“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.” Proverbs 27:21
How do you handle praise? If God uses you in some way, how do you handle the praise of the people who are impacted? Ministry is a dangerous business. Flattery is a tool of the enemy, tempting the gifted worker to somehow falsely believe that his abilities are the root cause of the blessing.
In Acts 3, as the crippled man experienced the joy of deliverance, Peter and John became the subject of praise. The delivered man held on to them and the crushing crowd gripped in wonder surrounded these leaders in one of the porches of the temple. Read what Luke penned in Acts 3:11
“While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.”
Fast forward 2000 years. Would Peter have yelled to his ‘agent’ – “Get the camera! We need a picture. Capture this. We’ll be able to set up a worldwide ministry John. We’re miracle workers!”
Or not. This is a Jesus event. The man thinks Peter and John have performed the miracle. The astonished crowd comes running, probably anxious to see another miracle–the sooner the better.
Peter, who often is portrayed as impulsive, this time took decisive action and fast!
“When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus….”
Don’t forget–the Spirit of God will always, always, always point to Jesus Christ. As J.I. Packer, noted Anglican theologian reminds us, ‘The Holy Spirit has a spotlight ministry.’ He focuses the attention of those who are listening and watching to consider the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist, Spirit-filled prophet said “He (that is Jesus Christ) MUST increase, I MUST decrease.” Paul, late convert to Christianity, yet guided by the same Spirit said, “For to me, to live is Christ.” Here Peter protests the gawking stares of a mystified crowd.
What power or godliness do leaders possess? Theologians rightly speak of an ‘alien righteousness’ – one that is not natural to the human condition. When justified, we are declared to be righteous by God on the basis of faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Peter and John at best are servants of God. The God of the patriarchs, who guided their chequered life-stories, is on the move. Reread Genesis 12-50. You could hardly say that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were powerful and godly in and of themselves. They struggled with sin issues, sin that so easily entangled them. Consider the deceptive strategy as Abram persuaded his wife to lie about their relationship. Or see Isaac follow in his father’s footsteps and misrepresent his marital status before strangers. By the time we get to Jacob, deception is a family trait. Jacob, the supplanter. Jacob, the deceiver has his life story embedded into the sacred text.
So what about us. Part of daily living must be repentance. “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me…. and see if there is any wicked way in me….” That’s the prayer of a godly man. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just…” (I John 1:9) is a promise held on to by genuine followers of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 12, believers are urged to lay aside every weight and “the sin that so easily entangles…”
Peter had been raised in a Jewish context. I dare say, on more than a few occasions, he had sung or prayed these words, which we would do well to memorize and pray into our lives.
“Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1)
or as Fanny J. Crosby wrote,
“To GOD be the glory, great things HE has done….”
Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, yes!