Pleasing God

      "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Most people live to please themselves, even among evangelicals. The lament of the Apostle Paul is even truer today: “all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2:21). The Bible teaches plainly that it is privilege, not a burden, to live to please God. Yet how difficult it is to find believers who understand that they are servants of Christ; that their purpose in life is to do God’s will and please Him. They are rare gems, and have been since Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve fell into sin and did what pleased themselves instead of what pleased God.

The Scriptures are clear that the focus of the life of the believer is not himself or herself, but Christ, not just on Sunday at meeting times, but all day and all week, all throughout life. Let’s consider what the Lord has to say about pleasing Him.

In John 8:29 we read, “...I do always those things that please Him.” Don’t we wish that we could say that? But, alas, we can’t, and therein lies our problem. How many homes have been broken, lives ruined and wasted, friendships damaged and churches split because of people who lived to please themselves! No, these words in John 8:29 do not describe our life, but that of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. His was a fragrant life lived in the will of the Father, for the pleasure of the Father. Are we followers of the Lord? If so, we should walk in His steps, imitate Him. 1 John 2:6 says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” This is not directed at preachers, elders or missionaries, but at every true believer and follower of the Lord. No Christian is given permission to live his life to please himself. All Christians are called to follow and imitate Christ. We believe that Psalm 40:8 speaks prophetically of our Lord, when in it the psalmist declares, “I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” It does not say that without faith it is impossible to please self or others, or be on good terms with the world. All that can be achieved without a grain of faith. But faith pleases God, He wants to be believed and trusted, and He deserves it! And in order to live and behave in a way that pleases Him, we must trust Him. Feelings, logic, and looking around to see what others are doing, are things that derail us. We must believe God, which is not the same as believing in God. It means to trust Him inherently, completely, to put God first, before emotions, logic, family, tradition, personal likes, common sense, and before what the majority thinks or does. Unless we believe Him and follow Him this way, we cannot please Him.

In 2 Timothy 2:4 we learn from Paul that as the soldier pleases the one who called him to be a soldier, so it should be with the Christian. That phrase in verse 4, “...that he might please,” succinctly states the life-purpose of the spiritually minded person. Elsewhere the Apostle calls believers to be imitators of him even as he is of Christ. We should ask, as Paul did, “Lord, what will thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6), not out of curiosity, but with a commitment to do whatever He desires. And if we ask the Lord, how will we know the answer? We will not find it in the newspaper, on television or radio, nor on the internet. To know what God wants us to do, we need to be reading God’s Word, and deepening our understanding of Him and His ways. Life is full of obligations and pleasures that consume our time, and most of them have little eternal importance. In order to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we need to be living in His Word. We need to read it daily, study it diligently, and meditate on it devotionally.

Another passage that speaks clearly of pleasing God is Hebrews 11:5, with Genesis 5:22. The great chapter on faith in Hebrews is not a museum, but a manual. It is not to admire, but to learn from and imitate. The Lord tells us there that Enoch pleased God and walked with Him. Now, why would the Lord tell us that, except for the obvious reason that this is what He desires from us. Before Enoch was translated, he had this testimony, that he pleased God. That was God’s testimony concerning Enoch. When someone dies, folks generally try to say something nice about the deceased, and their comments may or may not be sincere and accurate. God’s testimony is always true and accurate. We cannot spend our lives having fun with worldlings, madly chasing career, money, success and pleasure, and then at the end have this kind of testimony from God. We might fool people because we show up at most of the Sunday meetings, but God is never fooled. What are our priorities? When no one sees us, are we walking with God. Is our weekday life filled with fellowship with Him and thoughts of pleasing Him? Each of us should ask himself, “If I were to die today, would the Lord say that about me?”

In Colossians 1:10 the Scriptures call us to “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him.” It is an absolute principle of spiritual life in redeemed people. That word that comes before “pleasing” is of interest to us. “Fully” means “completely,” “all the way,” “entirely,” “not leaving anything out.” This is the extent to which we are to please the Lord. How much of me belongs to the Lord, not positionally, but practically speaking? Is my orthodoxy way ahead of my orthopraxy? It is one thing to sing “All for Jesus, all for Jesus, all my being’s ransomed powers, all my days and all my hours,” and yet another to live it. Perhaps that is why Tozer said that Christians tell more lies when they sing hymns than at any other time! Romans 7:4 reminds us that we should “..bear fruit to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says concerning those whom the Lord has saved, that they “should live no longer for themselves, but for Him that died for them and rose again.

