Andy B begins this week’s episode by asking, “What do you do when things go well?” and, “How do you handle praise?”
He makes an interesting point, that out of the top three places in a running race, the person in 2nd place is often the most depressed.
He proceeds to share his struggle with receiving praise – how he finds it easier to face criticism. And he warns about some of the dangers when things go well, such as false humility, rubbing our successes in other people’s faces, and of course pride.
He makes a point of stating that being resourced for something doesn’t mean it’s God’s will; just because you have the money to do something doesn’t mean that God wants you to do it.
He challenges us to acknowledge the gifts we have been blessed with by God, whilst not getting full of ourselves. And he reminds us of the importance of giving thanks and receiving thanks from other people.
Plus, so much more.
So what do you do when you receive praise, when you get adulation? How good are you at receiving somebody coming up to you and saying, 'Oh, that was really good, thank you. That was brilliant'?
I remember watching something about the Olympics, specifically about runners and how they run around the track, they get to the finish line and the person that wins clearly is going to be very happy. They've, they've won, they've conquered their field. They're the best in their particular thing that they're doing. But second place can be quite depressing, because they nearly made it, but they didn't. However, whoever gets bronze, the third place, is really happy that they're on the podium. And how they feel can be quite different and that second place spot can be quite a bitter pill to swallow.
I wonder how you are at this. I'm personally dreadful at receiving things that are positive about me. Perhaps is the way I was brought up. I just didn't really receive much in the way of stuff that was gonna build me up and make me feel positive about life for the future. So I'm not very good, even now, in my mid 40s, at receiving praise and adulation.
People want to help me with something. Maybe it's a financial gift. I remember quite a few years ago, when we had a business, we'd get quite a lot of gifts from people to help us in our business to get it going. They believed in us, they wanted to see us to prosper and to do well. And we struggled to get those gifts from them. It, it didn't quite fit, right because of our own pride. It can be quite hard when things go well.
I'm quite good at accepting negative criticism, because I'm used to it, sadly. So I'm more expecting that than I am something good, which is quite sad, actually. But that's because that's what I've had to endure in life. I'm used to people not being quite so positive quite so often. So we get used to things.
But how good are you at receiving praise? Do y ou take it on the chin in a good way? Or do you kind of push it back? Perhaps you're struggling with it in a way that when someone says something positive you, you exercise false humility? Perhaps you just say, 'Oh, yes, yes, praise God it's all to God.' Well, whilst that might be partially true, God's actually gifted you. He's given you talents, skills and gifts which you are using, which you should be able to say, 'thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed that.'
Yes, let's praise God, let's thank God, let's point it back to him. But don't miss someone saying thank you to him. Because actually, what we do when that happens, is we disrespect them, because we're basically saying, well, thank you for saying thank you to me, but you know, it's not my fault. We also inadvertently say that if it's good, that it's not of God, because it's actually all me, look at what I did, if we're not careful. And then that's, that's an issue. But we also devalue God's gift to us.
So, if somebody wants to give you some praise and adulation. If someone wants to say well done, we need to learn, and I have spent 30 years trying to learn this, we need to learn how to accept that thanks, that praise, that gratitude, that adulation when something goes well.
Do we rub it in someone's face when it goes well. 'Yeah, you see, I knew you were rubbish, it took me to fix it.' There's different ways we can respond and they're not all very healthy.
So let's have a look at what scripture says for us. So let's turn to Philippians chapter 4, verse 11 through to 13, which says this.
"I'm not saying this, because I'm in need for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstance, circumstances. I know what it is to be in need. And I know what it is to have plenty. I've learned the secret of being content in any, and every, situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. You can do everything through him who gives me strength."
One of the single, most misquoted, verses in scripture is how we can do anything 'cos God'll strengthen us. But it completely misunderstands the beautiful richness of that little tiny verse. Because, actually, God doesn't just bless us to sin. God doesn't just bless us for the sake of it. When we're thinking about what we can accomplish for God, actually, He's giving us what we need, to do what we need to fulfil, what he's asking us to do, for Him. It's simpler than it sounds! He doesn't just blindly strengthen us. He strengthens us in order to do what He wants us to do. And it doesn't mean to say that if you've got lots of resources that we're walking the right path.
I know someone who says 'oh I've got 30,000 pounds, therefore I know this is God's plan for my life'. We knew it wasn't. Money is not the thing that confirms it's good, or bad. We had our business. We talked about this in a previous episode. When we had our business it took me a year to accept that we didn't need money to start a business. It wasn't the money that was gonna make it work or not. Our heart for that business was to run a business that was Christian in ethos, in essence. Not obviously, but just not the weird and wacky elements that we often think about environmentally friendly products. So we did exactly that! We had a normal looking shop for having to sell eco friendly products. We succeeded at what we did and a recession took us out. But we did well at what we tried to do. We set out to do we wanted. We had a profitable business. Without the recession, we'd probably still be in that business.
Let's turn to Proverbs, Chapter 30, verse 9, which says this. Actually let's go back to verse 7 otherwise it doesn't make a whole lot of sense
"Two things I ask of you Oh, Lord. Do not refuse me before I die. Keep falsehood and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much, and disown you, and say who is the Lord? Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God."
