And find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 (NIV)
One of the intriguing stories about someone wanting to please God is the story of a Syrian monk by the name of Simeon the Elder. Simeon lived from 390-459 A.D. He was an eccentric ascetic who literally took extremes of self-denial to new heights. For Simeon, or Stylites as he was commonly called, spent thirty years of his life living at the top of a pillar where he prayed and preached to the pilgrims who came to visit him.
It seems that some people will go to any lengths, or in Simeon’s case, any heights, to please God.
Anthony of Egypt (250-356 A.D.) is another example. He gave away a substantial inheritance from his parents and took up the life of a hermit by gradually moving further and further into the desert. He eventually spent twenty years in the solitude of a ruined fort near the coast of the Red Sea because he believed he could please God if he applied himself to a regimen of constant work, extensive fasting, unremitting prayer, and recitation of the Scriptures.
It’s no different today. There are people who attempt to please God in all sorts of ways. Nuns will make lifelong vows of chastity. Some monks have committed themselves to vows of silence in order to focus on their meditation and contemplation of God. Old Order Mennonites will have nothing to do with modern technology because they believe they can please God by keeping their lifestyle simple and unadulterated.
Is this what’s necessary to please God? Should we be cutting ourselves off from the world (as appealing as it may be at times)? Should we be throwing out the TV and trading in the car for a horse and buggy? Or should we be joining some religious order and taking a vow of chastity?
Biblically speaking, the answer is no. In order to please God three things are necessary:
- We must experience the power of God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” Hebrews 11:6. Pleasing God begins with dying to sin and calling on the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to be alive in Christ (cf. Romans 6:1ff). It’s making a decision, a daily decision, to please the Spirit and not the sinful nature (cf. Galatians 6:8). Thus you’ll only please God when, by faith, and in His power, you live totally for Him.
- We must exhibit the presence of God. In Hebrews 13:16 it says, “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Make it your objective today to reach out to at least one person with the love of Jesus Christ. Make a sacrifice. Put someone else’s interests before your own. Be generous and kind. Lighten someone’s load. For when you do these things, when you’re truly Christ’s ambassador here on earth, then this pleases the Lord.
- We must express the praises of God. In Proverbs 15:8 it says, “The prayer of the upright pleases” the Lord. Psalm 69:30-31 adds, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.” And in Hebrews 13:15-16 we read, “through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name . . . for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” You can do that today. It pleases God when you praise Him in the office, praise Him when you sit down to eat, praise Him as you wash the dishes, praise Him as you change the baby’s diaper, praise Him as you’re driving in your car, or praise Him as you study for exams. So praise Him wherever you are and in whatever you’re doing, for this pleases the Lord.