A picture says a thousand words.

A simple snapshot is able to archive a moment, capture an emotion, or recall a memory.  It’s an amazing feat.

Take the arena of basketball.  I can show you a picture of a player in an event and it will cause you possibly to remember the moment and recall your personal feelings about that player.

Let’s do an experiment.

What do the following pictures say about the player they represent?

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This photo shows Michael Jordan in the infamous flu game where he played like a champ and provided ammo for every commentator to criticize any player who bellyached about some malady affecting their play.

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Lance Stephenson is remembered for blowing in LeBron’s ear during the playoffs to try to get inside his head.  Instead of the impressive games he played during the playoffs, this is what he is remembered for now.

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And then there was Rodman.  Oh, Rodman.  Unfortunately, we do not remember you for your impressive rebounding skills and aggressive defensive plays, do we?

A simple image.  It brings up emotions and it often summarizes a person for us. That brings us to LeBron.  There are certain images that have defined him over the years.

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For all his brilliance in Cleveland, fans and commentators lashed out against him giving up on games when the odds seemed too much.  Yet, he was still a fan favorite and America’s golden child of basketball.  Until…

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During “The Decision,” LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach and the country that loved him now despised him (unless you lived in Miami or were a diehard LeBron fan).

Miami Heat Introduce LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade

LeBron, D-Wade, and CB met with the fans of Miami and promised “not 1, not, 2, not 3…championships.”  People criticized the perceived arrogance and the mentality of aligning forces to gain championships.  These 3 did go to 4 straight NBA finals and won the 2 in the middle.

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Which brings us to our latest iconic shot which is the graphic for LeBron’s new decision to go back to his home team the Cleveland Cavaliers following a loss in the NBA Finals.  This photo was seen around the world over the weekend. And in one moment, many people’s perception of him changed.

Theories for LeBron’s Return

His article showed a grownup LeBron.  His reasoning seemed sound, and his attitude seemed sincere.

He cited that he wanted to be home.  He wanted to raise his family there and inspire the kids of Ohio.

Others have claimed that he thought an aging Heat roster had reached the end of their dominance.

Some say it was a really good publicity stunt to get the attention off of the Spurs and back on him.

Some have claimed that he saw an opportunity with the recent draft picks of the Cleveland Cavaliers to develop an incredible roster which would withstand many seasons.

Maybe there was drama within the organization, but there doesn’t seem to be any.

I think there is another reason behind his move.

The Longing for Approval

Personally, I believe that what LeBron needed more than anything else was approval. He would be willing to take less money, possibly experience fewer wins, and wear fewer championship rings all for the goal of others’ approval. And we are not that different from him.

We all live for the approval of someone.

We all live for the approval of someone.  Inside our hearts, there is a direction that our lives point towards in order to gain the approval of someone or someones.  We will take less comforts, endure more hardships, and suffer greater losses all for the sake of the one we are seeking approval.

The Bible speaks about the danger of being people-pleasers (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:6), and how being fearful of men will lay snares in our lives (Prov. 29:25). Paul said that it was impossible to live for the approval of man and of God at the same time (Gal. 1:10).  We are to do our work for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23).

In our attempt to get the world’s approval, we will lose God’s approval (James 4:4).  The opposite of conforming to the world’s standards is being transformed by God’s standards (Rom. 12:2). All this to say, we all have someone from whom we desire his or her’s approval.

Whether it’s a fan base, a spouse, a friend, a boss, or God Himself, we will stop at no end to hear it.  To be loved by another causes deep motivation that is hard to rival.  It causes men and women to do all types of manner of things that they would rarely be motivated to do.

Deep down, maybe LeBron couldn’t stand being hated anymore.  Maybe he couldn’t live with the criticism of those who said he couldn’t provide what he promised.  Perhaps he couldn’t erase the images of burned jerseys or delete the sounds of boos from the Cleveland fans.  Maybe he wanted to do one act that would swerve the public opinion of him.

Time will tell for LeBron.  He has great talent, and I think, while I will never know the reasoning behind his change, he seems to be making sound decisions at this point in his career regardless of how shocking they might be.

Whose Approval?

Time will also tell for us.

We are living for the adoration of some person or some crowd.  If we don’t hear it, we will work harder for it or find another one to hear it from.

This happens in churches, in jobs, in marriages, in friendships, and in about every arena of life. When the applause is too difficult to obtain, we tend to find another audience.

When the applause is too difficult to obtain, we tend to find another audience.

You cannot make everyone happy.  You will not have everyone buying your jersey in this life.  Haters gonna hate.  True fans stay loyal.

And you and I will do whatever it takes to hear the approval of the one we love the most.

I just pray that I can live for the approval of God and not man (Gal. 1:10).

I pray that I can live in such a way to hear the rejoicing of God Himself (Zeph. 3:17).

Let me live not for the applause of a crowd, but for the approval of heaven.

Let me live not to hear the words “Good job” by men, but “Well done, by good and faithful servant” from my God (Matt. 25:23).

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.