The Shipwreck of Human Approval.

March 5, 2022 Preacher: Gareth Franks Series: Acts - The Gospel in Motion

Topic: Missions, Christian Living Scripture: Acts 14:8–28

I think the single most significant hindrance to Christian witness in the world today is our hunger for human approval. By nature, we think more about what people think of us than about what they think of Jesus.

The apostle Paul lived differently. It seems he had been liberated from the need to be liked, or even respected. He moved from town to town, in and out of crowds, anchored in the safety and satisfaction of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8). Many adored him, even to the point of worshiping him, and others hated him, even to the point of trying to murder him. But he lived and served above approval ratings. He worked for someone else’s fame, whatever that fame might cost him personally in popular opinion.

He abandoned the shipwreck of human approval for the sake of the gospel. Our passage is divided into three parts:

  1. Zeus, Hermes & Human Approval (14:8-18)
  2. From Worship to Weapons (14:19-22)
  3. Edification & Encouragement (14:23-28)

The crowds in Lystra, seeing the miracle that Paul had done, worshipped Paul and Barnabas (14: 11-13). The priests of Zeus went so far as to bring garlands and oxen to offer as sacrifices with the crowds. As soon as Paul pointed them away from their idolatry and toward the true and living God, his popularity crashed. Verse 19 in the story reads, “But Jews…stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead”.

This passage shows us how Paul accepted rejection, embraced hostility, because he did not live for what people thought of him, but for what he thought of Jesus. Paul was not a slave to human approval. He did not make decisions so that more people would like him, but so that more people would love and follow his Saviour.

These two scenes in one city illustrate the shipwreck of human approval. Whether the world applauds us or attacks us, if they do not worship Jesus, they will die without real hope.

Find your identity and confidence in him, not in what people think about you or in your status here in this life. It will free us to tell the world the beautiful and offensive message it desperately needs to hear. 

Discussion Questions

  1. When Adam and Eve wanted to obtain God’s approval after the fall, they covered themselves with fig leaves. Why was this inadequate and what covering would be required?
  2. Paul often urged others to follow his example (1 Cor. 11:1). Does this contradict the principle of pointing people to God, not to himself? If not, is there a danger here?
  3. Why didn’t God spare Paul from being stoned (Barnabas didn’t get stoned)? What does this teach us about God’s protection as we serve Him? 
  4. What is the difference between true and false humility? Is it wrong for the Lord’s servant to say “thank you” when someone tells him how his ministry has helped him?

More in Acts - The Gospel in Motion

November 27, 2022

To the End of the Earth

November 20, 2022

Weathering Tempests

November 13, 2022

Crazy for Jesus