Meditations in Colossians: 19. Pleasing God
Col 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:
The idea that we can please God is, I believe, alien to many people. We are more conscious of failure than success and of guilt, blame and possible judgment that of forgiveness, cleansing and blessing. So is pleasing God a possible reality?
Jesus said, “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (Jn 5:30). This was Jesus’ intent in respect of all that he did, but then we find something strange happening BEFORE Jesus started his ministry: “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17) Admittedly he was about thirty years old at that point and therefore the Father’s words could seem to be approval of how he had lived so far, but there appears something more than that, especially we you put it alongside the Father’s words on the Mount of Transfiguration: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5)
In both those instances the approval word, ‘pleased’, comes after a declaration of love. In both cases the Father speaks of His Son, “whom I love.” The sense of being pleased with His Son is more simply, “I am pleased with him because He is my Son”. He is pleased with Jesus’ existence, his presence as the Son, and that before he does anything in terms of ministry. I have two sons (and a daughter and it apples to her too) and when they were both young, I would look at them and, although I did not look at them in this way, I realise that it was true – I was pleased that they were my sons, even though they were childish, even though they sometimes said and did things wrong. When I see them today, I am always pleased to see them – before they even have a chance to say or do anything in my direction; I am simply pleased that they are first and foremost, my sons!
Now the New Testament tells us that we are sons of God, children of God (see Rom 8:14,19,23) It is all very clear: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” (Gal 3:26 – see also 4:5,6. Heb 12:5-7) First and foremost God is pleased with us because we ARE His sons. That is the starting place. We please God by who we now are.
Of course it wasn’t always like that. In the writings of the New Testament there are various warnings but they also remind us what we were once like, for example, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Rom 8:8) That’s what we were once like, controlled by the sinful nature, but no more! Then Paul makes it even more clear: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:8) Moreover, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6)
But all that has now changed, when we came to Him and were born again, it all changed. We are no longer those controlled by the old nature, but those controlled by His Spirit and His word. We now live to please Him and as we are led by the Spirit, we are people of faith. Like the apostle Paul we are able to say, “So we make it our goal to please him’” (2 Cor 5:9) and, “We are not trying to please men but God,” (1 Thess 2:4) Now our desire to please Him comes not from some craven fear of a scary God, but from Spirit-filled hearts that love their heavenly Father and want to bless Him.
Listen to what Paul said to the Thessalonians: “we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living.” (1 Thess 4:1) Yes, the way we live pleases God. He is blessed that we have returned to Him like the prodigal son, He is blessed that we have joined His family and He is blessed as He watches us, as He sees we seek to conform to His will and His word, and live out these new lives, led and inspired and empowered by His Spirit. When the Thessalonians turned to the Lord and were born again, Paul instructed them as to the sort of lives they were now free to live, lives that would indeed please the Father, not only because they were simply His Sons, but also lives that were showing the fruits of being those sons, and that blessed him. So now when Paul writes to them, he reminds them of that early teaching and is blessed that they are now following it through.
So here now to the Colossians he prays, “that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way.” We’ve also seen the motivation of seeking to be ‘worthy of the Lord’ and now he adds this further motivation of pleasing God “in every way”. We don’t aim to please Him just on Sunday mornings, or at the prayer meeting or at the Bible study. No, we are sons of God all the time! Let’s live as His sons (and daughters), let’s bless Him, not just by being, but also in our doing.