There's a man who wrote some of the songs that Cliff Richard sang that were very, very famous and popular. And I was listening, talking to him one night, at a sort of concert thing where he came to speak and sing a few songs. And he was talking about how, because of his position, and people know Cliff Richard, they find out that this guy is writing in some of his songs, he gets these tape cassettes, which does date it slightly.
He has these tape cassettes coming through, and it always has something similar. 'God gave me this song, I'm giving it to you.' And he joked about the fact that the reason why God gave this person this song is it was so absolutely, woefully, awful. This person was putting upon God something that was not, 'cos this song was dreadful. And if we're not careful about how we receive our praise, we're, we actually state what God said. It's like saying God said, when He did not. That's kind of the converse of it. And this chap was getting these song through that really were awful and needed to go in the bin. Which is why he joked about the reason why God gave you the song was because it was so awful to start with.
We need to be careful when something good happens that we're not blaming God or, or thanking ourselves. We need to keep in right balance the fact that God is God, that He is providing us the ability, the gifts, the skills. But we also acknowledge the fact that God has given us gifts and skills which others can enjoy. There's nothing wrong with receiving praise for your efforts in something. The key, and this is what we get in Proverbs, is that we don't want too much richness or too much poverty. Because if we do we, we start to think above ourselves. We start to think it's us that succeeded. And yeah, let's celebrate the gifts and the talents, but let's not think we were the ones that made it happen. God opened the door.
And likewise, when we've had situations as a family, where we were on food bank, we had no money, no employment, I started to think about stealing. I never went through with it. I never got close to that. But that thought starts to ping into your head. The enemy starts to tempt you. 'Well you need some food, what's wrong with that?' 'It's a big business, it doesn't matter.' Well it does matter and theft is theft. So we never went through that. But it starts to get into because it starts to eat at you. It starts to eat at your pride.
Let's jump to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 18, which says this. It will say this when I find it, where's it gone? Oh. Here we are.
"So be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
How do we be joyful always? Well, one of those things is not to reject people saying thank you, 'cos we end up disrespecting them and upsetting them. That's not good. And that's going to impinge on our own ability to have joy.
We also don't get so full of ourselves that it's like yes, 'look at me, aren't I brilliant?' Well, if you've got a gift or a skill, remember where that comes from? Yes. Celebrate what you've done. Your efforts. Your service to God. He's designed you with those very skills and abilities. But let's not forget who gave us that skill and that gift.
"Be joyful, always pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you."
How do we give thanks in all circumstances? We don't blame God with the bad and the good. We thank God for the, for the good. And we rejoice in our suffering. Not because the bad is a good thing. That's ridiculous and not true. We rejoice in our suffering, because it enables us to get closer to God. And, actually, if someone's praising you for something, we can either choose to say, 'Oh, thank you very much for that. That's really kind'. Or we can say, 'oh, it's all to God' and just dismiss that person, which is really disrespectful and rude.
If someone's being rude to you, 'Well, that was awful what you did?', 'Oh, well, God told me to do it.' We wouldn't do that. That's the opposite! Funny how you wouldn't necessarily think of doing that. But we can be quick to push back that thanks, that gratitude, of somebody.
What does that mean for us when it's going well. There's a cartoon, The Incredibles, the second film. And there's this bit where they're in this, in this tower and with this rich guy, who's this entrepreneur, and businessman, and "Do you know what I've learned? Smell the flowers."
In life, there's much that's difficult. There's much that's hard. But things will happen that are good. We will have wins and successes in life. They don't necessarily look or feel like we thought they would. But when they come we need to be willing, and able, and prepared, and ready, to celebrate those good things. Otherwise, life is gonna be a life where we're not able to be, as we see in Philippians, 'be joyful, always'.
Accepting criticism for me something that I've struggle with. But I find it easier to accept criticism than I do the good. That's my upbringing. That's some of the difficulties I've had. That's part of my testimony, my story. I've got better over the years. If I've preached in a church, or I've led worship somewhere, and 3 or 4 hundred people are there. And it's so encouraging when a half a dozen people come up afterwards 'Thank you so much for what you did. It was so good. God moved through what you did, and it helped me to worship and I got closer to God. I've learned to get better at that. I've learned to accept that praise they want to give me. Because as much as it's God who emabled me to do it, actually, they want to say thank you to me. Because I'm the one that actually was willing to be up the front, and do something which could go wrong, which has helped them. So we need to balance, all the time, between pushing back to God saying, 'Oh, yeah, it's God's fault', for good or for bad, and actually accepting that praise without thinking that somehow we're better than other people.
If somebody wants to say thank you to you, say thank you. Don't push it away.
Let's pray. Father, God, thank You that You've given us each gifts and talents. That we all have different things that we can do, that we can bring to the table. That we are different parts of that 1 body that all make up the church, your church. Father help us to encourage others. Help us to be speaking kind, compassionate words to the people that we meet. If they've done something that we've enjoyed, help us to say so. Whether it's liking, whether it's liking some't on a Facebook, or commenting on a YouTube video, whether it's going up to them after the service and saying thank you, whether it's writing them a letter, and posting it, and saying thank you with a little card. Help us to encourage the people around us. To edify, as we see in the Bible. To literally build one another up. But as we're building others up, Lord, let us be humble enough to accept that praise to come back from others. Let us be willing to have them say thank you to us, and to accept that. Not to push it back. Not just to push it on to you, but to actually receive the fact that we've done something that's helped somebody else. Amen!
Written by Andy B