Tell me who you want to please, and I will tell you who your God is! This statement may sound extreme, yet it contains a significant concept. We naturally seek approval from one source or another. There are those who simply seek to please themselves. They have a passion for self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction. This attitude is in contrast to the Lord Jesus who “pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3). Then there are those who live to please others. By contrast, “not as pleasing men” was the way the Apostle Paul described the passion that motivated his life (1 Th. 2:4). Finally, there are those who genuinely live “to please God,” as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Th. 4:1). One Story A fictitious story is told about an old man and a young boy who were leading a donkey down the road. They met a traveler who thought it foolish that they would be walking when they had an animal to ride. So they both climbed on the donkey’s back. Further down the road they met another traveler who rebuked them for being cruel to the donkey by putting so much weight on its back. So the old man jumped off and started to walk. A third traveler spoke to the boy about riding while the old man was forced to walk. So the old man and the young boy traded places. Eventually they encountered a traveler who rebuked the old man for riding while the younger person walked along beside. As the story concluded, the man and the boy were last seen carrying the donkey! Their attempts at doing what they and others thought to be right resulted in frustration and an additional burden. By trying to please everybody, they had not pleased anybody.
This predicament is characteristic of many Christians seeking to determine who they will please. This inborn drive for approval complicates and frustrates their lives. Paul’s challenge to the Thessalonians provides the solution. Rather than focusing on their own opinions or the opinions of others, Paul challenged them to make the pleasure of God their highest priority.
In Elisabeth Elliot’s biography of missionary Amy Carmichael, entitled “A Chance to Die,” there is a quote by Henry Martyn that had a significant impact on Miss Carmichael. Martyn, also a missionary to India, said, “I have rightfully no other business each day but to do God’s work as a servant, constantly regarding His pleasure. May I have grace to live above every human motive, simply with God and to God.”
On one occasion, George Mueller was asked the secret of his success in ministering to orphans in England. He replied: “There was a day when I died.” As he spoke, he bent lower until he almost touched the floor. Continuing, he said, “I died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”
For Henry Martyn and George Mueller, the matter of approval was settled by their commitment to please God only. They became so God-conscious and so God-centered that nothing else had a greater influence. Does this thought imply that personal testimony and reputation are insignificant? Certainly not! It simply emphasizes the need for the pleasure of God to become the highest priority. It’s a control issue: “Who or what controls me?” The answer to this question not only determines who you want to please, but whether or not you will allow God to be Lord of your life.
In my own life, I have often sensed that there were two things that, if allowed, could control me even more than the pleasure of God. The first is what Proverbs calls “the fear of man” (29:25). We are told that the fear of man is like a trap that captivates and controls to such a degree that it produces a stranglehold on life. The second is called “the praise of men.” John 12:42-43 tells of the rulers who would not confess Christ because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” In this case, their commitment to Christ, in whom they had believed, was hindered because they wanted the praise of men. Those who live to please God must be willing to deal with the fear of man and the praise of men. If either one is allowed to control our lives, pleasing God is no longer a priority. Those who desire to please God will not be controlled by criticism and condemnation or compliments and commendation from men.
The simple conclusion is this: the one you want to please is the one you want to control your life. The one who controls your life is the one you establish as God with a capital “G,” or as a god with a small “g.” In John 8:29, Jesus said, “I do always those things that please Him (the Father).” The key word in this verse is the word “always”. If you remove it, it’s an easy statement to make. However when you include the word “always,” you are talking about being controlled by a passion to please God. You have also answered the question, “Who is your God?”
By Tom Palmer
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org