top of page

Approval Seeking

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

No Going Back to Approval Seeking: A Study on Simon Peter April 11, 2021, The Rev. David Collins

Today we’re going to pick up where we left off last week on Easter Sunday, with the Apostle Peter. When we last left Peter, he had gone into the empty tomb, and saw the linen cloths lying there that Jesus had been wrapped in. Before that, we saw the lowest point of his life, on what we call Maundy Thursday, where after Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance, and when he was recognized as one of Jesus’ followers, he denied it...three times.

Peter’s bluster in the gospels, (he was always the loudest of the disciples) and the way we backs off and denies Jesus at his most crucial hour...If he were alive today, we would easily and probably pretty accurately point out that Peter had deep seated insecurities. He craves the approval of whoever is right in front of him at the time. Maybe he is still craving the approval of a father who left, or was distant. Maybe he just had some early trauma that he never dealt with.

We know the type today. The kind who can dish it out but can’t take it. Who projects their own failings and fears onto everyone else. Who changes who they are depending on who they’re with. We all do this. But sometimes, for some of us, it can become a real issue, a stumbling block to being ourselves, and worst of all, it can keep us from authentically and fully following Jesus.

What is it? Today we call it approval seeking.

Let’s take this quiz together, shall we?

1. Do you ever change or softening your position because someone appears to disapprove?

2. Do you ever feeling upset, worried, or insulted when someone disagrees with you?

3. Do you ever expressing agreement (verbally or non-verbally) when you do not agree?

4. Doing something which you do not want to do because you are afraid to say ‘No’

5. Failing to complain when you have received poor service?

6. Spreading bad news and gossip to gain attention?

7. Asking permission when it is not required?

8. Ask for other’s opinions before thinking about your own?

9. Rely on compliments or praise as a source of energy? We could go on. But we won’t. Well, maybe one you ever start to ramble and stop making any sense at all when you feel like someone might disagree with you? (That one was for me. I hate when I do that).

But we all do that. It can addictive. It can be destructive. But Peter did it, too! Simon Peter was all, You are the Christ! Wash my head, too! I’ll die with you. Then later, Jesus? Never heard of him. Then the resurrection comes, Peter sees the empty tomb, then Jesus appears to him again, and spends 40 days with him and the other disciples. The Holy Spirit comes upon him and he is transformed. He becomes the first leader of the church, one of the greatest preachers of all time, a saint, and eventually, a martyr. So what happened? Well, the resurrection happened. Not just as an event, but it happened within Peter. The Spirit of Jesus came into his heart and changed him. It changed his approval seeking. Today, we’re going to dig into something he wrote. One of the short little letters at the end of the Bible is written by Peter. There’s two of them, and so they’re called 1st Peter and 2nd Peter. We’re going to look at 1st Peter today, chapter 3 starting in verse 13. Peter has been encouraging his fellow believers to keep going, keep loving, keep living sacrificially, and then he says something that I think comes directly from his own experience of once having been an approval seeker before he experienced the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Ready? Let’s go.

1 Peter 3:13-18

"Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?" Is that a rhetorical question? How much time do you have? There are about a hundred people who will judge me, or talk about me, or make fun of me. Well, maybe it’s not a hundred, but it’s at least 10, 5...there was this kid once.... Okay, I get your point.

This was some hard won wisdom from Peter. When he denied Jesus those three times, it wasn’t in the face of an explicit threat, or even a veiled one. He was sitting across a campfire from a servant girl who said, “This man also was with him”. The threat of harm that night was first and foremost in his own mind.

"But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed."

Because we know that’s a possibility. And we’re inspired by all those who have done that before us. Peter certainly was. He knew all the stories of the prophets by heart. But in that moment for him, it didn’t make any difference. All the things he had learned he had learned from Jesus every day for three years didn’t make a difference. Being warned by Jesus that very night that he was going to deny him didn’t make any difference!

So what did? What made the difference for Peter? He goes from this blustery, approval seeking, loud mouth to a fully confident, bold leader. What happened? The resurrection happened. Peter saw the empty tomb, yes. But then he met his master and teacher again. Luke tells us that Jesus spent 40 days with him and the other disciples before ascending to heaven, and that that wasn’t even the coolest part! Jesus promised and then gave Peter the Holy Spirit, his very own abiding presence to live within him, and made that Spirit giveable, so that he could share it with others through his words and prayers. That Holy Spirit is the same Spirit that lives in us, helps us to repent and live a new life, and gives us faith and assurance, and the only approval that really matters.

That what changed for Peter, and that’s who is speaking through him when he writes...

"Do not fear what they fear"

And there’s a little note in my Bible that says this phrase could also be rendered “Do not fear their fear.” I love that. It makes it so much more immediate to me. I think we should hear this both ways. Do not fear the things they fear. Do not fear rejection, do not fear disapproval. Do not fear going without, and slander, and all those things that people fear. But also,

Do not fear their fear.