A number of years ago, I came across this entry below from a devotional based on Proverbs 8:35-36. The story below has stuck with me all these years. I find its lesson greatly invaluable. This story illustrates that wisdom of always seeking God’s approval and not man’s. As Christians, we must always choose to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Here it is:
The story is told of a young pianist who was making his professional debut in a famous concert hall in one of the capitals of Europe. The fashionable audience were most responsive to his playing, and at the end of the concert they gave him a resounding, standing ovation and called for an encore. Backstage, the young man refused to return to the platform despite the pleas of the stage manager and the concert sponsors. “But they love you!” they expostulated. “They’re on their feet.” The young man replied, “I know they are, but there’s one man sitting in his seat. He isn’t standing.” “What’s one man in a concert hall full of people?” they replied. Quietly he responded, “He’s the master—my teacher!” The approval that really mattered to the young pianist was missing.
In the human heart there is a thirst for approval, a longing for belonging, a hunger for acceptance. Children seek to please their parents and are insecure if they sense disapproval. Teenagers move from seeking to please parents to seeking peer approval. They must be with the “in” crowd, dress as they dress, listen to what they listen to, and conform to their patterns of behavior—all in order that they might have their peers’ approval.
Men do not easily grow out of this longing for others’ approval. No one likes to be thought weird, to be socially outcast, to be ignored or discounted. The tragedy is that sometimes the applause of the crowd drowns out the approval of the Master.
Wisdom says, “Happy are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home! For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord” (8:35). Approval from the Lord is what matters. No matter how many peers stand and applaud or how many bosses issue good reports, if the Master is not pleased, all is in vain. The whole world can stand, but if the Lord stays seated, all is lost.
How do we gain the Lord’s approval? By listening attentively to what he is telling us, absorbing the truth he proclaims, and making practical application. Problems arise when what he says does not agree with the audience that we wish to impress. Teenagers vacillate between doing what is right and behaving in a way that is “cool.” Businessmen wrestle with doing what is right and doing “what it takes” to close a deal, knowing full well that the Lord does not approve of the methods used.
It comes down to this: Whom do we wish to please? Whose approval do we crave?
“For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4).