“Applause felt like approval, and it became a drug that soothed the pain, but only temporarily.” –  Anita Baker

There’s a famous saying that says: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”  This seems all too true because no matter what you do, sometimes people will not be satisfied. Yet, we seek their approval, their acceptance and their recognition anyway.

The premise of pleasing people is mentioned in Galatians 1:10, where Paul says, “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.” Paul is telling us his ministry was never about pleasing people. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 says, “…Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.”

We all love affirmation. We all desire significance and recognition. We all benefit from being encouraged by others. And yet, this silent struggle for approval can often become an over-riding motivation that keeps us on an unpredictable roller coaster of insecurity and instability. We crave the acceptance and approval of men, but we need it from God. We long to know we matter to others, but we forget how much we matter to Him. We desire approval and favor of our peers, but we lose sight of the approval and favor we already have in Christ. While we tend to seek these things from men, ultimately, God is the only one in whom we can find our deepest desires completely fulfilled.

If you want acceptance and approval, you will find both in Jesus. Only Jesus is the living water. Only in Him will we never thirst. Only when we crave Jesus and the cross will we stop needing and craving the approval of other people. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and enables us to find our meaning and purpose in God. 

When we put God on the throne of our heart, when we seek only His approval, we are free: free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), free to be fully satisfied in Christ (Psalm 16:11), and free to wield whatever influence we have, however big or small, for the glory of God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you want the approval of others? Is it bad to take pride in yourself? What motives do we have for trying to please people? What do we fear would happen if we failed to please them?
  2. What is a decision you are facing (new car, dating someone, having another child, school options, work decisions, time management, etc.) How can you use this sermon to help you follow God with that decision instead of worrying about what anyone else might think?
  3. What can we do this week to switch our desire for approval from people to God?