One of the most important insights I've gained on my Christian walk, is that people have a natural tendency to try to please the important people in their lives--sometimes those who aren't so important. Some people try to please everybody. Christ said, (John 13: 24 NIV) "A new command I give you: LOVE one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Do we sometimes mistake pleasing for loving? There's nothing wrong with trying please others, but when we let it become routine, even obsessive, then, whether we please them or not, our effort doesn't produce the desired results. Too often, this tendency to please others steals away the person God created us to be. What we hold in high regard, will control us; what we esteem lowly, we will govern.
This obsession can take on many faces. Maybe you have a very important client with whom you often socialize. You consider him a friend. He's a nonbeliever, so that you won't offend him, you never speak of Christ in his presence. When he visits on Sunday, you find the perfect excuse not to go to church.
How long before you don't go to church anymore at all. When do you summon the courage to be the Christian God meant you to be and speak to your friend about Salvation?
On the other hand, maybe you're the person who wants to please your church leaders so much that you accept any assignment asked of you. You work on every committee, teach Sunday school, and go visit every sick person in your congregation. You rarely have time for you family. After all, didn't James tell us in (James 1:4 NIV), "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?"
No, his deeds do not save him, and his faith does not save him, the grace of God saves him. Let me remind you what Paul said in (Ephesians 2: 8-9 NIV) "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." In church and in our workplace, we often spread ourselves so thin we become ineffective. We find ourselves in a place so stressful, we become depressed and want to quit. We have to put our focus on God. Sometimes this means making choices that go against the wishes of others.
The examples above are obvious, but let me tell you a story about a preacher I know, his problem wasn't so apparent. I met this Christian man in a coffeehouse my family owned in Texas. On our opening day, he peeked around the front door of our shop; let's call him Sam. He stood well over six feet and weighed at leastwell, Sam was large. Sunglasses, like those of a blind man, wrapped around the sides of his head and sat on his nose below a shock of wavy blond hair. He spoke with a soft Texas accent. Sam came in, had a cup of coffee, a cinnamon rollmaybe two and told us he was a preacher and a musician.
Very soon, his little band became an event at our coffeehouse every Friday and Saturday night. Our business flourished because of this kind preacher and his many friends. Later, my husband and I began to attend Sam's small church in the hills. He led us to Christ in October of 1998.
Besides his duties as a minister to his flock, Sam was the chaplain at the local hospital where he spent many hours a day, five or six days a week. He has a wife and four children, one of whom has Down syndrome. Anytime someone needed something, Sam was there to help. It seemed every citizen in our town knew and loved him, whether they were a member of his church or not.
Sam has given up his ministry, quit his job at the hospital and no longer plays the music he loves so much. It's an understatement when I say a shockwave went through our town when Sam made this decision. This man, in his late forties or early fifties at the time he made this decision, knows as much or more about the love of God than anyone I've ever known. He has a university education. I've heard him preach many beautiful sermons. Never mind all the other worthwhile work he did. I eventually decided he made this decision because he couldn't handle the load--he was exhausted. He simply needed to take some time off.
That was more than eleven years ago. We no longer own the coffeehouse. We live in a different town now, but I've stayed in touch with Sam over the years and he still performs weddings and funerals. To support his family, he drives a tractor and other big equipment, something else he's always loved to do. When I think back to the day I met Sam, when he took off his sunglasses, his blue eyes sparkled--he seemed so happy. It's hard to believe a man with such a love for the Lord would give up all he worked so hard for, would give it up to do such demanding physical labor to earn a living. I finally asked him why he had quit--given up his church and especially his music. I asked if it was because he was tired. Here is what he told me.
"I guess I did give up in a way. I finally gave everything I have to Christ."
"I don't understand," I said, "I thought you did that, years ago."
He went on. "When someone met me on the street and shook my hand, gave me a pat on the back, I could feel their respect. I loved it. Every time I led someone to Christ, I thought, 'let's see, how many is that?' When people listened to my music about Jesus, it gave me great pride.
"Then one day I realized, I'm seeking love from these folks, not giving love to them. I'm trying to please myself, not God. My music is about Jesus, not for Jesus. Then it dawned on me that everything I did to please others was for the sake of Sam, not for the sake of God. Everything I did all those years was all about me."
After a quiet moment, Sam continued. "I quit so I could find the man God had created me to be. Somewhere along the way, he got lost."
Not all of us need to drop out as Sam did to straighten out our lives. We all crave love and approval, but Sam's ordeal made me take a serious inventory of my motives and my values. I thought about the apostle Paul. He knew his need to serve God rather than other people, even when they had the power to put him in prison. He knew his faithfulness was more important than anything these people could promise him. He knew their approval was uncertain and came with strings attached. (Galatians 1:10 NIV) Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Only God can give us the unconditional love we so urgently desire. His total love for us, gives us confidence in our relationships with others, then when we please them, we please Him. To find the person God created us to be, we have to take our eyes off ourselves, and focus on God.
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Please see her website, www.jackimcguyerauthor.com
Jacqueline (Jacki) McGuyer is the author of two Christian Fiction novels. She has written several articles, which have appeared online and in print. She has also produced a newsletter for the children's department of her church. With every book she writes, it is her ambition to grow and be faithful to her readers. Moreover, she aspires to give them an entertaining story that will dazzle and provide honest and thoughtful information to keep them coming back for more. Above all, she is a Christian writer, and her faith guides her pen. Please visit her website, The BookTender at www.jackimcguyerauthor.com where she offers affordable editing and proofreading services.
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