Pure Pleasure in Being Praised

I have small children, and I think of this all the time:

2013-08-23 16_59_13-Amazon.com_ The Weight of Glory (9780060653200)_ C. S. Lewis_ BooksNo one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. . . . I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be.

That was C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.

One of the most touching and uplifting moments of my life came when I left a particular evangelistic ministry in my church after many years of weekly work in it. I didn’t want to leave, but my other duties called me away. Two other workers in the ministry said a few nice but generic words before the assembled group (I know I’m being vague here), thanking me for the work I’d done. But when the leader of the whole group got up to speak, he thanked me for one very specific, mostly behind-the-scenes thing that I did every week. Nothing too special, just something God gifted and called me to do, something I could hardly help doing. But he had taken the time to notice. It pleased me, righteously, to please this valued brother and father in the Lord. As a ministry leader myself now I try to do the same thing, giving out targeted praise. I do it in part because of that leader and in part because of Lewis’s quote above.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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