Brother Lawrence in his 17th-century classic, The Practice of the Presence of God, challenged his readers to “think often that our only business in this life is to please God. Perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity.”
To please God seems like an attainable goal for us, doesn’t it? We simply do those things that we know God wants us to do. But it’s not that easy. You and I understand that.
The truth is we live in a spiritual war zone, where the forces of darkness constantly rage against the forces of light. There is a fierce pushback against our efforts to please our King.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Patterns Worth Imitating
The Bible records numerous stories of men and women of faith who were determined to please God despite the difficulty of the day or the danger of the circumstance. None of them did it perfectly, but they all serve as helpful examples to us as we strive to live for Christ in our day.
You might recall the Old Testament account of God testing Abraham in an extraordinary way.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him (Genesis 22:1-3).
Thankfully, God stopped Abraham before he sacrificed his son, but the point is Abraham was committed to pleasing God...no matter the cost.
In the New Testament, we’re told that God sent an angel to Nazareth to tell Mary that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High. After an exchange with Gabriel, Mary acknowledged her humble and privileged position: And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary embraced the plan that was pleasing to her Lord.
The Matchless Pattern
The Bible tells us that when Jesus came to the earth, He took the form of a servant, and was obedient to the point of death on a cross. Jesus pleased His Father like no one else.
In a discourse with the unbelieving Jews, Jesus made this remarkable statement:
And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always did the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29 emphasis mine).
Jesus always did the things that pleased the Father.
Despite all the sin-laden attitudes and disrespectful actions that Jesus encountered, He always thought, spoke, and did the things that pleased His Father. It’s hard to imagine—but true— that nothing ever crossed our elder Brother’s mind that didn’t please His Father.
Now we understand that when it comes to pleasing God that “always” can only apply to the perfect Son of God. But that doesn’t let us off the hook, does it? Perhaps the appropriate pattern for you and me is “more and more.” Paul wrote this to the saints in Thessalonica:
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
Paul taught the early Christians what it meant to please God. They took it to heart, and they put it to practice. But the apostle didn’t want them to be satisfied with staying where they were in their Christian journey. He challenged them to continue to please God more and more.
I wonder if our Thessalonian brothers and sisters accepted Paul’s challenge. Would history say, “Yes, they did continue to please God more and more until the very end.”?
And will history say the same about you and me?
“I am no longer my own, but Thine. Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with whom Thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee, exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am Thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” John Wesley (1703-1791)
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