Pleasing God

From the title alone, you can likely imagine the myriad of different ways this blog could go as well as the hundreds of articles and books that have been written on the subject.

So, in our continuing examination of how authentic, accountable Christianity affects the disciplines of our daily lives, pleasing God by getting to know Him better through the study His Word is going to be the focus of this post.

How well we really know a person is largely dependent upon how much time we spend with them.

We are presently surrounded by a society and culture that has a tendency to value quantity over quality or perhaps, said another way, breadth over depth.

In our present, social-media-driven world, we can fool ourselves into thinking we know people better than we really do. We follow and become fascinated by people we don’t even know or have barely met.  We piece together posts about them and pretend we know who they really are, what they value and are all about.

The importance of how many “friends” we have on social media seems to have largely displaced the value of those we could call at a moment’s notice for help or with whom we could have a deep or meaningful conversation. Yet, how well we really know someone plays big into how well we are able to genuinely please and be in real relationship with them.

Take, for example, giving a birthday gift to a dear friend or loved one. We’ve all done it…wondered, what in the world to get them. As the day draws nearer and the pressure begins to mount, we eventually cave and out of our desire to provide them with at least some sense of our appreciation, we lay on them…the token gift card.  Not as nice a gift as maybe it might have been, we rationalize, but at least it’s something.

And we place hope upon hope, that they will somehow sense in that gift card, just how much we love them.  Of course, we’ve meant well and it’s likely that the recipient still appreciates our gesture.  But don’t we often think we could have maybe put just a little more thought into it?  Perhaps we’re concerned that it’ll come off as more of a “check the box” or even an obligatory type of gesture.

Now, please don’t hear me as critical if you’re a regular gift card giver.  Not everyone can be a “gift whisperer” in every circumstance.  And, I’m actually kind of a mixed ball of convicted, jealous and impressed if you even remember their birthday!

But I wonder if we had spent just a little more time with them, would we have had just a little better sense of what we could gift that would genuinely have fulfilled the desire of their heart.

So is this somewhat the way we are in our relationship with God? Do we treat Him more as a casual acquaintance or treasured friend?  (Metaphorically, to continue the illustration) Could you buy Him a gift He’d really enjoy?  How well do we really know Him and what He likes?

It stands to reason that we can’t please someone if we don’t really know them.

We have to ask ourselves: How can I really get to know God better?  And, am I going to be one who pleases God in ways that will honor and point people to Him as well as reflect my gratitude to Him for His love?  Or, are the choices I make in my relationship with Him destined to be somewhat more of a superficial, check-the-box kind of affiliation?

Developing a deeper, more meaningful relationship can, admittedly, be a little more difficult and take even more intentional effort with God than it would with a family member or other loved one who is physically in our midst.

Since God is in the Spiritual realm, one of the best ways we can come to know Him is by regularly reading, studying, and meditating on His Word.

It’s been said that when Jesus chose His disciples, it wasn’t so much about their ability as it was their availability.

In other words, in diving more deeply into His Word, we don’t have to make it our goal to become great scholars.  Simply making ourselves available to Him will open major pathways to His Holy Spirit working within and through us.  The point of our reading God’s Word isn’t so that we can debate scripture or engage in bible talk.

The primary purpose in our coming to better know God’s Word is to do what it says.

Our getting better at doing what His Word instructs is one of the things that pleases God.  And there is an abundance of instruction there – both on the things we should and shouldn’t do, along with plenty of examples from those who have gone before us.

We need to view God’s Word more as our instruction manual; our marching orders, if you will. It is a gift that He’s provided to us out of His love for and interest in us as a means through which to better get to know Him and what He desires for us. When used correctly, it is a tool for us to learn how to live the lives He originally dreamed for us toward becoming the absolute best versions of ourselves. When the Bible is viewed in such light, then this ancient book can become more relevant and useful than ever we could imagine.

“I’ve tried,” you might say, “numerous times to read the Bible, but it just doesn’t seem to speak to me.  In fact, it’s hard for me to understand most of what it’s even saying.”

