Approval, Appreciation, and Affirmation

By Tony Cooke


Granted, that’s not a typical introduction to an article on appreciation and encouragement, but now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain the statement. That is what a novice preacher (who later became famous) once uttered under his breath as he angrily left a service in which he had preached to a group of people who were unappreciative and disrespectful toward him. As he matured, he got his attitude adjusted, but his carnally expressed sentiment underscores a desire that all of us have to be appreciated and respected.


A philosopher once observed, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” We might dispute his conclusion, arguing instead that man’s need for God is the deepest need of human nature. However, I think we would all agree that people—including ourselves—have a need to feel valued and appreciated. Mark Twain expressed how much the affirmation of others meant to him when he said, “One compliment can keep me going for a whole month.”

How deep is this need? Consider the little boy who said to his father: “Let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say ‘Wonderful!'” One individual said, “There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous or how successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.”

I believe the need for encouragement is why many leaders, both secular and in the church, keep a file of good reports and letters of encouragement that they will refer to during challenging or discouraging times. It is said that Abraham Lincoln used to carry around a newspaper article in his pocket that described him as a great leader. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

While there is a negative side of seeking what Jesus called, “glory from men,” most of the ministers I interact with are not approval addicts and are not seeking to be worshipped. Rather, they are like Paul, who was:

* Encouraged by Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6),
* Refreshed by Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18), and
* Strengthened by the brothers from Rome when they came out to welcome him to their city. The Amplified says, “When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage” (Acts 28:15).

Encouragement from others does help us keep going!

What happens, though, when people don’t encourage us? What happens when they are not appreciative of our efforts? It can be disheartening when you’ve poured your life into someone, only to discover that as soon as you’ve helped them through their crisis (or crises), they now feel “led” to another church.

David learned that you can’t always count on people to reciprocate your kindnesses appropriately. Psalm 35:12 says, “They reward me evil for good, to the sorrow of my soul.” The Apostle Paul made a fascinating statement as well: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). We’ve already seen that Paul benefited from the encouragement of others, but something far greater than human response motivated and sustained him in his ministry, especially when others didn’t respond with appreciation and gratitude for his ministry.


You may have heard this great statement, There was a time in David’s life when no one was encouraging him, as a matter of fact, everyone around him wanted to kill him. That’s when we read, “but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). Never underestimate the power of talking to yourself! Zig Ziglar said, “The most influential person who will talk to you all day is you, so you should be very careful about what you say to you!” If others don’t encourage you, encourage yourself! The Apostle John said that we “shall assure our hearts before Him” (1 John 3:19).


We need to embrace the fact that people will never meet our deepest needs. God is the Ultimate Rewarder, and we should look to Him accordingly! In Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, we find that our praise will come from God (I encourage you to read those verses in contrast to John 5:44 and 12:43).

Hebrews 6:10-12 says, For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

When people express appreciation toward you, that’s great. We can enjoy a sincere compliment (watch out for flattery), but we should realize that the accolades of men (or the lack thereof) do not constitute our purpose for being or staying in ministry.

The appreciation of people can give us momentary gratification, but it is the praise and the commendation of God that will give us lasting and eternal satisfaction.

I love the way the Max Lucado ended his book, “The Applause of Heaven.”

“You’ll be home soon, too. You may not have noticed it, but you are closer to home than ever before. Each moment is a step taken. Each breath is a page turned. Each day is a mile marked, a mountain climbed. You are closer to home than you’ve ever been.

Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you’ll descend the ramp and enter the City.

You’ll see the faces that are waiting for you. You’ll hear your name spoken by those who love you. And, maybe, just maybe—in the back, behind the crowds—the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and. . . applaud.”

Two great lessons we learn from Hebrews 11 concerning the endurance Moses exhibited are that (1) he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him, and (2) that he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

May you be powerfully encouraged, knowing that the Lord is pleased with your efforts, and that all of heaven is cheering you on in your race!