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We’ve all experienced it. Our faith is under constant attack by the Enemy, our culture, and even our families and fellow Believers. If our hearts are truly seeking the Lord, and those attacks come, we may begin to question whether we are steady in our walk with Him. The next thing we know, we find ourselves seeking or desiring the favor of man in our faith lives, which can be a distraction from the fear of the Lord. But why is it so important to be cognizant of this fact; and how does it affect our journey and relationship with the Lord? If I could sum it up in one word, it would be validation. But I’d like to unpack my theory for you and share where my own self-examination has taken me.
When it comes to our faith, and if we are seeking the favor of man, what is that really telling us? Is our identity in Christ enough for us, or do we need the approval of man to feel like our path is straight? Let’s start with Proverbs 29:25 to see if we can get the answers. And I’d like to give you several translations so we begin with a clear picture:
The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in and puts his confidence in the Lord will be exalted and safe. (Amplified)
Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord, you will be seated in the high place. (Passion)
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety. (New Living Translation)
Can you see the implications? The fear of man is a snare (a trap) because it holds you back from walking in confidence in your true identity, seated in the high place (the heavenly realms as stated in Ephesians 2:6). When you are seated with Christ, you are united with Him, and there’s no safer or more secure place to be.
But what happens to us as we seek to grow our relationship with Christ? The Enemy comes in and lays a trap for us. As we receive wisdom and revelation from the Lord [through the Holy Spirit], we may get opposing views from people, or correction from Leadership. It leaves you with feelings of doubt … did I really hear from the Holy Spirit? And that can be a lonely place to be. We feel separated, not only from our fellow Christians, but maybe even from God, Himself, because now there has been a disruption in that divine communication, and we’ve taken our focus off Him and the favor we’ve received from Him to seek the favor of fellow men. Because, let’s face it everyone wants to be accepted.
And that’s the real meaning of “favor” — acceptance; the reaction of a perceived superior to an inferior; presence and power. But whose favor do you really want? Whose Presence and Power do you want to walk in? And who do you fear more? We know what we fear from men — rejection and disapproval. But do we really understand the Fear of the Lord? That it is awe-inspired reverence and worshiping Him? Obedience and submissive wonder?
When we let man dictate [or influence] our identity, we are going to seek acceptance and approval from this world. If we’ve been hurt by the Church (and that is a very real problem today), do we find our safety and security with others who have experienced similar hurts — or do we trust and believe that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies; that our identity is secure in Him? Do we meet to lick our wounds (or as my husband says, “commiserate over our bandaids”)? Do we find comfort and validation in our kinship with fellow victims? Or do we look for our approval from the Lord and walk in our kinship with Him?
I can tell you that I have been guilty of taking my eyes off the commission Christ has given me [and off Him, as my Commissioner]. It’s so natural to want that gratification of knowing someone values you, and let’s face it — the devil will always provide that someone if it means you will step back from seeking more of the Lord, which results in lost momentum in your relationship with Him!
I know that I walk in an unconventional assignment from Jesus. And I have experienced negative feedback from fellow Christians when what I was seeing and hearing from God seemed so darn clear! The natural instinct is to seek a carnal affirmation to make your soul feel better [i.e., your emotions and mind]. But whenever I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus and what He was showing me, I’ve gotten stuck in that moment of hurt. The Word says it perfectly … Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back. My spirit grieved because I was fearing man more than I was fearing God; seeking man’s favor instead of praising God for the favor He has given me in my unique assignment.
Here’s the thing … we all have unique assignments! God didn’t make us cookie cutter images of each other. He made us each in His own image! So, as you look around you, that should give you a pretty good idea of how BIG and AWESOME our God is, and make you realize that seeing the favor of man can be an exhaustive endeavor!
BUT, you can receive the favor of God when you fear Him! Stated another way, you can receive His approval when you walk in His Presence and Power by obeying Him in the assignment He has given you!
I want to ask you the question that Job asks in 4:6 …. Is not your fear of God your confidence? Shouldn’t we all find our validation from seeking His face and Presence, and obeying His commandments through the use of His Power? Shouldn’t that be enough to feel confident about who we are? If like me, you have battled through the fear of man in order to get to your walk in the fear of the Lord, then you know this promise found in Psalm 40:4, Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who makes the Lord his trust. When we can trust the Lord’s opinion over man’s, we can walk in confidence; knowing we are fully approved and secure in our identity. We no longer look from side to side for our validation, but only upwards. And I promise you, you will know His acceptance and approval. His validation is true and eternal!
Psalm 37:5-6 Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.