“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14, ESV).
Considered one of the greatest champions of the faith and of advancing the message of Christ into unreached places, the Apostle Paul held a firm and accurate perspective of reality. It was not about him, his accomplishments, the amount of churches he had started, visited, or how many at which he had preached. Paul had held a position of high esteem before he had surrendered his life to Christ, and in the eyes of many, after as well. Yet, Paul was able to see that before his transformational encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus had occurred, he had been nothing. He had been both lost and condemned by his own blindness to who God really was. Paul seemed to have a sense of the human nature that was all around him and the tendency that it would have to focus its attention on him. He also understood the nature of his own flesh and the potential temptation to enjoy and crave this attention.
Paul's response was as immediate as it was intentional and effective. He aimed to cut the head off of the snake of potential accusation that he longed for accolade or applause for who he had become. This statement was his loud declaration that "This is not about me! I know who I am and what I deserve. Stop looking at me. Stop applauding me. Stop thinking I'm the answer to your problems. I still have problems and need the very same answers as you. Jesus is the answer. Look at Him! Look to Him! It's HIS CROSS that has made the difference in me. And it is HIS CROSS that will make the difference in you!" Paul seemed to be so aware of his own selfish nature that he was determined not only to make his point strong with others, but also for his own nature to understand who was really in charge.
Paul was not playing around. The glory was not his. The notoriety was not his. The fame could not be his. Any attention he received for all he had done would take away the weight and value of the attention that they needed to place on Christ and His work on the Cross. If they placed the weight of their focus on Paul over Christ, then they would face definite disappointment when Paul ceased to exist. But their attention, hope, and faith in that God who came from Heaven to earth, who came to live His life and to give it perfectly and sacrificially for the sins of the world, and who defeated death, hell and the grave and rose again and ascended back to the throne of victory in Heaven, would be forever their salvation.
The cross of Jesus was never a popular concept. The curse of crucifixion was never seen as the pathway to fame and notoriety. Pain and suffering were seen fit only for those who were deserving of such actions. It was never seen as calling or as something to be desired. And yet, it was the very reason that Jesus came. He came not be served, not to be applauded, not even to be appreciated. He came to live His life and gives His life to honor the Father, show the love of the Father, and to direct the attention of the world off of themselves and to the restoration that would come through Him in order to reconcile them in relationship with the Father. Paul received this same call. He gave up what he had to receive what he really needed and lived the rest of his days preaching and teaching that example. He wasn't what they needed, but he held the truth to what and to whom they did need.
Never lose sight of why you exist in this world. There persists such a culture that trumpets self promotion and self-exaltation to the point relegating all else, even that which is most important. The sound of applause can be deafening to hearing the sound of the voice of God who assures you of wherein lies your true significance and value. This life will be complete with opportunities for you to receive great appreciation and to be applauded for the accomplishment in which you achieve. Celebrate them. Receive them. But always keep your eyes on the reason why God would allow you to be where you are or to receive what you've been given. Rather than be the receiver of praise, be a funnel of praise. Always live to redirect the attention of others to the only One can make the real difference in the lives of others. You can't, but if you allow yourself to be used by God, He can.
Stay humble and know that your greatest significance will never come from what you can do, but only from who you are in Him. Don't allow the temptation of self-promotion to try and fill an emptiness and a search for significance that will only satisfied when you say that "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me."