Praise God

I recently read “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Greg “Father G” Boyle. Father Greg is the founder of Homeboy Industries, an independent nonprofit that provides employment for the gang-involved youth of Los Angeles.

Because of his work with at-risk youth and former gang members, “Father G” was often invited to receive awards from various groups. Occasionally, he had scheduling conflicts with other speaking engagements and couldn’t attend the ceremonies. He asked a young staff member (and former gang member), 18-year-old Elias, for his help: “Could you go and accept this award on my behalf?” Elias responded “‘Course I will.”

“Oh, by the way,” continued Father G, “you have to give a little acceptance speech.” Elias was nervous, but Father G told him to relax. “Write a couple of paragraphs and it will be fine,” Father G encouraged. “Cara will take you to the event and be with you.”

The day came and they arrived at the event; the place was absolutely packed! It was standing room only. When the award was presented, the emcee announced, “Accepting the award on behalf of Father Greg Boyle is Elias Montes.” The crowd clapped warmly as Elias awkwardly made his way to the podium. He trembled as he began his speech.

Elias shared how Father G had transformed his life. It was apparent to the crowd that Elias was an astonishing young man, in part because of Father G’s influence. “Because Father Greg believed in me, I decided to believe in myself” he said, finishing his speech. “And the best way I can think of paying him back is by changing my life. And that’s exactly what I’ve decided to do. Thank you.”

The auditorium erupted in applause. People cried, shouted, and couldn’t stop clapping. Elias returned to his seat next to Cara. The ovation continued and Elias whispered to Cara, “Wow, they’re sure clapping a lot for G.”

Cara leaned toward him, “They’re not clapping for G–they’re clapping for you.”

In many ways, Elias had it right–people were honoring Father G as well as him. In reality, I believe they were applauding the One who is the ultimate agent of change, our Lord Jesus Christ!

From time to time, God may allow us to receive an award or some praise from others. There is nothing wrong with that. But the question becomes, “Who really deserves the glory?” Sometimes the hardest part about giving God the glory is not realizing the work that He’s doing in us and through us, just like Elias. It’s our responsibility to point out this growth in others as well, like Cara did.

When we receive praise, how can we remind ourselves to make a conscious effort to reflect that praise back to God? How can we demonstrate this desire to others? Who needs to be reminded that God is using him or her?

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