There was once a railway gatekeeper who routinely irritated the passengers on his train. Every night, no matter how frigid it was, he demanded that every passenger present their ticket before boarding. The passengers grumbled and protested, saying, “Sir, you are a very unpopular man tonight! Don’t you know that it’s freezing out?” And the gatekeeper said, “I only care to be popular with one man, and that is the superintendent.” He may have been more popular if he fulfilled the wishes of the passengers by letting them on without seeing a ticket, but his loyalty was to someone greater—and hence, he couldn’t be a people-pleaser.
The apostle Paul felt the same way about serving Christ by proclaiming the gospel, although it would undoubtedly be considered offensive and unpopular by some. He said, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). His loyalty was to God, not to man. He didn’t care about man’s approval; he only cared about God’s approval. As he remarked elsewhere, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4).
The smile of God matters more than the scowls of man. The “thumbs up” of God is more valuable than the “thumbs down” of man. Popularity with God is more vital than popularity with man. It is better to hear the Master say, “Well done,” even if it means hearing man say, “What have you done?” (Matt. 25:21; cf. Ex. 14:11).
Christ must be obeyed rather than man, even if it means beatings and imprisonment (Acts 5:29). Believers must pray with an open window even if it entails being thrown into a lion’s den (Dan. 6:13-28). Servants of the Lord must stand and refuse to worship the gods of this age, even if it includes being cast into a fiery furnace (Dan. 3:16-23). Gospel heralds must continue to preach repentance even if it means incarceration and the amputation of one’s head (Mark 6:14-29). Christ Jesus must be proclaimed even if it results in stoning or slaughter (Acts 7:54-60; 12:1-2).
The Lord’s opinion of you is the only one that ultimately matters, friend. He is the Judge to whom we must give an account: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). Moreover, His authority infinitely exceeds the puny judgment of any ridiculing friend, taunting boss, or tyrannical leader. Therefore, do you want to be popular with man or with God?
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).
For more devotional entries like this, check out Brandon’s latest book, Bible Gleanings Volume II, which features 100 daily devotionals gleaned from God’s word: