“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23, 24b (NIV)
From a very young age, I loved an approving audience.
There was a children’s story called Tina the Ballerina I would listen to on repeat. In the story, Tina was a little girl who loved to dance. She was finally allowed to attend a professional ballet performance, but at the last moment, the prima ballerina was unable to perform. Tina the Ballerina leaped onto the stage, leaving the adoring audience mesmerized by her abilities. Her bravery! Her skill! She became famous and, no doubt, lived happily ever after.
I longed to be like Tina. I would leap from my couch, head held high, and twirl in my too-big tutu for my imaginary audience. Famous and adored sounded just about as good as it could get to 3-year-old me.
But in the blink of an eye, I found myself staring down adulthood, still neither famous nor adored, at least not according to the world’s standards. I had family and friends who loved me along with a job that paid the bills. Still, I felt a constant and nagging desire for praise, appreciation and acknowledgement from others. To win awards! To be recognized by my peers! To outshine expectations! I wanted to feel uniquely useful, like something I had to offer was superior in some way. And, this desire had reached a fever-pitch in the era of social media, as more people than ever seemed to be famous and adored with no exact algorithm to the madness.
I believe we all have hearts that, in some way, long for the applause of others. Over the years, I have done a great deal of digging in the Bible to get to the bottom of my yearning for praise and recognition. In the book of Colossians, I found an unexpected answer.
The Apostle Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23 and 24b change my perspective on striving for human applause, refocusing my attention from the “what” to the “who”: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Notice that these two short verses point out the “who” when it comes to all of our efforts … not once, but twice! Who do we work for? Verse 23 says we work “…for the Lord, not for human masters.” And verse 24b echoes, “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Shifting my perspective to working for the Lord and fulfilling my earthly duties for Him rather than garnering human praise and acknowledgement has led to a healthier grasp on my need for positive reinforcement. After all, the Lord created each of us to be sublimely special. What each of us has is uniquely useful in the eyes of the Lord, as we are created as part of God’s grand design “…fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NIV).
Whatever kind of work we do, whether that means working in an office or in the home — and the amount of human recognition we receive for it — does not matter as much as who we are working for in our hearts and the manner in which we do that work. This feels so freeing and exhilarating to me! When Jesus was speaking and teaching, some people praised him, but others shunned him. Their approval of him was insignificant. It’s truly a gift to be able to work and enjoy that work regardless of the response from others because we have already received love and acceptance from our Father God.
The task might be investing in a teachable moment with a child or working on a project that will impact people outside your immediate family. But no matter what it is, remember that all of the acknowledgment and acceptance you need has already been graciously bestowed on you by God, who knows you, loves you and created you for the exact assignments He has placed on your plate today.
Dear Heavenly Father, You see me. You love me. Allow me to work for You today. Allow me to humbly use my gifts and talents to please You. Help me remember that human “likes,” praise and acknowledgement are irrelevant to the work I do because, seen or unseen, it matters to You. In Your eyes, I am uniquely useful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Psalm 119:36-37, “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (NIV)
Jeremiah 2:13, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (NIV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
What is one area of your life where your mood or self-worth depend on praise or positive feedback from others? Do you have a specific scripture that recenters your focus to Christ?
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© 2021 by Kelly Barbrey. All rights reserved.
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