Pastor David B. Curtis


Pleasing God - Part 1

John 8:29


What does God expect from you? Does He expect anything? I would have to say that most Christians live as if God expects nothing from them. What does God want from us? Have you ever pictured God looking down at you from Heaven and wonder if he's shaking his head, saying, "Come on, you can do better. You can make more of your life, you can accomplish more with your life. You're coasting. You can do better"?

As I watched some of the Olympic games this past week I marveled as I watched people performing at their very best, going all out, giving it 100%. Whenever I watch the Olympics I think of what Paul said to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV) And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

The athletes do all they do to obtain a "perishable crown." But Paul said that Christians work for a crown that is imperishable. The athletes strive to please their coach, trainer, and the fans; but as Christians, we are to live to please Christ.

The Bible also teaches that a soldier's desire is to please his superiors.

2 Timothy 2:4 (NKJV) No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

Let me share with you a story of a Marine who lived to please those "who enlisted him as a soldier."

Don Hamben enlisted in the Corps at 17 and within months was serving as a rifleman and sniper at the height of the Korean War. During his tour in Korea, an enemy mortar fire hit Hamblen's squad. When a stretcher team came to their rescue, they were ambushed. Hamblen was shot and left for dead, but he managed to get to a battalion aid station. Eleven days later, he returned to his platoon and was promoted to squad leader.
Throughout a 20-year career in the military, Hamblen displayed a remarkable ability to rebound from serious injury. While serving in Vietnam, he participated in more than 80 covert missions and was wounded twice. To this day, he carries a .32-caliber bullet in his left arm. But most serious was the loss of a leg. As far as is known, Don Hamblen ended up doing what no other Marine in the history of the Corps has done - fighting in combat with a prosthesis. In fact, he served 30 consecutive months in Vietnam.
The most difficult challenge of his life began on September 21, 1962, when Hamblen and 12 men in his platoon made a parachute jump over Camp Pendleton in California before leaving on a one year deployment to Okinawa. As jumpmaster, Hamblen was the last to exit the C-130 aircraft, at a height of 1800 feet. Less than 50 feet above ground, the wind suddenly changed direction and blew his chute upward and backward into some high-tension wires. His canopy became entangled in the lines, leaving him suspended above three 12,000- volt auxiliary lines. As the winds caused him to sway, the canopy slipped, and his left foot caught the middle line, causing an explosive contact.
'I felt the shock as it came racing up from below,' he recalled. 'Everything turned a bright, flaming yellow. Thunderbolts seemed to ricochet through me.'
As electrical current and flames engulfed his body, Hamblen's nylon canopy melted, and he dropped 30 feet to the ground, still smoking. 'I remember lying on the ground, trying to move, but I couldn't,' he said. 'One of the electrical lines snapped and fell to the ground, igniting grass fires everywhere. Our training had been so repetitive that it was instinctive for me to try to get to my signal flare and let someone know I was alive, but I was just too weak to do it.'
Help finally arrived, and Hamblen was flown to the base hospital nearby. There, doctors informed him that third-degree burns had destroyed the flesh on his lower left leg and foot and a gangrenous infection had set in. Four days after the accident, his leg was amputated several inches below the knee. Hamplen's future as a Marine looked dim.
'My worst moment,' he said, 'was the realization that I might be forced out of the Marines because of my injury.' But Hamblen resolved to continue to serve in combat as an amputee.
In January 1963, Hamblen was transferred to a naval hospital in Oakland for rehabilitation and to be fitted with a prosthesis. There, he taught himself how to stand, walk, run and even dance on his artificial leg. Only 58 days after being admitted, Hamblen was discharged from the hospital and reassigned to limited duty with his reconnaissance company.
After his recovery, Hamblen had to prove to skeptical Marine Corps officers that he could perform his duties without any difficulty, so that he would be allowed to return to full active duty.
His chance came that same year, in July, when he took the grueling Physical Readiness Test - a 2-minute up hill climb, 2 minutes of deep-knee bends, a 20-foot rope climb, a leap over an 8-foot trench and a 3-mile run while carrying a full combat pack and rifle. After completing the run, Hamblen removed his artificial leg and poured out a cup of blood. His scar tissue had split open.
IF anyone still had doubts, Hamblen made his 216th jump in September 1963. He was returned to 'full-duty' status, resuming his position as platoon sergeant, company jumpmaster and - after having his prosthesis fitted for a swim fin - scuba diver.
In the spring of 1965, Hamblen volunteered for the Naval Advisory Detachment, operating out of Vietnam's coastal city of Da Nang. He was assigned as military adviser to a secret 37-man team. 'My team's primary mission was to conduct nighttime prisoner snatches of North Vietnamese officers,' Hamblen explained. 'That combat was the final test of whether or not I was the equal of any other Marine.'
Hamblen served in Vietnam from June 1965 to November 1967. After a year at Camp Pendleton, he was assigned to the U.S. Strike Command at McDill Air Force Base in Florida. In 1969, he was promoted to first sergeant and returned to Camp Pendleton, where he completed his career with the Fifth Force Reconnaissance Company.
2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NKJV) You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