You’re not alone.  Countless others have been in the same position at one time or another. And while there are lots of Bible reading plans and tools available, there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

So, I’d like to share a few things to think about and consider next time you open your Bible.  And, if others have additional suggestions of things they’ve applied that have allowed the Word of God to come alive in their reading and allow them to get to better know and follow Jesus, I invite you to reply to this post and we’ll seek to share them in future editions.

  1. Set aside time.

    1. If our “study” of the Word is limited to our only reading a Bible verse that is sent to us via e-mail or an app post we might view each day, it will lack depth and context.
    2. Content without context is meaningless. So, if we’re just reading to read – without really and intentionally seeking to understand what it is that we’re reading and its potential application in our lives, we’ve largely missed the point.
    3. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge chunk of your day, but whatever time you spend in the Word will be more meaningful as you make it more intentional.
  2. Make time to pray before you read.

    1. Every good relationship requires conversation.
    2. The best conversations begin with an invitation. (Can we talk?)
      1. If you just begin talking (or, in this case, reading) without inviting the other person in, it’s often difficult for them to engage. (…you talkin’ to me?)
    3. Invite God’s presence into your study; to speak meaningfully through His Holy Spirit into and through the words you read.
    4. Genuinely seek and desire to be moved; let Him know that you’re looking for an increased understanding and some change (or encouragement) to be brought about through the time you’re spending with Him in His Word; that you’re there to grow closer to Him and hear His instruction.
  3. Seek help and support when/where needed.

    1. I spoke earlier about context. Sometimes, when reading the Bible, we all just get to that place where we have little or no idea what it is saying.
    2. When this happens, consider gaining insight from other, more mature and experienced believers.
    3. Many learn best through illustration and analogy, so a good, solid daily devotional that helps provide these “warm-ups” to your reading can be hugely beneficial toward your overall understanding and application.
    4. Consulting commentaries – again from trusted, faith-filled Christian authors – or investing in and using a good study Bible can be immensely helpful.
  4. Meditate

    1. “Wait, isn’t meditation some sort of new-age mysticism mostly practiced by other (non-Christian) religions?” you may ask.
    2. While many other religions often do practice it, meditation is simply a tool to be used for focused, repetitive thinking. When people meditate, they concentrate on a single subject or thought, blocking out distractions.
    3. It is a combination of reviewing, repeating, reflecting, thinking, analyzing, feeling and even enjoying.
    4. Like many tools, meditation may be used appropriately, or inappropriately (stay focused!).
    5. In many ways, meditation doesn’t easily fit into our Western culture.
      1. We value action, and busyness more than stopping and considering.
      2. When we learn and discipline ourselves to slow things down a bit; to consider more fully how we might respond vs. react; the fog lifts and things often become more clear.
    6. Most of us would love to have a complete and immediate understanding of the things we read. It just typically doesn’t work that way in our learning and faith.
    7. Communication and conversation go best when in dialogue vs. monologue.
      1. Quieting one’s own voice to pause, invite and allow God to respond through His Holy Spirit can be both illuminating and transformative.
    8. The Bible is a living, breathing document that continues to unfold and make meaning in our lives over time. (2 Timothy 3: 16-17)
    9. When we meditate by wrapping our hearts and minds around God’s revelation of Himself in His Word, we can find spiritual stability, depth of character and divine blessings.

While this list is by no means exhaustive…it is not meant to be.

My hope and prayer is that this gets you thinking and maybe even inspires you to reconsider how you engage with God’s Word. We cannot begin to please God if we don’t really know who He is and what He’s about. We won’t know these things unless we read, study and apply the Owner’s manual he’s provided for us.

In truth, God doesn’t just want His Word to be useful in our lives; He desires that it be life-changing; for you and for me – and everyone who chooses to engage with it.

In God’s Word, (specifically, within Paul’s letter to believers in Colossi) He teaches,

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  (Colossians 1: 9-14 NIV)

Praying with, for and right here with you,