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Who Are You Trying to Please?

Last Sunday, I preached a sermon that began with the question, “Who are you trying to please?” I think we have three choices: I prioritize pleasing myself, pleasing others; or pleasing God. Take a moment and consider: What is your priority and what results from your choice? While I want to say, “Pleasing God is my top priority!”, I confess that God can easily slip into second or third place. And I find that without Him on top my efforts often leave me frustrated and empty.

Yes, it’s certainly important to care for our own selves (proper food, water, shelter, clothing, exercise, friendships, employment, etc.), but when that becomes our preoccupation, we end up either weighed down by worry (I don’t have enough and never will) or by narcissism (It’s all about me and how you must meet my needs). Yes, blessing others is good both for the receiver and the one doing the serving, however when pleasing others drives us we become ‘people pleasers.’ In that role we fail to address issues honestly, avoid conflict, constantly seek affirmation from others, and exhaust ourselves trying to make everyone happy, which is impossible to achieve.

The third way is to prioritize pleasing God. When we put His purpose and plans first, everything else falls into their proper place. Jesus is our prime example who declared the priority His Father’s will, “I always do what pleases Him (John 8:29) and determined prior to His arrest and crucifixion, “Not as I will but as You (My Father) wills (Matthew 26:39). Jesus knew that as He trusted His Father, He would be cared for and ultimately raised to life and honored. He served the world, bringing words and acts of grace and truth, not out of his need to be needed, but to truly address our need to be reconciled with God. Jesus knew that as He pleased His Father, His Father was pleased with Him. As he heard at His baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased (John 3:17).

When my goal is pleasing God first, caring for others and my own self fall into their proper places. I can put aside anxiety and trust God to meet my basic needs (Matthew 6:25-34). I can serve others with the example and fullness that comes from being first served by Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11). I experience the capacity that Jesus gives to tangibly love not just my friends, but even my enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). It makes sense to choose each day, “Please God first” and find that I can see clearly how best to care for others and even myself. And best of all, I can sense His words of affirmation, “You’re someone I love, with whom I am well pleased!”

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