Don Hamblen lived to be a Marine. He lived in such a way as to please those "who enlisted him as a soldier." Don went through great hardships and pain to live in such a way as to please those in authority over him.

How strong is your desire to please God? What are you willing to sacrifice, what pain are you willing to endure that you may live in a way that is pleasing to God? The Lord Jesus Christ lived his whole life with the aim of pleasing God.

John 8:29 (NKJV) "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."

As Christians, we are called to imitate Christ, we are called to live our lives to please God. Do you? Is your life structured in such a way as to please God by all you do? Is pleasing God important to you?

The athletes do all they do to obtain a "perishable crown." But Paul said that Christians work for a crown that is imperishable. The athletes strive to please their coach, trainer, and the fans; but as Christians, we should be striving to please God in all we do and say. The soldier does all he does to please those "who enlisted him as a soldier." And the Christian should do all they do to please their Lord.

I believe the Bible tells us the things God wants from us, it tells us how to please Him. But before we look at those, I want to point out the prerequisite for doing what pleases God. When I talk about pleasing God, I'm not talking about trying to earn our way into heaven. The Bible tells us that we can only get to heaven by the grace of God.

Romans 3:24 (NKJV) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

The word "justified" means: "to declare righteous." It a legal act on the part of God. We see here that we are justified "freely by His grace." The word "freely" is the Greek word dorean. It means: "for nothing, gratuitously, gift-wise or with out a cause." The cause of our justification is in God and not in us. The word "grace" means: "free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment."

"Freely by His grace" is redoubled to show that the act of justification is all of God. Nothing in this act of justification belongs to, or proceeds from man.

Ephesians 2:5 (NKJV) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Verse 5 says that grace is the cause of our salvation, whereas, verse 8 says that grace and nothing else is the cause. The only way anyone ever gets to heaven is by the grace of God. Yet, the majority of people today who think they are going to heaven think they are going there because of something they do, or don't do. Men think that they can earn their way into heaven.

When I talk about pleasing God, we must make a distinction between our position and our practice. As believers, we stand "righteous" before God. The good news of the Bible is that our debts were paid in full by Jesus Christ. And not only has the Christian's debt been paid in full, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Jesus paid the debt of all our sins: past, present, and future. This is GRACE!

Colossians 2:13 (NKJV) And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

I hope that you realize that your salvation is totally of Grace. If you are trusting to any degree in you own morality or religious attainments, or if you believe God will somehow recognize any of your good works as merit toward your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you are truly a Christian.

Believer, we often fail to live as we should, we often sin and fall short of His glory. There are many times when we feel so far from God. But, believer, hang on to the truth that God has made us righteous, he has made us accepted in the Beloved. We will never suffer His wrath, we will never face His punishment, because Jesus Christ has born it for us.

So, when I talk about pleasing God, I'm talking to Christians about how they live. We are to live in such a way to please God by all that we do. Sometimes people feel that they're not doing what God wants them to do with their lives. Sometimes people do weird things because they think they're doing what God wants them to do. But we don't have to guess, the Bible makes it clear what it is that pleases God. Pleasing God is not something that can be done once and for all and gotten out of the way on a Friday evening so you can go and do as you please on Saturday morning, like mowing the lawn or something. Pleasing God is a way of life.

That being said, when we ask ourselves what God wants from us, there are several things that come to mind. Here they are:


Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV) Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him."
Hebrews 11:5-6 (NKJV) By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

There is no way we can live a life that is pleasing to God without trusting Him. God wants us to trust Him. Apart from faith we cannot please God. So, apart from faith, it doesn't much matter what we do.

