Make it your ambition to please God

What is your ambition?

Many people teach their kids to have ambition. Many people like to see their kids marry people with ambition. Ambition is good. But here is a question for you to ponder on: what is the best ambition to have?

Should we have ambition to be rich? Should we have ambition to be influential? Should we have ambition to be famous?

Well, have you considered having an ambition to please God?

Paul and his co-workers wanted to please God.

2 Cor 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

We live our lives as time goes by, and our mind is always working on something or the other. However, in the background there must be an intense internal desire to please God. This desire stems from a genuine fondness and affection for God, a love for God, and a sense of gratitude and appreciation towards God.

Further, this desire to please God must not be a passive one but an active one. That is, we shouldn’t just entertain the thought of pleasing God and then do nothing beyond that; rather, we should actively attempt to find out what pleases God and rearrange our life so that it aligns with what pleases God.

Col 1:10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

We must walk in a way that pleases God and bear fruit – that is, we must actively, and not passively, please God. Further our desire should be to please Him in all respects, not just in one particular thing.

With this in mind, I’ve put together some things that please God and some things that don’t. My hope is that this will start you out on a lifelong journey to please God – a journey that bears lots of fruit and increases your knowledge of God.

Things that please God

Faith that God is working for you

Consider what is written in Heb 11:6.

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Faith is to believe what you do not see. You do not see God. But if you believe that He is (that is, you really believe that He exists) and that He is communicating to you through the circumstances around you (it is in this way that you seek Him) then God will be pleased with you.

You see, many people say that they believe that God exists. But when the rubber meets the road they act as if they don’t believe that God (i.e. the God of the Bible) exists. For example, when someone says something that offends you and you get all upset do you really believe that the almighty, all-wise and loving God exists? If God is almighty and is all-wise and loves you then He could have stopped the person from saying something that offends you if it wasn’t good for you. The fact that He allowed it means that He thought it was good for you. Can you believe that?

If instead of getting upset you go to God and ask Him why He allowed something to offend you to take place then you will be pleasing to God. Not only that, but you will learn to walk with God too.

That is what Enoch did to obtain the witness that he was pleasing to God.

Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

Suffering unjustly

What trips most people? They get upset when they don’t get a fair deal.

What they don’t realize is that if they were to get a fair deal then they should be sent to Hell.

Peter once was like most people – He wanted to make sure that he got a fair deal. For example, when Jesus told him that he would not have an easy life when he was older Peter wanted to make sure that John wouldn’t have an easier life either. We see this in Jn 21:18-21.

Jn 21:18-21 18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished ; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!" 20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" 21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?"

Peter must have meditated on Jesus’ reply to his question. He finally figured out what Jesus was saying for he later wrote this in his epistle.

1 Pet 2:19-20 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

The Bible says, 1 Pet 2:19-20 that when we don’t get a fair deal we should suck it up and bear it because God is pleased when we do that.

Do you get upset with your spouse, your boss, your co-workers, the government, your pastor, your brother or your friend because they did something that ‘wasn’t fair’? If you do then you are missing out on an opportunity to please God!

If you resolve to patiently endure suffering when you are made to suffer unjustly you will find that God is pleased with you and you will reap the benefits of that. The benefits are far better than the unjust suffering.

God was pleased with Jesus.

2 Pet 1:17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" -

There was a time when Jesus was able to please God and man.

Lk 2:52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

But soon, He had to make a choice, and He chose to please God instead of men. For that, he suffered unjustly.

Jesus is our example in suffering unjustly.

1 Pet 2:21-23 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

James, the younger brother of Jesus, who observed Jesus’ life, says the same thing: the way to get God’s approval is to persevere under trial.

Jas 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Joseph pleased God. He suffered unjustly again and again.

If God dislocated your thigh would you get mad at God? Consider Jacob, who sought God’s favor with weeping even at the expense of a dislocated thigh (Gen 32:24-31).

Hos 12:4 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us,

Jacob pleased God. He would not let God until God blessed him. And when God broke his hip he didn’t complain even though it severely limited him for the rest of his life. The favor of God was more important than a fair fight!

Mary found favor with God.

Lk 1:30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God."

She was willing to be called a loose woman for the glory of God for she was with child before marriage. And she was willing to suffer the death of her first born so that God’s kingdom might come. God did not explain to her all the details. She accepted whatever came, without grumbling.

Paul was approved by God (1 Thess 2:4).

1 Thess 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

Paul endured many unjust sufferings and God was pleased with him.

2 Cor 6:4-6 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,

2 Cor 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Cor 11:22-33 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ?-I speak as if insane -I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33 and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.

Remember that he started out blind. God blinded him to show him how blind he was in persecuting Christians. He took that rebuke and did not grumble against God. Would you do that? That was the beginning of a great apostle.

Heb 11:32-38 talks about so many others who also gained God’s approval through unjust suffering.

Heb 11:39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

All these examples show how valuable it is to suffer unjustly. Just think how much your potential for being used by God will increase if you are willing to suffer unjustly.

Do good works from a good heart and seek God’s truth

God is pleased when we do good to others out of sheer goodness and without expecting anything in return.

Heb 13:16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

It is when we do good and share in a sacrificial manner that God is pleased. If we are getting something in return that is not as pleasing to God.

Prov 12:2 A good man will obtain favor from the LORD, but He will condemn a man who devises evil.

