The Key To Pleasing God
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
In the book of Genesis, we read about the life of Enoch, a man who walked with God so closely that God plucked him out of this life and into heaven instead of bothering with the normal transition of death(Genesis 5:23-24). The writer to the Hebrews explains that God did this because He was pleased with Enoch(Hebrews 11:5). The author, though, wants to make it clear what gave pleasure to God: Enoch’s faith. You and I, too, can make God smile by trusting Him.
Unlike some of the world’s religions, Christianity isn’t primarily adherence to a set of principles, concepts, or laws. It is a relationship with Almighty God, who responds emotionally to our attitudes and behavior. Our faith pleases Him, and our lack of faith grieves Him.
The writer expands the concept of a personal relationship with God by reminding us that God rewards those who pursue Him. God isn’t a vending machine that dispenses blessings or curses depending on the currency of behavior we put in the slot. He knows us as a friend knows a friend or, even better, as a parent understands his or her child. He delights in giving us good gifts, and we make Him sad when we don’t appreciate what He does for you.
The key to pleasing God is having faith that He exists, that He is personal, and that He delights in rewarding even our feeble efforts to know Him better.
Is He personal to you? Do you give Him reasons to smile?
If we have Christ with us, we can do all things. Let us not be thinking how weak we are. Let us lift up our eyes to Him and think of Him as our Elder Brother who has all power given to Him in heaven and on earth. He says, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
If you ask the average Christian what pleases God, you will get answers such as: living right, reading the Bible, going to church, being kind to others, or serving and some will even get very specific. Yet none of those things, in and of themselves are sufficient to please God.
In the story of Adam and Eve, what brought pleasure to God was the fellowship He experienced with them. They didn’t know at that point anything about what was good or evil. They simply walked with God each day in the cool of the evening, enjoying a time of fellowship. We read that after the fall, after the close fellowship had been interrupted, that “men began to call upon the Lord.” That phrase tells us that there was now some distance between God and humanity. We might could surmise that it was to be no longer possible to have close fellowship with God until we read what is said of Enoch: “and Enoch walked with God.” Here we find an individual that made it his purpose in life to draw near to God in close fellowship. Hebrews tells us that that pursuit pleased God. We don’t read that Enoch was perfect or that Enoch did all the correct things and followed established rituals properly. We read that he walked with God.
In the story of Abraham, we find again the picture of a man walking with God. We see Abraham accepting the invitation to walk with God, seeking another place that God was leading him to. Scripture says that he was “looking for a city whose builder and maker was God.” It’s obvious that Abraham’s relationship with God was close for we read that God visited with Abraham in his tents. One day as God is leaving, He says, “Can I hide anything from my friend Abraham” and then proceeds to tell Abraham about His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. We read that Abraham invokes his privilege as the friend of God to intercede and God responds. Have you ever wondered at the amazing willingness of God to negotiate with Abraham over these two wicked cities? Sometime later, God gives Abraham a beloved son and then asks for him back and we read that Abraham willingly agreed to do so. Only someone in a close relationship could exhibit such trust and obedience. But Abraham did and Hebrews says that by his faith, he was counted righteous and pleased God.
The story of David shows us how important relationship with God is. David had great success for his walk with God showed his absolute trust and confidence in God. Facing Goliath, hiding in the caves for fear of his life, standing in courage as his own men were ready to kill him after the camp had been raided, and waiting for God to give the signal for battle, show his faith and trust in God. But the greatest moment of pleasing God came not in his success but in his failure. After having an affair with Bathsheba and having her husband killed, David is confronted with his sin. Immediately he confesses his sin and places himself in the mercy of God. His child dies but David doesn’t become bitter. Instead he accepts the outcome with trust. Later when he sins again by numbering the people and must choose his punishment, he chooses to place himself in the hands of God rather than any other. What the Bible says about David is significant. In spite of his failures, and there were many, God declared David to be “a man after his heart.” Two possible meanings come from this phrase. One means that David’s heart was patterned after the heart of God. What this says is that through the close relationship with God, David began to think and operate in the same way as God- like hearts and like spirits. The other meaning is that David pursued the heart of God, seeking to know God more and deeper. Like best friends, David sought to understand and to become more aware of the character, nature and desires of God. Even though David failed in many ways, his constant seeking and trust in God so moved the heart of God that David’s throne has been established forever through Christ whose human ancestry can be traced all the way back to David. What pleasure God must have had with David.
So let’s talk about us. Is it possible for us to please God in such ways as these?
The writer of Hebrews says yes and then tells us how. He begins with a negative: “without faith, it is impossible to please God” and we can surmise from that statement the it is with faith that we please God. So then how do we define this faith that pleases God? Let me ask a question. How do you feel when someone takes you at your word and believes that what you say is true or what you promise you will do? On the other hand how do you feel when you are not believed or trusted? Now the difference between us and God is that sometimes no matter how hard we try, we break a promise. We may promise to meet someone at a specific time only to run into a traffic jam and wind up late. We might promise someone to do a certain thing only to have life to blow up and prevent us from carrying out our promise. But God has a record of never failing in a single promise. He even keeps His promise when we break ours. God never speaks an idle word and what He says is always true. Even if we don’t believe His word, nonetheless it remains true. But like little children who gaze in wonder and trust in the guiding and instruction of their father, we please God when we respond in such ways.
We may never get it right all the time. We may never be the model of perfection. But one thing is sure, we can live in such a way that is pleasing to God, through living by faith. Scripture says that “the just shall live by faith.” How? Simply by taking God at His word. God has promised forgiveness when we come to Him in repentance, so we come. God promises to answer our prayers, so we pray. God has promised to supply our need so we trust. God has promised to keep us, so we live in peace. God has promised to take us home, so we wait expectantly. And every time we come, we pray, we trust, we live in peace, or we wait expectantly, we please God.
Dr. John Thompson