A very basic and simple fact of life is this: All of our valuable relationships in life are built on trust. When a husband and wife stop trusting each other, ,they may continue to be married, but they can no longer have a happy marriage. When two friends stop trusting each other, they may continue to see each other, but they no longer have a true friendship. If that is true in our human relationships, how much more true in our relationship to God?

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him"- here the writer lays down an axiomatic truth. He uses the aorist tense in the infinitive "to please." The statement is universal in its application and timeless. The idea is: without faith it is impossible to please him at all.

The Christian life starts with an act of faith. We believe that Christ will save us if we trust in Him alone for our redemption.

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

That is a promise; when I believe in Christ, I am given everlasting life. When I come to the living God as a guilty sinner who deserves hell, trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone for my redemption, I am engaged in an act of faith. I've never seen God. I've never seen this place called "heaven", or this place called "hell". I've never seen Jesus Christ. But by faith those things which I cannot see become realities to me. But trusting God for my eternal salvation is only the beginning. It is the start of a journey that cannot be traveled successfully in any other way but by a growing faith.

Thousands of believers have trusted Christ for their salvation, but are not living in faith, trusting God in each and every area of their lives. We should be people who live by faith. Everyday and in every way we should be trusting God in our daily lives. But are we? Do we really trust God? When you are hurting and your life seems to be coming apart, do you trust God?

When we fail to trust God, we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. God views our distrust as seriously as He views our disobedience. When the children of Israel were hungry, they spoke against God:

Psalms 78:19-22 (NKJV) Yes, they spoke against God: They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 20 Behold, He struck the rock, So that the waters gushed out, And the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?" 21 Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel,

Why was it that God was so angry with them?

22 Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.

In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. Faith please God.

2. Worship

When we talk about worship, primarily we think of this - the worship service. Worship is more than just getting together to read Bible passages, sing songs, pray, listen to somebody preach - true worship comes from the heart. It's an expression of adoration. Worship can take place here, but just because we're here doesn't necessarily mean we're worshiping. If it's not coming out of our heart, then it's just a ritual - and ritual, without the corresponding heart-attitude, has never satisfied God.

What is worship? Worship is honor and adoration directed to God. The New Testament uses several words for worship. Two of them are particularly noteworthy: proskuneo, which means: "to kiss toward, to bow down." It signifies humble adoration. Another word used for worship is latreuo, which means: "rendering honor or paying homage. Both terms carry the idea of giving, because worship is giving something to God. It begins with the giving of ourselves, and then of our attitudes, and then our possessions.

Worship can be expressed by sharing love with fellow believers:

Romans 14:18 (NKJV) For he who serves [latreuo] Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

The context of this verse is loving the weaker brother.

Sharing the gospel with an unbeliever is also seen as worship.

Romans 15:16 (NKJV) that I might be a minister [leitourgos] of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Giving is also an expression of worship:

Philippians 4:18 (NKJV) Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

Paul tells them that their gift was overwhelming to him. He was full. Paul viewed their gift as an offering to God, a sacrifice that was well pleasing.

Not all people witness , or study, or give for the same reason. Some do it out of a legalistic duty in order to earn God's favor. But some do it out of love and gratitude for all that God has done for them - this is true worship.

In November of 1995, Paul Harvey told this story: "The Butterball Turkey Company set up a hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing holiday turkeys. One woman called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for twenty-three years. The operator told her it might be safe if the freezer had been kept below zero degrees the entire time. But the operator warned the woman that, even if it were safe, the flavor had probably deteriorated, and she wouldn't recommend eating it. The caller replied, 'That's what we thought. We'll just give it to the church.'"

True worship comes out of a desire to please God, to show one's gratitude to God, to show one's love for God. True worship comes from the heart - a right reason behind it. And if we offer up something to God (time, physical effort, prayer, money, service to others) with the right heart, a heart of love and adoration and thanksgiving, then that is true worship. Let's not kid ourselves - someone can come faithfully to a worship service and never worship. We can do wonderful things for people and never worship. The essence of worship lies in the heart of the worshiper, not in the deed that is done and called worship. What pleases God? God is pleased when we trust Him, and when we worship Him from our hearts. Another thing that please God is:

3. Service.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NKJV) But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

God was pleased with their service of proclaiming the gospel.

