Resolved: Living to Please God
By Kent Bass
Every January we find ourselves having familiar conversations about resolutions. What kind of resolutions have you made in the past? Even if you don’t make resolutions a yearly habit, you have probably thought about them. Most of us try eating better, exercising regularly, and reading our Bibles more consistently (there’s still plenty of time to catch up if you’ve already fallen off the “Bible in a year” wagon).
I rarely hear someone make resolutions that aim at their heart, desires, or motivations. Allow me to challenge you in that vein: What would happen if you resolved to please God in all that you do this year? If you think that is unrealistic, in one sense you are correct. Redeemed and forgiven children of God still sin on occasion (or many occasions). But the presence of sin shouldn’t keep us from setting our sights on lofty and glorious goals, like pleasing God. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul does in 2 Corinthians 5:6-10.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Could there be a better goal than pleasing God? You might be tempted to think that pleasing God is realistic for an apostle, but unrealistic for a “regular” believer. “My sins are too great,” you might say. You are right—your sins are great. But Paul was no different. He knew he was a great sinner. In his first letter to Timothy he remarked, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). Our belief in the gospel necessitates that we come to terms with the depth and magnitude of our sin. But our belief in the gospel also beckons us to lift our eyes heavenward and strive to believe in the riches of God’s grace and mercy. This grace and mercy not only free us from the penalty of sin, but they also equip us to live in ways that please Him.
Living with the motivation of Jesus
We see this God-pleasing motivation in the life of Jesus when he explains, “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). Jesus isn’t simply telling us something about the result of his actions (he pleased God). He is also teaching us about his motivation and mindset (he desired to please God). If Jesus always pleased God, it’s because he intended to please God. This is encouraging because we have been given the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is working in you right now to shape your heart and mind to be like Jesus’s heart and mind (Rom. 8:10-11). Like our Savior, we can please our heavenly Father. The next time you feel temptation rising in your heart, ask yourself this question: “Lord, how can I please you in this moment?” In moments of difficulty, this simple question will serve as a compass to orient your attitudes, actions, and words in a Godward direction.
Living how God intends
We need this kind of regular reorientation because our natural tendency is to please ourselves, not God. This is problematic because pleasing God is at the very heart of his intention for us: “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). Paul reminds the Thessalonians that his proclamation of the gospel was intended to teach them how they ought to live so that they can please God. The gospel makes us right with God positionally and shows us how to live before God practically. We need to think about pleasing God because God intends for us to please him.
Living in light of heaven
Finally, notice the eschatological theme of 2 Corinthians 5:9. Paul says, “whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” When he says “at home or away,” he means on earth or in heaven. This means that pleasing God is an everlasting goal, not just an earthly goal. Pleasing God will be our heavenly theme for all eternity. If God intends for us to pursue what pleases him forever, why not start now?
As we strive together in this new year, let’s resolve to please God. Not only do we have the word and Spirit of God empowering us in this effort, but we have the glorious privilege of pursuing this alongside one another.
Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have four kids: Silas, Anna, Grace, and Asa. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.