A few weeks ago I was thinking about the church in the autumn, hopefully when normality has returned. What should be our goal? Instinctively my mind went to programmes and activities. How could we look like a bustling and vibrant church? And then I reflected a bit. As I wrote last week, a reputation for being lively is no guarantee of anything. Instead we need to have this as our aim- we want to be a church that pleases the Lord. We want his “Well done” above all else. But what does that actually look like?
“Pleasing the Lord” is a phrase that the apostle Paul, in particular, uses frequently. It was evidently a motivation for him. So based on his writing, here are ten ways in which we can please the Lord (that I’ll split into two posts). Now I’m conscious that ten headings could feel overwhelming. But my hope is that this will be encouraging. When the Lord sees us trying to live in this manner He is not dismissive or indifferent. He is pleased. That’s good news! Here are the first six headings on pleasing the Lord.
The Lord is pleased when we offer our bodies as living sacrifices
In view of God’s immense mercies Paul urges the Christians in Rome to offer their bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:1). Here is the question. How do you view your body? As something to be used for yourself or as something offered to God? When we can honestly say the latter then God is pleased. And part of that involves our second heading…
The Lord is pleased when we avoid sexual immorality
When Paul writes to the Thessalonians he notes that they are already pleasing the Lord and he encourages them to do so more and more. He explains what that will involve a couple of verses later: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality…” (1 Thess 4:3). Sexual temptation will be a reality for many of us and perhaps at times we feel worn down by the battle. Here is an encouragement- when we fight and resist the Lord looks down and is pleased.
The Lord is pleased when we pray
Writing to Timothy, Paul urges the church in Ephesus to pray for those in authority. “This is good and pleases God our Saviour.” (1 Timothy 2:3). I wonder whether the prayer life of a church is the best indication of whether we are merely seeking a human reputation or we genuinely have a concern to please the Lord. My guess is that praying for those in authroity has become more regular over the past year. But we need to continue. And the motivation for that prayer is so that there might be freedom for people to hear the Gospel and be saved. When the Lord hears our heartfelt prayers for salvation to come to those across the world then our words please Him.
The Lord is pleased when we seek to persuade others of the Gospel
“We make it our goal to please the Lord,” says the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:9- and shortly afterwards will note, “We try to persuade others.” We serve a God who does not desire the death of the wicked and so it is no surprise that He is pleased when He sees us telling others about Jesus.
The Lord is pleased when we are generous
In Philippians there is a lovely sense of partnership in the Gospel. Paul is in prison and the Philippian church is concerned about him so they send gifts via Epaphroditus. Notice how Paul regards these gifts- “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18) I’ve written recently that the last year has turned us in on ourselves and that’s a lesson we need to unlearn. Woody Road has a long history of prayerful and financial concern for those serving around the world and we must not lose that. The Lord is pleased when we engage in this way.
The Lord is pleased when we provide for older relatives
Of course we don’t just please the Lord by doing apparently spiritual acts. 1 Timothy 5:4 tells us that caring for older relatives- parents and grandparents- is pleasing to God. That’s hugely significant. To care for elderly relatives as they wrestle with ill health and especially dementia can be exhausting, painful and won’t attract many human plaudits. But the Lord is pleased by it. I hope that is an encouragement to those in the midst of providing that care.
None of the above will seem stunningly impressive. They may well not be the ways in which we are inclined to judge churches. But they are the characteristics that matter to the Lord according to the Bible.
So- perhaps we should have two responses. It may well be that the above list exposes a deficiency or two- an area where we need to repent so that we do live to please the Lord. Or it may be that in some areas we can genuinely say that this is what we are seeking to do. If so, be encouraged. It has not gone unnoticed by the Lord. He is pleased. And nothing matters more than that.