Hebrews 13:15-16 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

In the Old Testament, the priest class served on behalf of all Israel, and each family offered sacrifices to atone for their sins. In the New Testament, under the New Covenant, we serve not out of a sense of needing to atone for our sins (they are atoned for once and for all in Jesus' death) but out of a sense of gratitude and love for God. Sometimes preachers have a tendency to make it sound like what they do is more pleasing to God than what you "ordinary Christians" do. However, the Bible says:

Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

This means that the field of what we can do for God is wide open. Whatever you do as a vocation, you can do that in service to God. A surgeon at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, before an operation, says to his patient, "See these hands. They are the best in this hospital. And I want you to know that before I operate, I'll be on my knees for an hour." Peter Drucker said,"Religion lives off the excess of culture," meaning it is something people do in their spare time. That may be true for some, but it is not supposed to be true for Christians. Whatever we do, if done in the right attitude and for the right reasons, can be just as righteous and pleasing to God as when we come to a formal worship service. God just wants us to serve Him out of love and gratitude. A fourth thing that the Bible teaches that pleases God is:

4. Obedience

Once a husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to the Holy Land. The husband said, "Wouldn't it be fantastic to go to the Holy Land and stand and shout the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai?" The wife said, "It would be better if we stayed home and kept them." God is pleased when we live in obedience to His Word.

1 Samuel 15:22 (NKJV) Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.

The Lord delights far more in obedience than in the performance of worship ceremonies without it. God takes pleasure in our obedience because our disobedience is idolatry.

1 Samuel 15:23 (NKJV) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."

When God says one thing, and we then stubbornly choose to go our own way, we are idolaters. We have actually esteemed the direction of our own mind over God's direction and become guilty of idolatry. And worst of all, the idol is our own self.

God takes pleasure in us when our obedience shows that we put our treasure in Him and not in the enticements of sin. He delights in the humility of our submission that loves to make a name for God and not man.

Colossians 3:20 (NKJV) Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

Believer, do you understand this? Obedience pleases God and disobedience displeases Him:

1 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV) But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
1 John 3:21-22 (NKJV) Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

While we don't earn our salvation through obedience, the Bible makes it clear that when we disobey Him, we're not pleasing Him.

Many have a wrong idea about obedience. They think God is just a cosmic wet blanket, out to ruin everybody's fun. "Don't have fun, or you'll be sinning, and I don't like that." That's the way many people view God, and sometimes Christians reinforce that view of God as somebody who doesn't care what you do so much as what you don't do. However, the reason God wants us to obey Him really has very little to do with Him wanting to keep us from fun, it has to do with Him caring about us so much that He doesn't want us to get hurt. A little boy was riding his tricycle furiously around the block, over and over again. A policeman finally stopped and asked him why. He said, "I'm running away from home." The policeman said, "Why do you keep going around the block? " The boy's answer was, "Because my Mom said I'm not allowed to cross the street." God's guidelines for our behavior are there to protect us. Think about it: think of something named as a sin in the Bible. Doesn't matter what it is, a person will always be safer and better off if they don't do it. I could name many examples, but it's almost silly to waste time doing so now. Pick a sin, any sin, and a reason to avoid it can be quickly thought of.

God delights in our obedience, because everything God commands us is for our own good. And so what God is really delighting in when he delights in our obedience is our deep and lasting joy.

Deuteronomy 6:24 (NKJV) 'And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NKJV) "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 "and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

All of God's commands are like a doctor's prescription, or a physician's therapy. They are not arbitrary. They are meant to make us well and happy. Every command of Jesus is meant for our good.

In July 1976, Israeli commandos raided a hijacked plane at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda. In less than 15 minutes all 7 of the kidnappers had been killed and the 103 Jewish hostages had been set free. However, 3 hostages were killed. Commandos came in and shouted, in Hebrew, "Get down! Crawl!" Most of them understood and obeyed, but some - for whatever reason - hesitated, and were shot by the men trying to free them.

Obedience is commanded for our own good. God's rules for our behavior are not things we must do to earn our salvation or rules to obey because of some arbitrary decision made by a vengeful Creator. They are there to protect us, to make our lives easier, and the sooner we stop thinking of God's rules as ruining our lives and see them as things that make our lives easier the better off we'll be.

What is it that pleases God? We have looked at four things: faith, worship, service, and obedience. If you keep those four principles in mind and measure your life using them as a guideline, then you can be sure that you are living your life in such a way as to please God.

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