait five years when Lebron is no longer with the team and try to find a fan. Fickle. And it’s no different when it’s you that’s being cheered for.
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. Acts 14:19 (ESV)
Just in case you lost track, the crowd throwing rocks at Paul was the same one trying to worship him a few verses earlier. Fickle. If we are living for the approval of man, we are living for the most temporary of pleasures.
A year later the Jackson Progress-Argus released the latest Best of Jackson edition. My church didn’t make it. Not even close. But there was something else that stuck out even more that that.
The restaurant that won the previous year couldn’t do it again. That’s because they had to close down.
And the church that won the previous year couldn’t do it again. That’s because they had to close down.
You can live your life for your own glory but you will die and be eaten by worms, just like Herod. But, hey, the good news is that you’ll probably get your name in the paper so there’s always that.
You can live your life for the praise of man and you may even get to experience some of that praise. But you can be certain that sooner or later, those cheers will turn into boos.
Or you can remember that there is nothing greater than God’s approval of you because of who you are in Jesus Christ.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” Matthew 25:21 (ESV)
I think that’s why Paul and Barnabas were able to ignore the temporary pleasures of an adoring crowd. They knew that something better was waiting for them.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8, (ESV)