Sometimes, I find myself at a loss for words upon receiving the praise of others. As a Christian, I resist the lure of conceit about things that I do. But can an individual be too humble, not accepting another person’s compliments, or is that, in itself, a form of pride?
I try to do the best that I can with what God has given me in every situation that I encounter and know that it is only by God’s grace in my life that I succeed in anything. When left to myself, my efforts fail.
When I was ten years old, I found that God had gifted me in gymnastics. My initial eagerness to learn and improve my skill level quickly resulted in puffed-up pride in my abilities. I lived for the momentary pleasures and the rewards that came with it. Eventually, gymnastics became so much a part of who I was that I found myself living to satisfy what I perceived as the expectations that others had for me and I had for myself.
The initial enjoyment that I had in the sport had diminished. But a championship-caliber gymnast was what I was, and I pushed myself to receive the accolades and awards that came with it.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed gymnastics. but after six years, it was more about it being a defining factor in my life than an enjoyable pastime. I never vocalized these feelings but pressed on. I had no intention of giving up at that point. I could not imagine my life without gymnastics and had no inclination to begin redefining my life at that point. I still hoped to compete in college and had distant dreams of Olympic glory. I was living for the moment with no experiential conception of eternity.
It was at that point that God took gymnastics away from me. In the aftermath of my accident, I had to look deeper into myself to figure out who I was. It didn’t take me long to recollect what I had learned in church and through the Bible. My identity was in Christ.
But from that point on, I was hesitant to accept the praise of others and to set lofty goals.
It was at that point that I wholeheartedly submitted to the hand of God. I realized more than ever before that he is in control of everything that happens. Not long after the accident that left me paralyzed from the chest down, God taught me the importance of living for eternity. Comparing the brevity of my life to my new understanding of reality redefined my struggles and achievements as small and insignificant.
Even if I had continued in gymnastics for another ten years, it would eventually have ended. What good were all the achievements and awards that now sit in a box in our basement? The temporary pleasure that they provided is long gone. Such is everything that we strive for in our lifetimes, aside from those things done for God’s glory and eternal rewards.
I can’t say that every decision from that moment on had eternal focus. But I am firmly convinced of the sovereignty of God and am increasingly developing an eternal mindset.
Is there a place for praise in a Christian’s life? After much contemplation, I believe that there is. To a limited degree, we can take credit for what we do because not everybody possesses our abilities or can perform the activities that we undertake. We can do so, however, only by acknowledging everything that we do is only possible because of the grace of God.
I believe that it is considerate to appreciate the praise of others for the sake of the one giving it, rather than invalidate or deflect their heartfelt feelings regarding something you have done. But through our words and actions, we should intentionally reflect God’s glory to the world in which we live.
Thus, after much contemplation, I believe that I may confidently and humbly say to an admirer of my work, “Thank you, and thank God, whose ongoing grace in my life enables me to do what I do.”
Not every “thank you” needs to be verbally qualified this way, but deliberately look for opportunities to uplift the name of God in praise. It’s the attitude that you need to keep in check. God’s glory should be of paramount importance in all that we do. Give Him the honor He deserves.