by Elaine Creasman
I confess that too often—even after decades of being a Christian—I get trapped into acting as if my number one goal in life is to please myself.
What do I want to do? What do I need? What would bring me pleasure at this moment? are questions that seem buried deep within that I respond to.
I want to be like Paul who wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9… “it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him.” (AMP)
Other times I’ve been caught in the trap of trying to please others.
This verse comes to mind. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10.)
Both of these pursuits—pleasing myself and pleasing others–can bring a distance between me and God. I’m realizing right at this moment that it’s my creating a distance between me and God that can cause slipping into this pleasing of myself and pleasing of others. These two pursuits also hurt my relationship with the people I love the most.
A superior goal which brings great benefits is this one: to please God.
My flesh—the part of me that is convinced I don’t need God and can do things on my own– fights against this.
Not long ago a pastor from my church said the following in a sermon when He was talking about what some think true freedom is: “free to fulfill my pleasures vs free to fulfill God’s pleasure.”
Another thing he said which is connected is: “True freedom is not doing as you please.”
That’s what many in the world teach. Hugh Hefner has preached that message in regard to sexuality for decades.
My Bible study leader teaches a class on how to recognize God’s voice. Not long ago she suggested that there is a way to find out if we are on the pursuit of pleasing the Father in various areas of our lives. We ask Him about it.
Instead of doing the thing that first comes to our minds, we ask questions. Lord, what do You have to say about this? We could also ask, Lord, how can I please You in this area? When people are pushing hard to get us to do what they want, let us pause and whisper to the Lord, “What do You say?”
If I’m not asking God questions or seeking Him in prayer while making decisions and charting the course of my life, I can be pretty certain I’m not seeking to please Him. I cannot say, “I want to do what pleases God,” and then neglect to spend time with Him seeking His will and way.
But I do get caught in that at times. Usually I realize it when certain areas in my life become messy, and I discover it’s not a test from God or a trial to endure. Instead I discover I got to that point because I didn’t seek God but just rushed ahead guided by people pushing me in a certain direction or being drawn by my own selfish desires.
As I look to the Word, I see that there is a distinct way to please God.
Hebrews 11:6 states: “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.”
Faith pleases God. When I believe in Him and believe the promises He’s given me and seek Him wholeheartedly and do what He says, He is pleased. He is pleased even if I just seek to do what He wants and fail at it. The good news is that He will reward me for seeking and obeying Him.
Jesus is my example of someone who sought only to please the Father. John 5:30 comes to mind when I think of His perfectly attaining the goal of “to please God.”
“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (NIV)
Other translations have instead of the last phrase, this statement “I do not seek My own will, but only the will of Him who sent Me.” (AMP)
Seeking to please God is to seek to do His will and not my own. More and more, I want to succeed in that. And mercifully, He will help me giving me His peace, His power, and a sure sense of His presence. The key is to spend time with Him in the Word, in prayer and in worship.
Lord, help us today to not seek to please ourselves or other people, but to please You. Help us to be like Jesus in that pursuit. Let us thank God that He equips us “with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrew 13:21 NIV)