It has been said that no one likes a bragger. Even if the boasts are sugar-coated in subtlety and sweetness, it can still leave a bitter taste in the mouth. It can seem like a tricky and delicate balance to let others know about our success without coming across as boastful. We seek an identity for ourselves and look to the things or people that give us confidence and validate us.
The need to be liked by others, the desire for affirmation and the longing to prove ourselves runs deep within us all. This flows out from our heart and influences what we say, what we think and how we act, for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).
When we do or have something we are pleased about or think deserves recognition, we may be tempted to speak proudly about it. The Bible is clear that we should boast in the Lord if we are going to boast at all (2 Corinthians 10:17). How can we keep our heart in check to ensure that we are not seeking glory for ourselves?
We need to start from the cross of Christ. We are all inclined to glorify ourselves as that is the sin of the human heart. Yet, there is hope in Christ for us to live for Him and to glorify Him alone. Below are some suggestions for practical application on boasting for God’s glory, rather than in ourselves.
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1. Boast in the Cross of Christ
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).
We will not be able to live a transformed life without understanding the cross. It is the place where Jesus died for the sins of the world by His blood which paid the price that sins deserve. He took the punishment, being fully God and fully man, and made the perfect, sinless sacrifice which enabled us to be in a right relationship with God.
We have no grounds to boast when the ground at Calvary was soaked by the blood of Jesus for us. A quote attributed to the American theologian Jonathan Edwards captures this succinctly: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” We should boast only in the Lord and His love for us demonstrated on the cross, where forgiveness and eternal life were won for us. The Lord alone is worthy of all glory and any boasting we think to utter cannot compare with this.
2. Glorify God Both Online and Offline
The thoughts that flow out from our heart are written in tweets, posts, images and emails to show a watching world that follows us online. How we represent ourselves online should still honor God and not exalt ourselves or be used to sin against others.
Psalm 19:14 might provide helpful wisdom to reflect on and pray as we alternate between being online and offline: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Everything we do should be pleasing to God and acceptable to Him. If social media is a stumbling block, it might be time to take a break and consider how these online spaces can help or hinder our spiritual growth in the Lord Jesus.
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3. Have a Humble, Teachable Heart
Our heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Boasting can leave us swinging between pride and envy. When we look inwardly to ourselves, we may be tempted to be prideful and think that we are better than someone else. But like a pendulum it could swing the other way. It will only be a matter of time before there is the temptation to be envious at what others are doing, what they have, how they look, what they achieve and more.
May we be brought low and have humility, recognizing areas in our life where we are tempted to take pride in ourselves or envy others. Let us ensure that we are giving all praise and honor to God and be open for correction and rebuke from those who are walking the way of Christ. We should not glory in ourselves or resent others, but allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to rightly place God’s will and glory at the center of our life.
4. Boast in Weakness
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the apostle Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Weakness is often looked down upon, yet the Lord works through it by His power. It might seem foolish to others, yet throughout the Bible God raised up those who seemed weak for His purposes. Many people boast in their wealth, wisdom, connections and intelligence, yet this is not what God looks at. He chooses the lowly and despised, what seems foolish in the world to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong, so that no one can boast before Him (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Our boasting should be in the Lord who is working to make us more like Jesus. When we think God could not possibly work through us because of some weakness we see in ourselves, He can and does work in and through it so that we might not rely on ourselves but on Him. We just need to look to the cross to see the Savior weak beyond all comprehension, despised by men and dying a cruel death. This apparent weakness of Jesus, hailed as a King only a week before His crucifixion, was left hanging and tortured on a cross as His disciples were scattered and afraid. Yet the cross was God’s ultimate triumph over sin, evil and death. It made a way of reconciliation between humanity and God. We can boast in the victory of Christ; death did not hold Him, but He arose victorious over the grave.
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5. Build Others Up and Let Others Build Us Up
Who can we build up in their faith? Maybe there is someone we can encourage in their work or service to others. In Proverbs 27:2 it says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” We can be an encouragement to someone else and take our eyes off of ourselves. We can trust in the Lord knowing that He sees what we do, even if nobody else does.
Maybe spend time thinking of who you could bless and encourage this day, week or month. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
6. Keep the Mind and Heart on Jesus
It is tempting to compare our life with others in all manner of things, but we need to stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Our eyes should always be on the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped but took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7).
Jesus laid down His life for us. As His followers, we should have that same attitude to serve others in love for God and all that He has done for us. There is no room to boast when we think of all that He has done and continues to do for us and how we can demonstrate His love to others so they may see Jesus in us.
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7. Please God, not Others
We want people to like us, but seeking the approval of people rather than God means that we are not servants of Jesus (Galatians 1:10). We must stop looking around at others for their approval and look to God who alone can satisfy the deep longing within the heart to be accepted.
We can serve Him faithfully, knowing that we are fully accepted by Him in Jesus. Pleasing God alone first and foremost is our priority as we long for the day when He will say “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
8. Give Praise to God in All Things
Remember that all good things come from God (James 1:17), so why boast in the gifts rather than in the Giver where all goodness comes from? These good things will eventually pass away and will not last forever. Yet God lasts from everlasting to everlasting and is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
He deserves all glory, praise and worship, and we can pray for that desire to pursue and know Him more to increase in our heart. Let us join in everlasting praise with the heavenly host and believers across the world to magnify the Lord and exalt His name together (Psalm 34:3).
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
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