Paul knew the secret. He would never be able to do both. He faced the same choice each of us must face, and it went against his natural desire to be liked and appreciated by others. He would have to choose popularity with people, or service to the Lord Jesus.
Why must we choose between someone we want to please and being a servant of the Lord? Because we will never be able to please everyone we want to please. Our intentions are good, but we will still fail to please the crowd! This is true in our walk with Christ. We all face times when He directs us to do something for Him: ministry, stepping back from ministry, tending to our own homes, helping others… the decisions will always be there.
And why is popularity deceitful? By its very definition, which includes the words “fame,” “notoriety,” “state of enjoying widespread approval,” it beckons. Though fame and notoriety may not appeal to all of us, enjoying widespread approval often does. It’s normal to want approval and acceptance. But this is where Satan comes in with the deception that if we just do enough for others we will have their unending approval. If we are not careful, we can spend our lives running after this illusion, and worse, being used by some people who will cross our path.
What is the answer to following Christ first and balancing our lives to make the most of our time? Part of the answer lies in simply listening to ourselves. We often know when we’ve reached our limits, but instead of accepting where we are, we try to please just one more person. Prayer for wisdom, along with listening to our own hearts will help protect us from the deceit of popularity.
God’s Word actually warns us that it is not a good thing when all men speak well of us! And Paul’s choice on the matter is recorded for our encouragement: “Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah).”
Galatians 1:10 (Amplified Bible)
Choosing God’s way will not always include pleasing others, and we must walk in love towards them even when our path directs us away from their wishes. But to serve Christ will include letting go of the deceit of “widespread approval”…. for the approval of One.