What motivates you? Are you career minded? Kid focused? Do you live for the weekend? Is health your motivator? I will often motivate myself with a simple cup of coffee saved for after a morning of yard work. How about you? In little areas and big areas, motivation impacts output.
Did you know we get a glimpse of what motivated many of the early Christians? What was it? Does it still work?
Paul wrote from Corinth to the church in Thessalonica, saying he instructed the Christians how to live “in order to please God.” He wrote this motivation clarity before going into specific areas of application. Start with the motivation question: Is this action pleasing to God? It wasn’t just here in scripture we see this. Here are a few other places this shows up:
…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... 1 Thessalonians 4:1 …I always do what pleases him [God the Father]. John 8:29 We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4
The foundation of much biblical ethical instruction is the necessity of living in order to please God. Why do I do what I do? To please God. Not appease God, which would be to gain approval or avoid punishment, but to please God by living in the pleasure of his will.
Here are several reasons for why the question, “Is this pleasing to God?” is still helpful.
It is a disruptive concept. It lays bare why we follow Jesus. How can we claim to know and love God if we do not seek to please him? Disobedience is ruled out. I don’t communicate my love to my wife by ignoring her, I pursue her, make decisions with her, listen to her, want to fulfill her desires, understand her wants, I want to please her. This question changes the game of motivation.
It is flexible. The question rescues us from the rigidities of Christian legalism, which always reduces following Jesus to a list of do’s or don’ts. Do you know 10 commandment Christians? They always point out the rules but seem to have missed the point they are there in the first place. This necessitates developing a Christian perspective through biblical meditation. The incentive is to obey the lawgiver, not the law. Rather than pulling away from scripture, we need to lean into a Christian community, good preaching, reading, and mountains of time in scripture itself to learn God’s heart.
It is progressive. If our goal is to be perfectly pleasing to God, we humbly realize we never arrive. Instead, we are summoned to please Jesus “more” and “more” as 1 Thessalonians 4:2 goes on to say. This saves us from pride and keeps our eyes on Jesus. The gospel is always good news. Jesus died in my place, rose again, and is seated as King. He calls my name. This is always good news no matter how long we have followed Jesus.
At a crossroads? Do you have an ethical dilemma? Ask yourself or ask a community of faith who is mature and dependent on Jesus alongside you the question, “Is this choice or action pleasing to God?”
Q. What are spoken or unspoken motivations that drive me?
Q. Where in my life do I need to intentionally ask, “Is this pleasing to God?” What would it change, tweak, stop, or further encourage in my life?
Q. Do I have a regular rhythm in my week to read, listen and meditate on scripture?