I must say that I enjoy watching the American Idol auditions. Every now and then you hear someone with a fantastic voice that blows you away, but let's be honest, most of what we see is not so hot. In between lots of laughter and confusion, one thing does stand out to me as I watch:
People are deceived.
You know how it goes. We see someone interviewed before their audition and they express with confidence to all of America that they have what it takes to win the competition. They boast of their years of voice training, they share how their friends think they have a great voice, and often there is a parent standing beside them smiling and agreeing with this assessment.
Then they sing.
Although Simon can lack graciousness in his criticism, he often says what most of us are thinking. I know he says what I'm thinking and despite the way in which he expresses himself, I think he is usually right. The other judges often agree but express their critique in a kind manner. So you have this person trying out that is really a dreadful singer, there are four judges all expressing the same thing to them, yet they vehemently disagree. They look utterly confused that these professionals sitting before them do not agree with their own assessment and the assessment of their friends and family.
Could it be that the people in their lives are just not being truthful with them?
I know from personal experience that without the loving, truthful insight from others, I would miss all sorts of things. Like those dreadful singers who think they are great, I too am deceived. Although I may not be making a fool of myself on national television for all to see, my deception is much more serious than that. In my own little world and before a Sovereign God, I am often foolish and deceived by my own assessment of myself.
For instance, I often fail to hear my impatient tone when I speak to my husband about something. That is until my son or daughter says, "Mom - your voice wasn't very kind towards Daddy." Suddenly, I am busted by an 8 year old or better yet, a 5 year old. How did I, a mature adult, a parent, miss something that was so obvious to my children? Thankfully, the Bible answers that question and I just need to remind myself of the truth:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Agreeing with what God says about my heart is the first step in recognizing my need for the input of others. Asking for input does not come naturally though. It's one thing to ask a friend if your hair looks better this way or that way, but it's another thing to ask someone for their input about your speech toward others or how you responded in a particular situation or how your thought life has been in light of meeting that new guy or girl. Now we're getting personal...we're getting to the nitty-gritty...and this is where real change can begin to take place. If we can take the first step by agreeing with what God's word says about our deceitful hearts, then by faith we can take the next step by humbling ourselves before another and asking them specific questions about what they may see in our lives. Remember that the input of others is not always conclusive, meaning, it's possible that their observations are not entirely correct or accurate. The path of humility would call us to thankfully receive what they share and then we can go before the Lord and offer it up to Him, praying:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
So many things that we pray about often seem to go unanswered, at least for a time. Although God is at work in that particular situation that we're praying about, we just can't see with our eyes of flesh what He is doing so we need to simply wait and trust in His goodnesss. Most things I pray about seem to fall into this "wait and trust" category, so I find it curious that when I've prayed Psalm 139:23-24, God has faithfully shown me, rather quickly, areas of sin. This is nothing short of a demonstration of His mercy and love towards us. Our Savior is committed to our sanctification like none other and promises to complete the work that He has begun in us.
Asking for input may be difficult but giving input can be just as, if not more challenging. Will she be angry if I bring this to her attention? Will she get defensive? Will this just turn into a conflict? How can I bring this up in a gracious way? What will she think of me? Can't God just show them this without me? These are just some of the questions that plague my deceitful heart that is often ruled by what others think above and beyond what God thinks. Sharing input with others has been an especially difficult area for me but by the grace of God, my toes are pointed in the right direction and if you look close enough, there may even be slight trails of a shuffle. There is no magical formula to make this easy, but this is what I have sought to do and it's been very helpful:
1- Agree with what God's word says about my own heart. Agree with Paul's description of himself and apply it to myself: I am the chief of sinners. If I don't start here, I will be tempted to see their weakness or sin as worse than my own.
2- Thank God for that individual in specific ways, remembering and reminding myself afresh that He is at work in their lives.
3- Ask God for help in sharing my input in a humble and gracious manner. I specifically ask that He would help me to not draw conclusions in my statements but to have a heart to serve them by asking questions, trusting that only God can truly show a person his/her own heart.
4- Make a commitment to God to be a faithful friend to that individual by stepping out and sharing input. If I don't make that commitment to God, I can easily weasel out of it.
5- Remind myself that this is not about me. This is about God's glory and seeking to care for another individual in a way that would bring honor to His Name.
Receiving input from others and sharing input with others is not an easy thing to do. By the grace of God we can seek to grow in both areas by believing that we truly need one another and then making the choice to be a faithful friend to one another, for God's glory.
Just like those dreadful singers on AI that are deceived in thinking that they have a great voice, we are deceived.
Unlike those dreadful singers, we don't stand before a panel of human judges in hopes of hearing "You're going to Hollywood!" We stand before the One and Only perfect and righteous judge: Jesus Christ, who through His death on the cross has made payment for our every sin - past, present, and future. As R.C. Sproul puts it:
What every human being needs to be saved from is God. The last thing in the world the impenitent sinner ever wants to meet on the other side of the grave is God. But the glory of the gospel is that the One from whom we need to be saved is the very One who saves us. God, in saving us, saves us from Himself.
A must read for everyone:
"The Cross and Criticism" https://bookstore.peacemaker.net/html/artic10.htm