We hear a lot in the media about “approval ratings”. I suppose this is mostly in politics though one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons is centered around Calvin telling his father that his approval rating is pretty low. Presidents and Congress typically have low approval ratings and there is some significance attached to this. But approval ratings can be deceiving because they are often derived from a group of people who can be pretty easily deceived. In Acts 14 we see a pretty dramatic shift in the apostle Paul’s approval rating. In the city of Lystra, Paul heals a man who had been crippled from birth. The town is excited, ascribing “god-like” status to both Paul and Barnabas. The priest of Zeus brings out oxen and garlands to hold a sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. Of course, they both put a stop to that, giving glory to God, not taking glory for themselves. But then in the next paragraph we read there were some Jews from nearby cities who persuade the multitudes, presumably the same multitudes who were proclaiming Paul and Barnabas to be gods, to stone Paul. Apparently his approval ratings fell pretty far from “god-like” to “stoning material”.
The interesting thing to me is that Paul didn’t do anything differently in the interim period of time. What changed was the perception of the people, influenced by other people who really didn’t know what they were talking about. I feel like we do this often as it relates to God and His approval rating. We evaluate God based on what He has done or hasn’t done lately in our lives or the lives of those we care about. If good things are happening, God’s ratings are high. If difficult things happen, His numbers dip pretty far. May I encourage you not to do this? God’s approval ratings deserve to remain high. His character and nature guarantee that. When we feel like giving God a low approval rating, that is more a function of our lack of understanding and/or appreciation for what God is doing in our lives or the lives of those we care about. And when we produce that low approval rating for God, I think we tend to stop looking to Him for help, counsel and direction. And we stand a good chance of missing out on His activity.