Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tested by Fire

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“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace for gold,
                and a man is tested by his praise.”  (Proverbs 27:21)

When we think of a Christian being “gold” tested by fire, or perhaps silver being cleansed of dross, we usually think of trials.  We think of Christians enduring hardships and pain, and so strengthening their faith.  This is all perfectly sound and biblical, but I believe there is little that tests a believer’s faith like praise.
History shows that when the Church is under persecution, it grows stronger.  It’s when things are going well, however, that the real testing begins.  You see, trusting God in persecution is relatively easy; we have virtually no choice but to fall back on the Lord.  (I use “easy” in the broadest of ways here.  Don’t get me wrong, persecution is tough!)  But when we’re praised, we have a choice as to who’s going to be glorified in the situation.

While trials test our faith in God’s power through endurance, praise tests our true loyalty and love for our Savior.

Praise gives us an opportunity to decide whether we will glorify God or ourselves.  The problem is that most of the time we choose the latter.  As human beings, the sin nature encourages us to seek praise.  Practically everything we do is influenced by what we think others will think of us.  Earlier in chapter 27 of Proverbs, though, we’re given a piece of advice concerning praise:

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
                a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

This exhortation shows us where our focus should be – or perhaps more accurately, where our focus shouldn’t be: ourselves. 

Praise shouldn’t be something we seek for ourselves, because the more we are glorified, the less Christ is glorified.

I think this is generally obvious, but I’ve found that we often fail to realize some of the underlying ways in which we seek praise.  For instance, I can sometimes be tempted to try to impress others by explaining how “busy” I am.  It’s easy to want to ensure that others know just how rough I have it.  But what am I really seeking?  The truth is, I’m just looking for recognition – praise.
Recently, the Lord has been showing me that if I do something noteworthy, whether it’s a sacrifice I make or a kind gesture, I need to keep it to myself.  In fact, He’s been showing me that many times I need to do everything in my power to prevent anyone from ever finding out something that might bring me glorification!
This is truly what makes praise the “testing fire.”  Am I going to seek that I be lifted up, or am I going to seek that Christ be lifted up?  I need to be so Christ-focused, and subsequently so others-focused, that I’m the last person to come to mind.
The purpose of my life is to bring praise to Christ.  Yes, I will receive praise sometimes.  But if my focus is in the right place, the praise that is given to me will simply be reflected onto Christ and those around me, and people will begin to see that I am not worthy of any praise; my life will reflect the fact that the praise belongs to the One Who has given me everything.

There are so many aspects of praise – both practical in principle, so I invite you to continue the discussion with us in the comment section!