One of the wisest things ever said to me was said by a Australian professor at the seminary that I attended in Memphis, Tennessee. He told us that the most difficult test we will ever have in life is to experience praise and success. That will test you in ways you are not ready to handle - unless you have truly embraced the humility of Christ in your life. Today's proverb tell us the same thing - that we will be tested by the praise that is given to us.
The picture that is painted for us is that of a crucible and a furnace. These two things are used to refine silver and gold. The process begins with the base ore being put into the crucible. As the heat increases the valuable metal sinks into the crucible, while the junk rises to the top. The one refining the ore scraps the slag from the top of the crucible. Over time more impurities come to the top - and each time they are scraped off revealing purer and purer silver or gold. So the picture that is painted for us is that of a purifying process brought on by heat and stress on the metal.
In a similar way, we are tested when praise and success comes our way. We are faced with a choice when this happens. We can either believe our own press and think we really are awesome - or - we can be realistic about things and know that any goodness in us is solely due to God's grace and goodness. The opposite of this response is pride. We begin to take pride in ourselves and our accomplishments. We have the audacity to think we are the cause and the wisdom of our own works. Yet any good thing seen in us is the grace of God at work.
I've watched this process in the my own life and in the lives of others. Nothing tests us like praise that comes our way. I watched a very successful church that was praised begin to think they deserved the praise for what they were going. It was a trerrifying thing to watch God first remove His presence from the church - and then begin to discipline the church for their arrogance and pride. The moment we think that anything but God's grace is responsible for our success and praise, in that moment we have miserably failed the test.
A wise man knows that his first response to praise should be one of two things. Either he expresses gratefulness to the one who had praised him - or he immediately deflects the praise offered to God Who is truly responsible for what has happened. Let us therefore be wise and immediately take any praise given to us - and give it to God. May we realize that truly any good seen in us is a result of the grace and mercy of God. That is the way to pass the test of praise offered to us.