We’ve probably heard this phrase, “No Guts, No Glory”, whether in a movie, or from a friend who wants us to join him in doing something stupid. The idea is that if we aren’t willing to try something difficult or dangerous, we will never become famous or popular. (Hint: if your friends use this phrase often, you might want to get used to saying “no” a lot, and perhaps show them some online videos of what happens to people who injure themselves trying stunts that they have no business getting into!)
The apostle Paul (and many other followers of Jesus) was willing to be bold. He stepped up to challenging situations, and didn’t shrink back when there was an opportunity to do the right thing – even when it could result in imprisonment, personal injury, or being kicked out of a city (again). While he selected a method of delivery that was appropriate to his audience, He didn’t compromise His message to stay on others’ good side.
Paul was not focused on being a people-pleaser:
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.
1 Thessalonians 2:4-6 NLT
In some cultures, certain followers of Jesus are looked up to. These may be famous preachers, evangelists, speakers, or authors. Or, they may simply show Jesus’ love for others through generosity and service. All of these people can certainly be positive examples for us, as they remind us to be like Jesus, who they also try to emulate.
However, I imagine that it can also be challenging for people in this situation to keep their eyes on God, and not be tempted to bask in their popularity just a little bit. When a publisher asks an author to tweak his or her topics to increase book sales, or a pastor is tempted to overlook the sin of a large donor in his preaching, there is a decision that has to be made: Is the call of money, fame, or cultural acceptance more important, or is the call of God supreme in our lives?
At times, it takes real courage to stand up for God, and not to seek out praise from others. There are facts that God has made clear in His Word, and to leave them out from certain conversations is to present a message that is simply false. There are activities that followers of Jesus are called to avoid – even if only to support those who are weaker in the faith. There is much work to be done on this earth, while those who are lost still need help finding their way home; as a result, too much wasting time with things of lesser importance isn’t going to get the job done. Still, the right thing is still the right thing, and if Jesus is truly our Lord (and not just our Savior), then His instructions take priority over the contrary voices in the world.
Don’t get me wrong: This is a challenge for me, as well. I feel the pressure to ignore opportunities to tell people the truth that they need. I want to be liked and popular, even among those who may not share my worldview. My goal isn’t to be always talking, or intentionally rude to anyone who doesn’t agree with me; however, when I have to choose, it’s normally not easy to look other people in the eye and make a choice that they may not like.
Still, can we be inspired by Paul today, and put God’s calling ahead of our own desires for the approval of other people? I hope that we can be, in our heart, true to God (who is the only person other than us who truly knows our sincerity), and be a blessing to others whether they appreciate it or not. It won’t be easy, but “No guts, No Glory [to God!]”.