by Abraham Cremeens
I find there is a tension in many Christians’ hearts regarding how to respond to encouragement and affirmation. That has certainly been the case for me. You may have taught in Sunday school, helped lead worship, organized an important event, or offered some good counsel. When someone who was grateful for your ministry and service comes and says, “Thank you for that _________, it was so helpful to me,” you may find yourself stuck. Do I say “Thank you” and run the risk of robbing glory from God? Or do I simply respond with “Praise God for that” and run the risk of deflating the encourager? These are great questions worth considering.
Years ago I participated in a worship leader’s workshop in Illinois. I was a music major in my undergraduate studies. God had done a great work in saving me from my sin and I was pumped to use music in ministry. The whole workshop was great but I left most challenged by a side comment in the event when this tension was addressed. I don’t recall his exact words but his point went something like this:
As musicians, we often get compliments for how we serve from the platform. Early on in my ministry, my perception was that I needed to deflect any of those compliments for fear of offending God or becoming sinfully proud. However, that came out of some wrong assumptions.
There are two categories to be considered. On the one hand, God deserves all the glory for everything in his creation. On the other hand, I personally am often fearful, insecure, and need encouragement. God deserves the glory, not me. However, God isn’t insecure and doesn’t need encouragement. I do. We can receive encouraging affirmation without robbing God of his glory.
Hearing that has helped me to give a simple, “Thank you,” when someone encourages me.
I am often fearful and insecure in my efforts. Frankly, it’s hard to lead, preach a sermon, counsel, make decisions, and attempt to articulate vision because in each of those I have to put myself out there and take a risk. That’s dangerous. Every moment of “Good job!” or “Thanks for your ministry!” pushes me forward to get up and keep going. I don’t need glory but I do certainly need encouragement from time to time.
This doesn’t mean I have thrown caution to the wind. I still have to guard against finding my identity in feedback from others. And I am as susceptible as any to want to build my own kingdom instead of God’s kingdom. I still do offer a “Praise God” in the midst of my “Thank you” at times. But I have become settled that a simple thank you is not the same as stealing glory from God and I think it can be the same for you.