Tell Me How Great I Am

It was a Thursday morning in the Spring of 2019. Two packs of the delicious Burger King cini-minis were on the table in front of me. Across from me sat my Dad, with his sausage biscuit and orange juice, ready to drop some Biblical wisdom on me.

You see, I love to preach.

But what I love in my sinful flesh more than preaching is the words of affirmation that often follow it.

Four days prior to this Burger King breakfast with my Dad, I had preached in big church. And much to my surprise and dismay, not many people came up to me to tell me how my sermon was incredible, my wit next-level, my illustrations relatable, and my applications on the money. No, it was mostly crickets.

So, what did past me do to get my words of affirmation quota met?

I went fishing on Facebook.

I posted something along the lines of “Thank you church family for letting a young guy like me get the pulpit on the Sunday morning”. And boy it worked. It worked perfectly (insert chef’s kiss).

My Dad knew that’s a dangerous game to play. Wanting words of affirmation is not inherently wrong. Intentionally leading in a way that you know will get you the most words of affirmation, at the expense of the message of the gospel and the truths contained therein? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

My Dad encouraged me with this Proverb:

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. – Proverbs 27:2

In my foolishness at the time, I was like, welllll I didn’t say I was great, so I didn’t actually live foolishly. But the point was the same. I was trying to lead in such a way that made people like me.

When Paul and his missionary team came to Thessalonica, they came without much concern as to how they were viewed by those they brought the gospel to.

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. – 1 Thessalonians 2:4

They spoke, not to please man, but to please God.

What is at the heart of your interactions with others, the conversations you have, the statements you make? Are you seeking to please the people you’re speaking to, or are you seeking to please God?

Back in the day, I knew a girl who would match her style and interests to the person she was interested in. From skateboarding to soccer to artsy movies, her personality would transform. It was distinct in her life, and it honestly helped me to see where it was happening in mine as well.

Do you do the same?

When it comes to church work, I’ve had to realize that it’s literally impossible to please everyone. We can love and respect everyone, but when it comes to decisions, not everyone will be pleased.

And I. Hate. That.

I want to be the guy absolutely everyone loves.

In earlier years of my ministry, I would play the field, subconsciously mind you, but play it I would. Oh, you think we should do this in music or in missions or in this particular ministry? Right on! Oh, you have the complete opposite view point? I’m with you.

Flattery. Flattery. Flattery.

It’s gross to me now.

I’m not above this, but I make a conscious effort not to do it.

I know that God has a plan for me that is greater than the here and now. One day I pray by God’s grace that after he’s done molding my character, I’ll be a senior pastor. And my prayer is that I will have security in who I am in Christ so as not to play the flattery game.

Now, if you know me, you know I’m tremendously passionate about relationships. We can disagree charitably. There are way too many Christians who are jerks when it comes to their beliefs vs. the beliefs of another. But if ministry is about pleasing those around me, I’m failing.

If your life is first and foremost about pleasing those around you, you’re likely not living in a way that honors God.

There are aspects of what I believe as a follower of Jesus that make me pitied by some of my peers and hated by others.

If I’m on this earth to please people, I’m going to cave on core Christian doctrines.

But if I’m on this earth to please God, I am going to charitably and gently hold the line.

If I’m on this earth to be affirmed, I’m going to ask you to tell me often how great I am.

But if I’m on this earth to please God, I am going to live for an audience of One, the One who knows my heart.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Affirmation Addiction

The whiteboard here at the Community Center where I work holds a special place in my heart and in my relationship with one of my best buddies out here. The whiteboard is where we go to unpack in written form the deep recesses of our brains. This is often hilarious and joyous as we speak candidly about relationships, health, and the things which plague our minds and hearts at the time.pills.jpg

More than just being a good end of the week laugh, we use this time to speak gospel truth into each other’s lives as we admit our places of fear, doubt, and other things which hinder our growth in the Lord. Just yesterday was once such impactful moment, where I was able to speak truth to my friend, while also receiving from the Lord a reminder through my very own words of a truth I needed to hear as well (It’s intriguing how God often speaks to me the loudest via my very own words).

Affirmation. Purpose. Identity.

These three things tend to go hand in hand in hand in my mind and life (boy, that was quite the sentence). When I feel affirmed, I feel like I serve a purpose, and my identity becomes wrapped up in that feeling of affirmation. I begin to seek it out more from the place I received it from, and become acutely aware of where I’m not getting that feeling. Where I’m not getting that feeling, I then struggle with thoughts that I have failed in some way in that arena of my life. In the most ironic of ways, it was in addressing this in my friend’s life that I realized how big a struggle it is in mine as well.

This is a terrible way for a follower of Christ to live. It is dangerous, draining, depressing, and devoid of gospel grace.

I believe every follower of Christ has struggled with this or is currently struggling with this in some form or facet. We all struggle with needing to be affirmed by our family, friends, work supervisors, or significant other. Not only that, but when we get sucked into the idea of ‘Christian karma’, where God’s affirmation of us as individuals is contingent upon our performance and behavior, then we feel like we have to fight for His love and thus our very purpose and identity. This level of needing affirmation can destroy a person at their very core. I know. I’ve experienced this.

This debilitating desire of needing affirmation can lead us to inspect every word said to us, feeling joyous when it appears positive, and devastated when it isn’t. Brother or sister, this is no way to live. Man in the mirror, this is no way to live.

This desire to be affirmed seems to be not so insidious at first glance. We all want encouragement, the Scriptures teach that we should be affirming and supporting our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, so it only makes sense that we should expect that in return.

Yet when the enemy creeps in and starts to make that encouragement the source of our identity, bad things are in store. What should give us life and purpose and identity is the gospel, what the good news of Christ crucified says about us. Grace. Coming to the Father in prayer, meditating on Scripture, partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It is these things that should fuel our lives, beckoning our hearts into ever increasing joy as we feel the grace of God seeping into and filling the dark and hidden crevices of our hearts.

Your relationship with him [Jesus] must be your ultimate satisfaction. Every other relationship and every other source of success is like a sugar high. The buzz feels good for a while but leaves you deflated in the end.  > Jeff Iorg

Brother and sister in Christ, search the Scriptures for a deeper understanding of who God is. When we come to a deeper understanding of who God is, we then can understand the wonderful riches and blessings that we have in Christ. When we remind ourselves of this day by precious day, the insidious craving of affirmation grows bleak in comparison to the guaranteed love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Search the Scriptures. We are forgetful people, and I believe I’m the worst of all when it comes to this. That’s why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily as we remember who we are in Christ.

Every page of the grand narrative of Scripture points to Christ, and we are able to glean a beautiful and marvelous depiction of who we are in Him.

I’m praying that God would open my eyes through His Word to the realities of my identity in Him.

I pray that He would do the same for you.

Blessings.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach