How to Please God
- Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Editor’s note: The following is a report on the practical application of Patty Kirk's new book, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God (IVP Books, 2013).
Too many people end up frustrated and exhausted from the stress of trying to please God through work that isn’t really necessary. From serving in church to trying to keep their behavior in line with biblical values, plenty of well-meaning Christians pursue good activities yet fail to reap the good result God intends from their efforts: more joy in their relationship with Him.
If you’re trying hard to please God but feel like you’re falling short of doing so, it’s time to discover how truly easy it actually is to please God. Here’s how:
View your relationship with God the way He does. From God’s perspective, your relationship with Him is based on love, not rules. Keep in mind that God is your Father in heaven, so you can look at your human relationships in families (such as with your parents or with your children, if you have any) to help you understand what a loving parent’s expectations are like. While God does call you to keep growing in holiness, He doesn’t reject you if you fail to live up to all of the rules. Like a good human parent, God encourages you to live up to your potential while also forgiving you when you fail, teaching you valuable lessons, and empowering you to keep growing. You can trust that God has your best interests at heart, because He loves you completely and unconditionally.
Focus on the only work God truly requires of you. All that’s really necessary for you to do as a Christian is the work of faith: believing in Jesus and trusting Him in every part of your life. Every other good work that God leads you to do will flow from the foundation of faith, and only faith is necessary for your salvation. While it can seem like faith doesn’t involve work, it actually does, because you must make an effort to relinquish your own efforts to control your life and place your trust fully in God to lead you to what’s best.
Discover the contentment behind God’s commands. Recognize that God has designed each of His commands to you for your benefit: to protect you from harm and help you develop contentment, regardless of what circumstances you encounter in this fallen world. When you keep in mind that God has good purposes for calling you to behave in certain ways, you can see that God’s commands aren’t burdens, but blessings.
Realize the limits that God has built into His commands. When God commands you to do something, He makes it practical to fulfill those commands by building limits into them so they become measurable objectives. For example, rather than commanding you to love every person in the world, God commands you only to love the people whom you personally meet.
Embrace the freedom you have to serve God out of love rather than obligation. Since the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus has set you free from the impossible task of trying to earn God’s love and connected you to God as a gift, you can respond to that wonderful gift by freely expressing your love back to God however you like. You don’t have to serve God, but considering God’s great love for you naturally motivates you to want to serve God.
Invest your time and energy first into your relationship with God instead of your work for Him. Whenever you have to choose between spending time and energy on developing a closer relationship with God and doing good work to serve Him, choose to invest in your relationship – that’s far more important, from God’s perspective. It ultimately does no good to pursue volunteer work for God if doing so leaves you without enough time or energy to keep growing closer to God Himself every day.
Give cheerfully. Rather than tithing to your church and donating to charities out of a sense of duty, do so cheerfully by identifying specific needs that your financial support will help meet and enjoying the satisfaction that comes from being a vital part of solving problems and growing into a more generous and loving person.
Devote one day per week to genuine rest. Celebrate the Sabbath day as the gift from God that it is by doing only activities that you find relaxing and enjoyable during that one day each week. As you do, savor God’s presence with you and enjoy His company.
Find creative ways to love the difficult people in your life. It doesn’t need to be a chore to obey God’s command to love the people you know who seem hard to love – from siblings who compete with you to enemies who have hurt you. You can choose to act in love toward everyone you know, even when you don’t feel love toward them. God will help you to treat people with respect and kindness, and to forgive them while setting healthy boundaries. In the process, you’ll come to enjoy your relationships with others more.
Carefully consider whether or not to take on new responsibilities. Don’t automatically say “yes” to a new responsibility simply because there’s a need for someone to do it and someone asks you to meet that need. If you take on a responsibility without considering it carefully, it could lead to stress, failure, and guilt rather than good results. Think and pray carefully about each potential new responsibility, considering whether or not it is really worth your attention and effort during this season of your life.
Choose mercy over sacrifice. Rather than trying to please God by making sacrifices (such as avoiding a guilty pleasure), focus on loving God back by letting His love flow through you and out into the world, bringing mercy to people who need to experience it. Then you can express your love naturally without trying to force it.
Choose excellence over perfection. You set yourself up to fail when you try to be perfect to please God, because in this fallen world, every human being is tainted by sin and falls short of perfection. But if you shift your focus from perfection to excellence, you can actually accomplish excellent work for God – all while enjoying the confidence of knowing that God loves you unconditionally.
Enjoy living in the present. Treat every day that you’re alive like the gift from God that it is, and revel in the moments God offers you to enjoy the blessings He constantly pours into your life – from food and friends, to the joy you can find through experiencing God’s ongoing presence with you.
Patty Kirk is writer in residence and associate professor of English at John Brown University. She is an award-winning writer and author of Confessions of an Amateur Believer and Starting from Scratch: A Wandering Cook in Search of Home. is writer in residence and associate professor of English at John Brown University.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: May 21, 2013
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