From the time we are born we are soon cajoled into pleasing others and it has become so natural that even as adults, displeasing others causes us untold suffering, and at times mental breakdown. At home we expect to please our parents, at school we are forced to please our teachers and at work God help us if we do not please our bosses. Why are we so habituated with pleasing others?
This is not to say that pleasing others is always bad, or unfortunate, or evil in itself but rather to point out that working to other people's agendas and inclinations and irrespective of our own preferences and convictions can be self-defeating, morally destructive and spiritually weakening.
It was because Pilate wanted to please the crowd that he gave an innocent man, Christ Jesus, to the Jews to be crucified, see John 19:16.
It was because King Herod wanted to please the Jews, see Acts 12:2-3, that he killed St. James with the sword and immediately afterwards arrested St. Peter and put him in prison.
It was because Aaron wanted to please the people, the same people who God brought through the desert, that had temporarily lost faith in Moses because of his absence in the mountain, that he made them melt their gold jewels and made a molten calf for them to worship, see Exodus 32:4.
I am told that women dress to please other women and when a woman goes to a function and see another woman looking at her scornfully, or says something unflattering, then that woman when she gets home has nightmares wondering what she wore that looked that awful.
Let us face facts and acknowledge that peer pressure does funny things to people. Gangs understand this only too well and often ask individual members to do unconscionable, and at times, criminal things to stay on good terms within the gang.
I see this unfortunate "like" trend has entered the church and people are being asked whether they like or dislike a lot of things.
I have no problem with someone saying to the pastor, "Oh I like your sermon, thank you" but I deplore that sermon being posted online and the church asking people to say whether they like it or not.
Many websites now follow this "like" habit for nearly everything posted online.
Christians ought to be very careful in following this worldly habit for in truth it is the very opposite to what God wants.
Let this be absolutely clear. You should not preach, teach or write spiritual articles to please people, neither should you do so to offend people.
God is not a democracy and has to depend on people's likes and dislikes in order to function effectively. The plain truth is that most people have a deep dislike for the things of God and an unholy relish for the junk the world offers. This has been true since time immemorial.
God deals always with the things that people need and not with their wants, and especially so when what people want are the very opposite to what God wants for them. The truth is that if God granted us what we want we would be the most dreadful beings on the planet and we would, in all likelihood, have perished from off the face of the earth.
The Bible puts this in perspective and affirms this very clearly and assuredly when it says, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)
The purpose of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in whatever form is NEVER about pleasing people but rather in communicating something from the heart of God that believers may find beneficial or sinners find useful in their search for truth.
If your leg is ailing you and you go to the doctor for an examination, what you may very well want him to do is to give you a massage, and tell you to go home for everything is alright. But if the leg is cancerous what you need is surgery, and if the doctor is a serious doctor, and not a bumbling quack, he would do what is needful. In a like manner of things pertaining to God would true ministers of the gospel act.
The Apostle Paul was punished more than the other apostles, check out 2 Corinthians 11: 23-26, but he stuck to his principles and refused to kowtow to the dictates of the world or to give pleasure to it, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)
Notice here what Paul said as a minister of the gospel, "FOR IF I YET PLEASED MEN, I SHOULD NOT BE THE SERVANT OF CHRIST"
Believers are entrusted by God with ministering the gospel in a number of ways and whatever your ministry, or calling, or work for Christ the one thing you must not do is dilute it, or compromise it or undermine it to gain human plaudits. Paul reminded us of this, "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts." (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
Pleasing people is not a part of Christian ministry in any of its permutations.
True believers endeavour always to please God; and if people are delighted with what they observe, then well and good, and if they are not, then so be it. Peter summed up this God-centric approach very well when he responded to the High Priest's question after escaping from prison, "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
Many believers, in order to have a peaceful life, believe that by compromising, trying to please the world, adopting its ungodly and demeaning standards in dress, in conversation and in lifestyle will do the trick for them, but they are mistaken and should awake from their slumber for the Bible tells us this, "When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." (Proverbs 16:7) Even in this, it is pleasing God that matters most.
Alas, pleasing God for many become a gargantuan exercise, so enormous as to become unachievable because the one ingredient that makes that possible is missing from their portfolio. The writer of the Hebrews puts it like this:
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)
Faith, above all else, is the essential ingredient that is required to please God, and without that indispensable faith in the right amount all our efforts at pleasing God fails. This is not miraculous faith that is a gift of the Holy Spirit, this is not saving faith that makes salvation possible. No this is the everyday faith that is required for living godly day by day, being in sync with God, obeying his commands without question or hesitation and being productive according to his will.
