"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4
My children are so incredibly well behaved. I can brag about that, because they just are. When people ask what we use as a form of punishment these days, all I can do is smile and shrug, because we truly need no punishment, and haven't for years. Our frown and disapproval is all the punishment our children need to keep from misbehaving again. Children are born with an innate need to receive their parent's approval. Many children get that, right from birth, and it shows in the loving and nurturing relationships they have with their parents and those around them. Some children do not get that approval, and those are the ones that books and movies are made about- the cautionary tales about a young man still seeking his father's approval after all these years. I've been thinking about the approval of a parent these days, and I can't help but wonder if for some, if it is a blocking stone in their relationship with God.
The thought first came to me a few weeks ago, as I watched my children worship on a Sunday night. Since I'm up front with the worship team, and Andy's usually in the sound booth, the kids are instructed to participate in worship, but pretty much they're on their own Sunday evenings. We can both keep an eye on them though, and it is so amazing to see these two little people (my two favorite little people in the whole world, I might add), worshiping with all their heart. Every once in a while though, Zander will catch me looking his way, and he'll stop what he's doing. He'll come closer to me then, and do whatever it was he was doing again, to make sure that I was able to see him. Of course, I smile at him, and he goes away satisfied that I've witnessed his worship. A few weeks ago he did this though, and my thought to myself was that it was a shame that he interrupted his worship to come show me, because I know he was worshiping with all his heart, and that God was totally loving that. Granted, my son is a little young for the path my thought is taking this morning, but couldn't it be the same way with us sometimes?
I'm just thinking out loud here, but when something great happens in life, there is usually a short list of people who get a phone call about it. Or when something bad happens, the short list is along the same lines. Usually, parents are on that short list. And they should be, please don't misinterpret what I'm saying at all. I think Andy and I have very good relationships with our respective sets of parents. But some of us, I think, go through life living our stages of life wondering if our parents will approve. Except I think that's misdirected approval, actually.
I think that like a new babe, like a young child we all are still desperately seeking approval, only for some of us, we think that approval should come from our earthly parents. What we're missing is that the internal drive for approval is for the approval that only our Heavenly Father can give. It's actually the approval of our Almighty God that we seek, not the earthly approval of our physical parents. As my son comes running over by me, and I give him my approval, in his mind, that's just as great as if God Himself smiled at him. How cool is that!?
In my search through the Bible to back up these thoughts, I found some verses in Matthew 6 that give some hints to our Father's approval. Read the whole chapter if you desire, but here are some key points.
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." Matthew 6:1
"Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:4
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14,15
"and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:17
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
As I read all these verses, I can't help but see a daddy saying to his child, "do a good job, and you'll get a reward." So the child behaves, because they want the reward, but not only do they want their reward, they want their daddy's approval. When kids get special rewards or awards at school, they don't throw them in the garbage on their way out the door. They carefully pack them in their backpacks to bring them home and show them to their parents. The award is not enough- they want the approval of a parent to go with it.
If we follow verse 33, we'll gain the approval of our Daddy. Seek first God, and His kingdom and His righteousness, and ALL these things will be given to us. We will be given everything we need, want, and desire- including that approval that we all have needed since the day we were born. When I worship, when I praise God, I'm certainly not doing it with any thought to those around me. In the same way, I don't worship thinking, how would my parents want me to worship, what would they think. That's just silly to me. I know that my parents want me to worship God in whatever way God wants me to worship.
I think most parents are the same way. I know sometimes a big deal is made when a child chooses a church affiliation different than what their parents chose. But I think deep down, I think that while most parents may be disappointed at first, on the inside, the parents really are thrilled, they're simply thrilled that their child has chosen a path that, while may be different, is still a path to God. I think every parent wants their child to love God with all they've got. I know with my children, I have three desires for them- the 3 H's. Happiness, health, and heaven. As long as they've got all three, whatever path they take to get their is great by me. They don't need my approval for their choices, they need God's approval.
And that's all that really matters. God's Approval is more than gold, and should be the approval that we earnestly seek.