My three-year-old’s hands are always sticky. It’s typically snack related, but I also have a theory that she is biologically predisposed to sweat a jam-like substance from her palms. One can never be certain. When she wants my attention, her little gummy hands grasp a firm hold of my face while she makes unbreakable eye contact to speak her truth.
First Thessalonians 4:1 says, “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”
This verse reminds me so much of my toddler. Toddlers want nothing more than to please us. To show us how smart they are, how capable they are, how much they’ve learned. The novelty of learning and the passion for pride is not lost on her. There is really something to this. In more ways than one, we should approach the kingdom of God through the lens of innocence and wonder. We should aim to please. When I think of my daughter’s hands on my face, with her blue eyes staring up at me, I realize that we lack this enthusiasm. We aren’t seeking God’s face like this. Rarely do we find ourselves grasping for his approval. We love the Lord and want to please him; however, our agenda, time management and distractions have dictated new masters.
But we cannot please God if:
- We prioritize our to-do list over relationship. I just hurt my neck from cringing so hard because I am incredibly guilty of this. In the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10, Mary is focusing on her time with Jesus while Martha is in a tizzy as she rocks her hostess role. She is the Pinterest victim of her time. Jesus reminds Martha to do the one thing that any hostess is utterly incapable of – he wants her to come and enjoy her time with him. Our excuses are painfully valid. We have to work. We have to finish paperwork. We have to get the car serviced. That said, we don’t need to say yes to every task, especially the ones that deplete our Sabbath. We live in a culture where saying no may make you feel like you’re not a team player. We must quiet our inner Martha and realize that it takes five minutes to do a devotional. It takes one commute to listen to five worship songs.
- We live in constant comparison. My mom has always reminded me that I should count my blessings. As she would pray, she’d literally list out everything she was thankful for. I took on this practice as an adult, and I count my blessings daily. Funny enough, Mama never said anything about me taking inventory of anyone else’s blessings. It’s not just about material possessions. We even do this with our walk and our status. It’s easy to look at someone else’s path and ask God why our walk through the brush is lined with thorns. When we question his approach, we fail to see how great our path is and how much passion we can put into our path to please him.
- We want to please people. People pleasing can be in direct conflict with pleasing God. We want to be agreeable, but this can make us say what people want to hear. Our intent may even be to help nudge people over to the godly side of the fence. We tell the world, “just because I’m Christian doesn’t mean I can’t keep my personality.” It’s like false advertisement that leads people to having a disjointed view of who Christ really is. The most pleasing thing to God is when we die to our old selves and follow him. In trying to please the world, we are simply confusing it. Our freedom from the pressure of being who others want us to be will please God while simultaneously showing others what Christ can do.
- We are excessively pleased with ourselves. This one is the contrast to people pleasing. In this scenario, we take a clear stance to align with God’s perspective and commands; however, we fail to insert the same grace He extends to us. New mercy every day? Eh, save it for that guy over there because I’m doing quite well. When we stop seeing the need for God’s grace in our own lives, we stop realizing that we are supposed to be salt and light for those who don’t even know of his grace yet.
- We are pushing away his other children. While we do need to be battle-ready when it comes to warding off evil, our inability to decide which hill to die on means that we are leaving lost souls bleeding on every hill we conquer. The breastplate of righteousness is not embroidered with rhinestones of sarcasm and condemnation. We need to understand that hatred and anger are only pleasing to the enemy who wants us to live isolated and hurt.
Psalm 24:4-6 says, “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.” While my toddler’s hands aren’t always technically clean, her innocence and pure heart are something to strive for. I want to seek God’s face. I want to seek it in a way that I turn it in my direction and please him. Let that be our prayer today. Away with distraction. Let us not lift our soul to another. Let us run after his approval.