To do good and share sacrificially without expecting anything in return you have to be a good man internally. That is how Prov 12:2 complements Heb 13:6.

There are many people who do good sacrificially without expecting anything in return, but they reject God’s truth and are unbelievers. To seek the favor of God you have to give attention to God’s truth too.

Dan 9:13 "As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth."

Doing good to others out of kindness, and giving attention to God’s truth, are two complementary things that together find favor with God.

Prov 3:3-6 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.

Paul says the same thing in a different way:

Col 1:10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

To Paul, giving attention to God’s truth results in increasing in the knowledge of God, and doing good works results in bearing fruit. The more we understand God the more effective our good works can be.

Things that do not please God

Pleasing God has two aspects: one is doing what He likes, and the other is not doing what He doesn’t like. In this section we will talk about what God doesn’t like.

You can’t please God and man all the time

God doesn’t like it when you are more concerned about offending a man than about offending God.

If you want to please God then you must be willing to stop pleasing men.

Gal 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Jn 12:42-43 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.

1 Thess 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

We often don’t realize or haven’t internalized that the approval of men and the approval of God are often in conflict. You cannot get both all the time. So you have to make a choice.

For example, if a good friend of yours begins speaking evil of someone else to you will you support him for the sake of his friendship, or will you keep yourself clean of gossip and backbiting because you want to be pleasing to God?

For another example, if all your friends are living beyond their means, will you live beyond your means too so that you get their approval, or will you live within your means so that you get God’s approval?

If all your friends in school are making fun of a little kid, will you join them so that you win your friends approval, or will you not join in, and may be even stand with the little kid, so that you win God’s approval?

Nobody likes to make difficult choices, but if you want to please God you have to be prepared to make difficult choices.

Samuel found favor in the sight of God.

1 Sa 2:26 Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.

In reading 1 Sam 3:11-19 we see that Samuel sought the approval of God more than the approval of Eli. We see that because Samuel would rather that Eli get upset with him after hearing what God told him about Eli’s doom than have God upset with him for lying to Eli about what God told him.

Daniel pleased God.

Dan 9:23 "At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed ; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision."

He was willing to be looked upon as odd in order to keep God’s command regarding food. (Dan 1:8). He publicly gave God glory for his talents (Dan 2:30). He interceded for others and humbly put himself in the same category as sinners (Dan 9:3-11). All these things made him small in the eyes of man, but great in the eyes of God. If Daniel sought the approval of man he would not have been able to please God.

An unrepentant man is not pleasing to God

God doesn’t like it when you sin and don’t repent of it.

To repent is to want to stop sinning in every way. Repenting is the opposite of practicing sin or ‘being in the flesh’.

Rom 8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

If you want to please God you need to examine yourself often and repent of things you thought, said and did, and things you should have said and did but didn’t. A man who wants to please God learns to repent of pride, of judging others in his mind, or lying or exaggerating, and of so many other things.

Noah pleased God.

Gen 6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

Noah lived in a state of repentance; that is, he was righteous and blameless. That was why Noah pleased God.

Coveting your brother’s wife is displeasing to God

God doesn’t like it when you get ideas about your brother’s wife. God will actually avenge such behavior.

From 1 Thess 4:1 we see that sanctification, particularly from sexual immorality, pleases God.

1 Thess 4:1 1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

Those who transgress and defraud a brother in the area of sexual sin are particularly displeasing to God. So we need to be careful about what we do with and how we think of our brother’s wife.

God is not pleased with those who grumble about their lot

God was not pleased with the Israelites who came out of Egypt. They refused to believe that God would get them safely into the Promised Land. Therefore, He did not allow them to see the Promised Land.

God put them in impossible situations. Then He miraculously saved them. But they continued to grumble against Him. They were never satisfied with their lot.

1 Cor 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

See 1 Cor 10:1-14 for full details.

Are you always grumbling and complaining that your lot is not good? Is the story of your life one where this person said this terrible thing to you and that person did that terrible thing to you? If God was not pleased with the Israelites when they behaved like that then He will surely not be pleased with you and me if we behave like that.

Job pleased God because he was repentant, living a righteous and blameless life. He pleased God so greatly that God could point him out to Satan as a prime example of a godly man. Even more, when God took away what Job had, Job blessed God. He suffered unjustly without grumbling.

The next step

Once you become pleasing to God, you can take the next step. The next step is to use your influence with God to become more intimate to Him and more useful to Him. Two good examples of this are Moses and David.

Moses pleased God.

Ex 33:17 The LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name."

How did Moses use his influence with God? He used it to gain insight into the nature of God so that he could please God even more.

Ex 33:13 "Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people."

David did something similar. Knowing that God was pleased with him he decided to do something good for God and then God blessed him even more by letting the Messiah be a descendant of David.

Ac 7:46 "David found favor in God's sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.

David pleased God. He was concerned for God’s glory. He was willing to step out on a limb for God’s glory. He waited for God to give him the kingdom. He never touched God’s anointed no matter how much he had to suffer because of God’s anointed. He was more concerned about what God thought of him than what the nation thought of him. When he messed up he cleaned up and came back. He was concerned about God not having a home. He would not give God that which cost him nothing.

Summary

So then, here is the plan: step one – become someone who is pleasing to God; step two: use your influence with God to get closer to Him and learn more about Him so that you can please Him even more. The end result is going to be something wonderful, something beyond imagination, for eye has not see and ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Are you up to it?


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