Hebrews 13:16 gives us the following exhortation. “But to do good and communicate [share] forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” This is of interest to the person whose desire is to please the Lord. What pleases Him? When we do good, that is, to others, seeking their good, not our own, this is pleasing to God. When we communicate, better translated “share,” with others, this pleases the Lord. This is what beggars never do, for they are basically selfish people who only think of receiving; they are in it for what they can get, and your job is to give them what they need. Unfortunately there are many parachurch organizations who are like them, always advertising needs and asking for money and workers, who apparently think the churches exist to supply their needs. But our concern here is more with ourselves. If the Boy Scouts do a good deed every day as part of their code of behavior, how much more should our lives as Christians be full of good deeds, done in Christ’s name so that He, not we, gets the glory!

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1 the Apostle reminds the believers that they have learned how they ought to “walk and please God.” The epistle is written to all the saints in Thessalonica, not just to the more spiritually mature. Here we see that the doctrine of the Apostles was much more than writing creeds or declaring truths about the Trinity. Apostolic doctrine included instructions for everyday life. This is missing in much preaching and teaching today, and some folks resent preachers that “get into their lives,” but that is the apostolic pattern. “Walk” is a word that refers to our daily conduct, our moment by moment behavior. Whatever we are about to do or say, we should ask, “Will this please God?” It is a great test that could deliver us from many problems and wasted time. Let me give just one real practical example for the young people. Did you choose your career, or did the Lord choose it? Have you basically kept going in the same direction in life that you were headed in before you professed faith in Christ? Have you ever put your career choice and preference on the altar before the Lord, abandoned it, and said, “Lord, what do You want me to do with the life you have given me?” Or do you only ask Him to bless what you choose for yourself? Some answer saying, “but the Lord gave me a mind to think and choose.” I say, “Amen! So think about doing His will. Think about the fact that He knows better than you, that He sees the future and you don’t even know what you’ll eat for supper! Think about how worthy He is to be trusted with that important decision! Think, and choose God’s will!”

1 Corinthians 7:32 instructs single believers that they should be concerned with “how to please the Lord.” In Ephesians 6:3 parents are told to bring up their children the way that pleases God, not the way that pleases self, the relatives or the world. In Colossians 3:20 children are told to obey their parents in everything, and the divinely given reason is because “this pleases the Lord.”

In Ephesians 6:9 masters, bosses are told to treat their servants or employees as the Lord desires. Ephesians 6:5-6 reminds servants/employees that obeying their masters/bosses and serving them well is “serving the Lord.” In 1 Peter 5:1-4 elders are instructed to shepherd the saints in a way that pleases the Lord, after all, the sheep are His, not theirs. If a man abuses his delegated authority to make the saints conform to his likes and dislikes, he is pleasing himself, not the Lord. Neither is he pleasing the Lord if he neglects his delegated responsibility and fails to care pastorally for the saints. Elder, pastor, and bishop (overseer) are not titles but words that describe the character and work of those to whom the Lord entrusts the care of His people. The most important thing is not to please self, nor to please the assembly, but to please the Lord. Before teaching His Word, our prayer should be that of the psalmist, “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD my strength and my redeemer” (Psa. 19:14).

But the greatest example is that of our Lord Jesus. Romans 15:2-3 extols the virtues of the Lord and calls us to be like Him. “Even Christ pleased not Himself,” we are told. Here is the mountain peak! He could have pleased Himself, but He didn’t, and for that we thank God. He could have stayed in Heaven. He could have come to earth in all His regal glory and power. He could have avoided the cross, or He could have come down from it, but where would we end up if He had done that? We are followers of the One who did not please Himself, but His Father. When He taught us to pray, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” those were not just pious sounding words. His life was the incarnation of those words.

May we learn to judge everything in that simple light, by this simple question, “is it God’s will, my will, or someone else’s will?” The test is, “Is it truly pleasing to the Lord,” for that is why we live, to please Him and glorify Him. God is calling us to put away self-pleasing, no matter what the changes are that must take place, no matter what the cost. Whether we are doing ordinary things like eating or drinking, or whatever we do, we should do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). He bought us with the blood of His Son; we are His, not ours. Our right to live to please self was nailed to the cross. “What, know ye not that…ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).