Sashes and Stones

I am not going to lie to you, though I am ashamed to admit it, I once spent two hours watching Toddlers in Tiaras. I know, I know, I just lost credit in your book, as well I should have. My husband was out of town, we don’t have cable, and for some reason, it was the only thing on. Yet still, my actions are inexcusable.

Something about the crazed obsession with winning sashes and tiaras drew me in and kept me glued to the insanity for well over a few episodes.

I’m no Honey Boo Boo, but there is a part of me that longs for praise and accolades. After all, a large act of the human drama is the search of significance and security. Some search for it in the earning of degrees, while others chase stardom. But deep within each of us, even the most modest and mediocre, there is a deep longing for approval, a desire for a proverbial sash of some kind.

As the boys and I were frantically and distractedly reading Acts 14 for family worship the other day, the Lord reminded me how vulnerable we are if our significance is tied to the opinion of others.

Paul and Barnabas had begun the Tour de Gospel and were seeking to spread the good news of Christ beyond the confines of Jerusalem and Judea. This chapter records their experiences as they traveled to multiple cities including Iconium, Lystra and Antioch, describing how they were tossed wildly about on the changing seas of public opinion. At Iconium, they received a warm welcome initially, only to be threatened with stoning some days later. As they fled for their lives to Lystra, they went from being seen as criminals to being seen as celebrities after the public healing of a lame man. In fact, the local people went so far as to consider them the gods Zeus and Hermes come down to earth.

I don’t know about you, but after being chased out of a city by a maddened mob, I think I would be temped to welcome some hero worship of myself. A little sash here, a nice meal there, a well-deserved heaping dose of confidence and significance, what harm would those cause?

Shockingly, when Paul and Barnabas had gone from nearly being stoned to nearly being sacrificed to as gods in a matter of days, they were quick to divert the praise of men from themselves back to the One to whom it belonged. They said, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of like nature with you and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God” (Acts 14:15).

Shortly thereafter, the high tides of opinion and praise receded back to seething hatred and disapproval, bringing on its heals yet another stoning that nearly killed Paul. From sashes to stones, from approval to disapproval, Paul was able to remain confident and steadfast.

Paul was a follower of Jesus and had learned from the Master where to entrust Himself. After all, this Jesus whom Paul preached had known something about the fickle feelings and praise of men.

Early on in his public ministry, just after his first miracle in which he turned water in fine wine, throngs of people were singing Jesus’ praises. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast day, many believed in His name, observing His signs which he was doing” (John 2:23).

I love Jesus’ response to the sudden fame and celebrity status He was enjoying. John records, “But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men” (John 2:24).

Jesus saw right through the praise of men because he knew the fickle heart of all men. He knew that man’s approval was a shifting sea, jolted by feeling, circumstance and changing preferences. He did not attach His worth or His significance to the rising tide of public opinion concerning Himself. He did not entrust His soul to men.

Whether they were presenting Him with sashes or stripping him to be mocked and crucified, He was confident in the unchanging love and approval of His Father. He knew where to entrust Himself.

Oh, may we be so full, so confident in the unconditional love of the Father that we are healthily disenchanted with the praise or jeers of men.  Whether we are offered sashes or stones, may we be quick to entrust our souls to the only faithful One.

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