Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Test of Praise

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives. Proverbs 27:21

It was a sneaky thing. It tiptoed up to me and wrapped its tendrils around my mind and heart quietly and softly while I was distracted by the accolades. Indeed, it convinced me I deserved it.

After all, we sold everything we had, almost. Opened the doors to that newlywed apartment and invited in the masses to buy the very pillows off the sofa, the rugs off the floor. This new bride wept as she saw her candlesticks haggled over like they were not special, not given as gifts to light the intimate dinners of early love.

We laid down our lives, we did.

All to follow the call to reach the lost, to help the destitute, to bring them Hope across the vast waters.

And while the crowds applauded and the voices raised in praise of our goodness, it happened.

I began to believe all they said about me.
I began to believe all they said about me. I accepted the praise and believed it was true. I was good, and I had earned it.

Now if you had asked me, I would have denied it. After all, it was insipid, stealthy. Hidden from me even by my own deceitful heart. But all things must be revealed in time.

Many months later, we were sitting in the dirt peeling onions. Deep in the bush of Africa, the local women and I were preparing for a great feast. I knew how to peel onions. Had been doing it for years.

The laughter and the mocking began loudly and shamelessly. One by one, each woman joined the cajoling.

“Look at her! She is still a little girl! She doesn’t have children, and she doesn’t even know how to peel an onion the right way!”

I looked around, and all of their wrists flicked at exactly the same time, rhythmically and systematically, as they joined the onion-peeling society of secret onion-peeling knowledge. They all did it the same way, every last one of them. I did not know the steps, and I looked like a girl trying to dance the box waltz while everyone else salsa’d right past me laughing.

When I had crossed the river into that remote African village I quickly exchanged the glow of praise from back home for daily mockery and criticism for being different. I was foreign in every way to my new neighbors. In their culture, I did not know how to dress, to talk, or to even peel onions like everyone else. No one cared about my sacrifice, my Master’s Degree, my accomplishments.

My need for praise was going unmet.
My need for praise was going unmet. I was drying up inside.

The Onion Episode was the last straw. I stood up, threw down my dull paring knife, and marched the long dusty path home. I was being tested, and I was failing.

The truth of my heart flapped in the breeze like a tattered flag of surrender. This service for which I had laid down my life was more about my praise than it was about His.

Alone in my mud house while I swatted flies away from my sweaty face, I did business with the One who reveals hearts. He showed me that day the secret I had harbored even from myself, the secret pleasure I took in being praised. I had been stealing, as it were, from my Savior to whom all the praise really belonged.

Motivated by my own need for admiration and acceptance, I had grown prideful. And now in an environment of criticism, I was becoming bitter and hardened toward the very people He had brought me to love in His name.

Praise wields a mighty power over the soul of man. We were created to praise, yet we long to be praised. What we do with the praise we receive will tell much about the substance of our work. As a furnace burns the dross away from the gold, leaving only that which is lasting, so praise reveals the lasting value of our lifework.

Do we believe the good in us that is praised is our own? Or do we know that it has been graciously given by the One who measures hearts?

Let us lay our accolades at the feet of the only One who deserves our worship. May we exchange the tinny tiara of man’s acclaim for the enduring gold of a crown bestowed by the King of kings.

It is He who will cause our work to endure the test of every furnace, even the furnace of man’s praise.

TWEETABLE
We all need to be ready for the test of #praise - @DanettaKellar on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


Danetta Kellar is a writer, blogger, and speaker. Her interesting life has taken her around the globe, where she has had the privilege to witness firsthand the transformation of women from all walks of life and culture as they exchange lies for the Truth found in Christ. 

Her writing flows out of this rich experience and her own continual search for treasures in life’s darkness. Connect with Danetta online through her blog, Riches Out of Darkness, and on Facebook, or Twitter.    

12 comments:

  1. Danetta, Brilliantly written. I understand the need for praise. I did not get it at home so I sought it elsewhere. I got it too. But is was hollow. I had to keep searching for more. When I learned that we reflect the glory of God; praises go right back to Him, I began to feel whole. Thank you for being open and honest. I praise God for your obedience to write this.

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    1. Thank you for reading Cherrilynn. You are so right about the hollowness of worldly praise. And so insightful to feel your wholeness as you learned to reflect glory back to God! I am going to think on that more deeply. Blessings to you!

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  2. Beautiful words and inspiring thoughts to remind us of how praise can be perverted to our own glory if we aren't careful. Thank you, Danetta. It's a pleasure to meet you online.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Barbara. The pleasure is mine.

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  3. Poignant reminder we need to be vigilant in checking our motives. His service or our show.

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    1. Yes, it requires vigilance, indeed, Sharron. Even though I learned this lesson the hard way I still fall into the trap. Thank you for commenting!

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  4. A wonderful reminder; I'd do nothing good without His grace. My confidence in Him should keep me moving, even when I don't receive praise.

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    1. And that is so hard, Jennifer. To keep moving even when we don't hear or see evidence our work is pleasing can be trying to the soul. But I know our character is shaped by it and we are made more like Jesus through it. Thanks for reading!

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  5. Beautiful words, Danetta, and a poignant reminder of the need to give all the glory to the One who makes all things possible. I heard a story years ago about taking all the accolades given to us by man, wrapping them up in a beautiful bouquet of praise, and offering that bouquet to the Lord. It's truly not about us, but all about Him. Thanks for sharing with us.

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    1. Andrea, thank you for reading and encouraging. You are right. It is all about Him, and we are so privileged to join Jesus in His work in the world. Blessings!

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  6. Danetta, I was also praised languishing in the praise for the spiritual progress I’ve made. The praise came from me. I recognized the source of my praise AND the pride that accompanied it when I was tested by another in a similar manner to your experience. Thank you for reminding me that life is NOT about me, but about Him.

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    1. I think if we are all honest Bruce, we all praise ourselves at times. In my life that has never led to anything of lasting worth. I think we can be satisfied in our work but know that it came from a good God, and He is why we live. Thank you for your comments.

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