How Can We Please God?
“He does not delight in the strength of the horse. He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy (or steadfast love).” Psalm 147: 10&11
God’s ways are not our ways. He is not a mere man, and so the things that please Him will be different than the things that please men. If asked what they thought pleased God, most people would have thought that preaching, working miracles, prophesying, healing the sick, leading people to salvation, etc., would be at the top of the list. The psalmist intentionally contrasts the physical things that would be more impressive to men, with the spiritual things that please God.
The psalm quoted above does not include all of the things that please Him, but it is guidance for us as His children, to know what is most pleasing to our loving father.
Back in 1933, during his first inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This was during the Great Depression, when many people struggled with serious financial problems, and FDR was attempting to encourage them. He knew that fear was damaging people and making their situation worse. His intentions may have been good, but he wasn’t giving the whole picture. Some, upon hearing this quote, have concluded that all fear in all circumstances is evil.
Even today, conventional wisdom would advise that all fear is negative and damaging to a person, and therefore, should be avoided at all costs. This is the world’s view of reality apart from faith and without an understanding of God’s authority.
Jesus said this,
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
There is a healthy, godly fear that we as Christians need to have, knowing that we will someday stand before the Lord, at the judgment seat of Christ, and give account of our lives. We must keep our consciences clear and pure, not allowing ourselves to continue in sin by over-riding the warning of our conscience. A pure and holy life is very pleasing to the Lord. He is the ultimate authority that all men must answer to.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
As Christians we also recognize that God’s authority is extended to this world as he has established the governing authorities. The Scriptures are explicitly clear on this:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13: 1-5
A society that removes God from their world view will eventually lose all respect for the governing authority and the above quoted Scripture will be regarded as foolishness. I understand that governing authority can be abused and people can suffer as a result. I also understand that there may be a time to resist authority if it is clearly abusive and evil, but we must be very careful in making that determination, for if we are mistaken, then we will be incurring the wrath of God.
We honor God by fearing Him. We honor God by obeying His commandments and by submitting to His authority. This is what pleases Him. It is like children who honor their parents by obeying their wishes. It is also healthy for young children to be fearful of their parent’s discipline. This fear will spare them much hardship in their lives. Likewise, if we walk in the fear of the Lord, we will not only please Him, but we will benefit from it. In truth, a godly fear will contribute towards setting us free from the bondage of sin.
Remember too that the commandments of God are spiritual, and we cannot follow His commandments if we are carnally minded. God knows that if we are walking in the fear of the Lord, we are also walking in the spirit, and this is what pleases Him.
Hoping in His Mercy
What does it mean to be hoping in God’s mercy? God’s greatest act of mercy towards mankind was the sending of His Son Jesus to become a man, making a way for us to be brought back into favor with God the Father. Jesus paid a price for us, or a redemption, by His death, to legally remove the penalty against us, and to restore us to our original position as a part of God’s family, in His Kingdom. Although we have been given His Spirit as a guarantee, we are waiting, and hoping, for the final day when God’s act of mercy is completed and we are completely restored to God’s Kingdom in heaven as His children.
It is also clear that when we place our hope in God’s mercy, we are set free from the ungodly fear that has enslaved men who have no hope:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer wtih him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” Romans 8: 14-19
It pleases God for us to have our hope set in heaven. Conversely, if we have our hope set on the things of the earth, we will not be pleasing Him. Having our hope set on heaven is the foundation for a Christian’s spirituality. It is impossible to walk (live our lives) in the spirit if our minds are set on carnal things; we must set our mind on spiritual things in order to walk in the spirit.
Hoping in God’s mercy also implies that we are trusting in Him to supply all of our needs and recognize that He is the source of all things for us. Hoping in His mercy means that we are not anxious but rather are resting in His power and His love towards us, knowing that He will care for our needs and do what is best for us as His children.
Man’s definition of success revolves around physical accomplishments. As Christians we are tempted to interpolate this worldly definition of success into something synonymous with pleasing God. The truth is that the things that please God are not physical accomplishments but rather spiritual behaviors that are most likely the opposite of what most people regard as important. Fearing God, respecting His authority, and obeying His guidance and instructions for our lives is what pleases Him. Also, having our hope in His promises causes our God to smile upon us.
This world and the ways of this world are different from God’s ways, and in some cases, they are the opposite. Pleasing God can be counter intuitive to what we are accustomed to in our experiences in this world. We must look to God’s revelation and the prophetic messages of the Scriptures to see clearly what pleases God. Using these as a guide will help us find what pleases our heavenly Father and will benefit us the most in this life.