Approval Addiction

I originally wrote this intended to be an interactive Bible study for use in a small group… Hope it’s useful for you in some way…

Take a look at any magazine targeting young adults today. Take a look at the latest sitcom or Hollywood offering. What do you see? What do you notice? If you spend any time at all viewing these, you’ll come away with a couple of things. First of all, our culture is obsessed with sexuality. Bosoms, butts, and “beefcake” dominate the pages and screens of our society. Second, you will also notice the “possession obsession.” Everyone is wrestling to have the latest and the next.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
(Galatians 1.10)

Take a look at any magazine targeting young adults today. Take a look at the latest sitcom or Hollywood offering. What do you see? What do you notice? If you spend any time at all viewing these, you’ll come away with a couple of things. First of all, our culture is obsessed with sexuality. Bosoms, butts, and “beefcake” dominate the pages and screens of our society. Second, you will also notice the “possession obsession.” Everyone is wrestling to have the latest and the next.

What is behind these two rivers of cultural obsession? Though sexual desire is powerful, and man needs some basic things to exist, there is a deeper current that flows beneath these streams. It is the desperate desire of every person to find approval, to know that they are accepted, to be “ok.” How we all long to know that who we are brings another person pleasure, that we are approved! Life would be hopeless and void if we thought we our very existence was insignificant and meaningless.

Listen to one person’s search for meaning… (http://www.his.com/~mmeyerdc/p10.htm)

Is all of life reduced to an “E-ticket”? What would you do if you believed your life didn’t matter? Where would you go to fill the void within you?

And so the rat race is run. People everywhere are desperately trying to fill their lives with things and people in order to find approval and feel like they “matter.” The problem with this race is that it has no finish line. You will never arrive at a point where you feel like you matter or have received deep approval.

Consider Barbara Eden. A recent A&E Biography show detailed her full life. You may know her better as the wish-granter from “I Dream of Genie.” At one point, she rode the clouds of society’s approval as her show sat proudly atop the Nielson ratings. She made the talk show rounds, and was featured on dozens of magazine covers. She was at the pinnacle, having won the approval of a nation.

What would if feel like to achieve this level of approval? This level of fame and wealth?

In spite of this position of affluence and influence, Barbara’s biography revealed a woman who was deeply unhappy. Multiple marriages and a deep struggle with insignificance continued to plague her! Why?

How could someone so successful be so unhappy?

You might as well ask King Solomon, who was far more successful, a shining star on the world stage of his day. He amassed more wealth, honor, and wisdom than any before him, but he discovered that having the approval of the world was:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1.2)
Solomon discovered that in order to be at peace, there is only one person’s approval that matters:
“…For without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God… (Ecclesiastes 2.25-26)

And that is what our nation’s pursuits are missing. That is what the Genie lacked. They all tried to find their approval in men before they found their approval in God. Perhaps St. Augustine said it best: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” (from Augustine’s “Confessions”)

Have you ever been caught up in the Rat Race of Approval Seeking? What does it feel like? What do you think about Augustine’s comment?

You might think it’s difficult to earn God’s approval. It might seem easier just to work for the body that the magazines say you ought to have. Or wear the clothes that culture dictates will earn its approval. Or drive the SUV that guarantees a turned-head and an admiring glance. Won’t these get you the approval you crave easier than trying to please God?

The astounding truth of scripture will relieve you. When looking for the first king of Israel, the prophet Samuel tried to pick someone based on how they looked and the impact their appearance would have on others. But he learned that God had a different way of evaluating:

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16.7)

God doesn’t give his approval based on what you do. How cool is that? You earn God’s approval by who you are. You character, the condition of your heart, is what matters to God.

Can you guess what is the most approval-generating characteristic that you can have before God?

Try this verse on for size:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11.6)

Why is faith so important to God? Does God really not care about what you do?

It’s not that God doesn’t care about what you do. It’s just that who you are comes first. God, as Creator, put the craving for approval in your heart so that you would seek Him. The problem comes when we try to fill that desire for approval with lesser things. Cars, clothes, and the common can never satisfy your soul. Your soul is spiritual and craves the approval of the Spirit. In other words, we settle too soon. Theologian C.S. Lewis said, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

What do you think about C.S. Lewis’ comment? What can a person do to win God’s approval?

On this day...

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