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Winning Souls Vs. Winning Approval

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Chan Gin Kai

Luke 4:16-30

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. (Luke 4:20)

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. (Luke 4:28-29)

Jesus had gained a stellar reputation. “News about him spread through the whole countryside... and everyone praised him” (vs. 14-15). So when he returned from Capernaum to Nazareth, the hometown where he grew up in, he taught in the synagogue too. Like all the other places in Galilee where Jesus preached, the people of Nazareth were impressed with him too.

Respected By Some, Hated By Others

But things went downhill pretty quickly, and almost literally too, when they wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff. They were amazed with him, till they recognised that he was one of them.

It started when they realised that he’s the son of Joseph, a poor carpenter. As sons usually apprenticed and then followed the trade of their fathers, Jesus was likely to have been a carpenter before he started his ministry. He might even have made furniture for some of the people in his audience. Somehow, that familiarity worked against him. How can salvation come from someone they have known as a kid? He had seemed too normal and familiar to them.

This is a strange but common behavioural trait – we tend to admire and appreciate others more than we respect our own. We take people close to us for granted, and even treat what they say with lesser importance. We ignore sound advice and feedback from people we are familiar with. But we pay more attention (and sometimes money) to external experts, foreign speakers, and consultants even if what they say is similar or no better than what has already been brought up by people closer to us.

As disciples of Christ, our lives transform as we follow his example. People will see our change and grow to respect us. But there will always be others who won’t, and sadly, they may be people who are close to us. Do not let that discourage you.

As leaders serving in God’s Kingdom, we will be taken for granted, sometimes by people whom we’ve given the most to. Our advice gets disregarded and our sincerity doubted. We will be respected by some and hated by others. As much as that may hurt us, we must never let them stop us from serving God. We will grow from these trials, and God will reward our efforts.

Winning Souls Vs. Winning Approval

By describing how Elijah helped a Sidonian widow and Elisha healed a Syrian leper (instead of the many widows and lepers in Israel), Jesus taught that God shows no special favours to the Jews. He cares for Gentiles too. In the same way, Jesus wouldn’t show special favours to the people of Nazareth. That really triggered the people. They refused to respect someone they knew well, yet they wanted special privileges and dispensations because of their relationship. Haven’t we all met people like that before?

It was never Jesus’ goal to please his audience or win their approval. That’s the job of singers, actors and comedians, and even politicians too. His objective was to change them, not entertain them. He told them what they needed to hear, even though it offended them. Jesus was more interested in winning souls than winning approval.

God wants to save us, more than He wants to please us. He does want us to be happy, but it will not be through the showering of gifts and blessings. That’s the job of Santa Claus, not God.

What kind of relationship would you have with your child or spouse or friend if it is built primarily on bribes with candies or rings or presents? God will even allow us to be hurt, if that is required to humble our hearts. Our happiness is found through our relationship with Him, not through the temporary pleasures of material blessings. God may give us material blessings, and I pray He blesses all of us abundantly. But a lack of material blessings is not a sign that God doesn’t love us. He has already shown His love by sacrificing Jesus for our salvation.

As leaders serving God’s people, we hope to get the approval and favour of those we serve. It’ll certainly make our work easier if people like us, but winning their approval is not our objective. We strive to win souls and that may require us to step on toes sometimes. It may even create conflict and get unpleasant, especially when stubborn hearts and repetitive sins need to be confronted. Let’s not shy away, but brave these challenges. Let’s also pray for wisdom and humility as we do so.

Do you seek to get into people's good books, or to get them to follow the Good Book?

Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".

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