"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives." Proverbs 27:21
For every person who can handle success, there are a thousand who can handle failure. As bad as it hurts to be on the bottom, sometimes it hurts worse to be on top. Praise brings with it four unseen dangers: 1) It may cause us to believe we are better than we really are, 2) it may lead us to think we deserve what we have, 3) it may blind us to our own weaknesses, and 4) it may lead to a place where we no longer think we need the Lord.
Praise may cause us to end up in the crucible, a fiery furnace where our motives will be severely tested and all that is false in us will be completely exposed. At that moment it is difficult to remember that gold and silver are purified by passing through the fire. Though that image is often applied to trials, it also applies to our victories.
The spiritual truth behind this proverb is not hard to spot. Satan often attacks us at the point of our strength, not the point of our weakness. Should this surprise us? After all, why should Satan attack only in the point of your self-perceived weakness? If you know you have a weakness, that's the very area you will guard most carefully. If you know you have a problem with anger or with laziness or with lust or with gluttony, will you not be on your guard lest you fall?
But it is not so with your strengths. You take those areas for granted. You say, "That's not a problem for me. I have other problems, but that area is not really a temptation at all." Watch out! Put up the red flag! There is danger ahead. When a person takes any area of life for granted, that's the one area Satan is most likely to attack. Why? Because that's the one area where you aren't watching for his attack.
At this point we do well to remember the Jewish leaders who believed on Jesus but would not confess Him for fear of the Pharisees. "They loved praise from men more than praise from God" (John 12:43). Praise is wonderful to receive, but when we love it too much it can lead us away from God.
The praise of others should not be rejected when offered in sincerity. However, we are not to build our lives around it either. Don't believe everything people say about you--the good or the bad. You're not as good as your friends think you are and you're not as bad as your enemies say you are. As with most things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
When someone compliments you on a job well done, smile, say thank you and give the glory to God. But don't let it go to your head. Learn this lesson well or you'll end up doing more "hot time" in the crucible.
Lord, give me the grace to appreciate the praise I receive and to give you glory for any good thing I accomplish, for without You I can do nothing. Amen.
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