What does it mean to “please God?” I’ve been thinking about why that term is so difficult for me. Maybe it’s because there is a strong connection in my mind with “pleasing” people. In the way the normal social world works, we learn the ways that others measure and expect perfection, and then work really hard to live up to it. Sometimes we are just trying to live up to our own measure of perfection. Either way, it can be really exhausting.
OK, step back from all of that for a minute. Do you remember your favorite teacher in elementary or high school? The one that could laugh at your 3rd grade jokes and listen intently to your babbling stories, yet when they gave a look or a signal, the entire class would straighten up in two seconds. Perhaps they gave a challenging assignment, but because they encouraged you, you worked extra hard to accomplish it. I had several great teachers like that, but one was Mr. Lee. He taught most of the Science classes at my academy, and was known for finding creative ways to inspire his students to learn. One day in Biology class we showed up to find a big clear-plastic bubble with a fan blowing in it—a giant “cell”—filling our classroom. It was big enough for our whole class to fit inside! And that’s where we learned about organelles and cell function. Mr. Lee could inspire us to do just about anything. Not only did we memorize about 60 species of tidal marine life, but many of us went for the extra credit of memorizing (with the correct spelling) all of their scientific names. These were things we never thought we could do, but he inspired us to. We wanted to “please” him. Why? Because he was a slave-driver and we were afraid of him? No, because we highly respected him and appreciated him as our teacher.
So what does it mean to “please” God? Is it demonstrating our determination, our great devotional life, or counting the souls we’ve won for Him, while constantly feeling guilty or pressured that we’re not doing enough? No, I don’t think so. If we read Isaiah 1, we get an idea of what it looks like to do the “right” things without the right motives. But if we look at Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, we discover what delights our Heavenly Father: recognizing our brokenness and yet believing enough in our Father’s love that we choose to come home and live in that love.
This view of pleasing God actually says a whole lot more about the expansiveness of God’s grace than anything we have to offer. And yet, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, this kind of love can inspire and enable us to do more for the Kingdom of God than we ever could imagine. And I don’t think there is much that delights God more than seeing His children come alive in His love and take on the mission for which He’s created them.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Eph. 3:18-19
*Twice a month, we send out a short devotional to our volunteers. This was written and sent out by Andrea Keele on July 29, 2014.