All believers have this latter faith, for in the true sense, that is what validates our relationship with God; but it needs to be strong enough in its exercise to enable us to please God.
Some of the failures of the original disciples of Christ were yes, their lack of faith (which is easily understood) but more often it was because they had too little faith, i.e. their faith was simply too weak. Jesus recognized this when he remarked on their failure to heal a sick child, "Jesus answered, You were not able to make the demon go out, because your faith is too small." (Matthew 17:20 Easy-to-Read Version)
So accepting that we have faith and we desire to please God, how can we bolster our faith, how can we build it up so that in our everyday living we continuously please God?
Here are some things we should consider.
1. Fervently practice claiming God's promises. The promises in the Bible are ours and we are apt to see them as not belonging to us personally, but they are, and we should grab hold of them and claim them. This is not a name-it and claim-it, as preached by some prosperity gospel preachers, but an affirmation that we believe what God tells us and we will act on his word. When God tells you to resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7) then whenever you encounter the devil, in your thoughts, in your home, while lying in bed or anywhere else, then resist him in the name of Jesus and he WILL flee. Just do not be afraid and nervy. IT WORKS. You just have to get used to practising it over and over until it becomes part of who you are. The more you claim God's promises the stronger and more effective your faith becomes.
2. Revisit how you pray and meditate. Too many believers have a ritualistic approach to prayer and meditation. For example you read a verse or verses of scripture, you think about what you read for a little while, you have a short prayer and you are done. There is nothing wrong here, being methodical is fine and for some people it works quite well. Ritual is fine for group settings and in churches but for individuals doing private prayers and meditation this form is too restrictive.
You need to tap into the flow of the Holy Spirit and go wherever it leads. The session may well begin with groaning and head-shaking because God hit you with some big problems that you think are unfair. It may involve tears and thanks for surviving the onslaught of the enemy. It might continue with recalling a few scriptures of triumph, and they are many throughout the Bible, and it might end with a song and prayers of thanks for God's tremendous help. And not once did you open the Bible. By following the Spirit our pray-and-meditation session can be energised and be a lot more useful as we practice new approaches and innovation.
3. Seek out opportunities to practice compassion. Nearly every believer thinks he or she is compassionate but for many the compassion is limited to understanding the concept. Some things you must practice to make them real, for them to have meaning and for them to make a difference. Compassion is one such where desire is just not sufficient, you have to be doing it for it to be useful. A widow is destitute and you desire her well-being, well then why not help her? There are many of the household of faith who can do with a little help, many children in need of assistance and you probably pass them unnoticed, day by day, as if they are invisible.
Many times we ease our conscience by referring to the government's welfare programmes or we put something in the offering plate or we may give the street beggar an occasional donation. Why not sponsor a school child in your village, or on your block; why not supply that aged couple with a few groceries weekly and show true Christian compassion? These are real meaningful acts of genuine compassion pleasing to God. Never forget what Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)
4. Make Bible study meaningful. Bible study can be one of the most enriching, uplifting experiences the believer can have if it is done right. Bible study should not just be about understanding a passage of scripture and making the application, which is fine and we tend to do that frequently, but Bible study should be about adventure, discovery and amazement. If like me you have read the Bible from cover to cover more than once you should know what is in the Bible and nothing should be new; or so you think.
If you cannot find something new and amazing in the Bible as you study it then you are not doing the real Bible study.
Truth be told you need to equip yourself with the necessary tools to get the best out of Bible study - Bible Encyclopedia, Bible Concordance, Bible Dictionary, Topical Bible, Bible Commentary and one or two different versions of the Bible other than the King James Version.
As you study, check out the origin of words, visit the birthplace of people mentioned, study their lifestyle, dress, local culture, enquire into their work habits, family life and rituals, geography and education. For example you read about the wise men from the East, but do you know who they really were? You read about the woman at the well whom Jesus asked for water but do you know anything about her or her village? Is that well still there now and where is it on the map? How did Abraham manage to build wells like this one? Can you trace Abraham's journey through ancient Palestine the same way you can trace Paul's Missionary Journeys? How large was Abraham's holding and how much water did he need for them and his household? How do you water a large herd from one well?
These are just some of the questions that should arise, and answers sought, as you do your Bible study; and the questions raised on spiritual matters are even more numerous. You may not unravel all the mysteries you encounter but you will gain fresh insights into them and lots of different things that before you just took for granted you will come to understand quite well.
This is the way to approach your Bible study, and the more you know about the Bible and God the more you are able to walk in his ways and please him. Paul reminds us, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
True believers know how imperative it is to please God, and if at any time there is a conflict between pleasing God and pleasing people, or even pleasing oneself, then the answer is straightforward. We please God.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013