Christian Living

Spiritual Life

When God Slapped My Face

“I [God] will not give my glory to another.” Isaiah 42:8

At times, however, I’ve tried to steal it from Him.

I had recently returned to Florida from Indiana after having directed and choreographed the drama for four large Christmas city-wide concerts. I had written about 60 personalized thank-you letters to the cast and crew who had helped me, including my assistant director, but had not received one response from any of them. One day I was sharing with a friend that I had given my time, energy, and talent as a volunteer for six months, and no one even bothered to respond.

“It’s amazing,” I said, “how some people, even Christians, can be very ungrateful.”

“So now,” my friend asked, “you’re complaining about their ungratefulness?”

Ouch. God slapped my face.

Was I complaining or just explaining the situation? I asked, “Wouldn’t you want to know that at least one person appreciated all the hard work and long hours?”

“Sounds to me like you’re having a pity party,” she replied. “So, did you do it to get praise and a pat on the back?”

Ouch. God slapped my face again.

Then my friend reminded me about Jesus and the ten lepers. He had healed all ten of them, but only one had returned to thank him. “How do you think he felt?”

“I guess I never considered it. After all, He’s God. He can shoulder disappointments.”

“Well, then, do you think you’re better than the Lord himself?” she asked.

Ouch. A hard slap.

As God used Nathan to convict David (see 2 Samuel 12:1-9), so God used my friend to be my Nathan. I always thought I was motivated by service, not recognition. I was having a pity party. I needed to serve the Lord whether I heard applause or not.

My friend ended our conversation with a pungent takehome kick: “There might be something more, too. Maybe the Lord knows you needed a refresher course in humility.”

Ouch. God slapped my face again.

I was getting the message. I could only get slapped so long. Finally, bruised and bleeding, I fell on my knees and searched the Scriptures to understand how God disciplines his own. After a long, prayerfully painful search, I got off my knees, content with Hebrews 12:5 (NIV):

“Do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

“Hey,” I wanted to shout, “He really loves me!”

The question, Why does God punish his children? plagued me. Now Romans 8:29 answered it: that we might “be conformed to the image of his Son” and part of that likeness is “He humbled himself.” Philippians 2:8 

My heart was jumping up and down. Even though the old nature often resists, the Spirit within was begging: “Humble me, Lord. Humble me.” God, my omniscient father, was lovingly correcting his child. He showed me that craving public recognition is not being conformed to his humility.

My epiphany, at last: His slaps were preparing me to continue what I had been doing, but now, with a renewed motive, I would labor to see that his significant name and fame - Christ himself - lit up the marquee of my life.

God brought confirmation that I was making progress. He provided a Christmas musical, written by a member of our church, for me to direct and choreograph. He had given me another chance to do all things “with all humility of mind.” Acts 20:19 (KJV) I’d had enough wake-up slaps to last for awhile, and, though I didn’t solicit his correction, I’m thankful for the reminder that “the Lord disciplines those he loves” Hebrews 12:5 (NIV). His refresher course is teaching me that his name must dominate all the credits that run at the end of my life’s story. My prayer is that I no longer usurp his glory.

I used to tease one of my college friends that he must be on his fourth volume of Humility and How I Attained It. Now I can start on my first and, hopefully, only volume. I’ll give it the title, Humility and How I Attained It, One Slap at a Time.

Copyright © D. Leon Pippin. Used by permission.

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