Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I know that life can be scary. I know that we are going to go through things that are hard, which fill us with doubt in our abilities and our God. But I want you to know that it’s all going to be worth it, because you are his joy. Because God uses everything. Because he knows what we need.
We require time, trials, discipline and exhortations. We require sacrifice, the sacrifice of God’s own Son. We are something special. We are the apple of God’s eye. We are the pinnacle of his creative plan. We are the high point of all God’s work. We are his pride and joy. Jesus told his disciples, “Fear not, little flock, for it the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is the sort of thing that gives God pleasure. It is what he eagerly wants to do. This is his joy, and it is the joy of Jesus as well.
Now, as we fix our thoughts on Jesus, let’s think what this means for us. It means that, if Jesus is for us, who can be against us? He is not only our example, he is our biggest fan. He is cheering us onward more than anybody else is. He wants us to succeed. He not only began our faith, but he is also finishing our faith. He is working for us, inside of us, and in heaven as our high priest, constantly interceding for us.
For he is a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He was a human, just as we are. He knows our passions. He knows our temptations. The book of Hebrews makes these points for us.
Jesus is not just someone for us to look at or someone who looks at us. He is working in us to make sure that we can finish the race. He wants us to win so badly that he is willing to die for us. We are the focus of his work, the focus of his energies. Just as we are to fix our eyes on him, he has already fixed his eyes on us. He wants us to succeed. We are the joy set before him, and his joy is not complete until we finish the race.
So, whenever we feel afraid, whenever we are tempted to quit, whenever we are distracted by sin, we need to focus our eyes on Jesus who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross. He endured the cross for our salvation, and our salvation is the joy set before him. He started this project, and he will see it through to the end. He will make sure that you have whatever resources you need to make it.
We love it when people praise us and show that they believe in us. It is a good thing when we get a compliment from our boss or a friend encourages us. It is good, but it can become addictive and harmful.
We can not become so dependent on pleasing people that we start getting our sense of worth and value from them and from how they treat us. All of a sudden we are relying on them to keep us feeling good and to validate us, so we try to please them. That becomes a driving force in our life. When we think our value comes from what others think about us it becomes very burdensome. That’s not where your value comes from, by the way. It comes from God.
You might say, “If I don’t try to please others, they might leave. They might not be my friend. They might not value me.” Well then, let them go.* Your value and calling are not tied to people who devalue you. When we start valuing what people think more than what God thinks it starts getting dangerous. It can happen.
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than the praise of God.
— 1 John 12:42–43
The truth is that people will not always make you feel special. God will. If you have crossed the line of faith, asking God to forgive you of your sins and accepting Jesus as your savior, you are a child of the King. There is eternal value in that. And when we do that we receive a calling and purpose for our lives and His spirit to empower us to do those good things. And, here is the interesting part about this topic: One of those callings is indeed to love and serve others. Not because others demand it or because we want to please them and earn “extra credit and praise from people.” We do it because the love of our savior compels us to. We do it to bring honor and glory to him. Now, even when we serve in Christ’s name, not all will respond positively. That’s okay. Our validation does not come from others’ responses to us. It comes from our calling as a man or woman of God.
Now we have switched from people pleasing to pleasing God, and that is good.
* Additional resources: Nothing Just Happens by T.D. Jakes - https://youtu.be/lVG_6o0VRb8?t=1380
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
— Matthew 6:33
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
— Mark 12: 29–31
We were designed to please the Lord. But it’s no wonder that we often get it wrong and go down the path of pleasing others. By serving God, we are trying to serve a leader we cannot see, a voice we cannot literally hear and a plan we have trouble apprehending. Indeed, how easy it is to get off track and follow after people we know, hear, see and understand. Understanding how to please God is hard and complicated. People are easy. At least that’s the way it feels. But is this true?
Remember when you were a child (perhaps to some degree even now), and you sought after the constant affirmation of your parents’ love? I remember once receiving a gift from my dad that was clearly meant for my sister. He had confused our birthdays. So I pretended to love the gift, because it came from him and I wanted him to love that I loved it, even though I was hurt that he had confused my interests with my sister’s. Kids do this. They’ll hide a lot of pain in order to receive love. Likewise, you find that your own children seek to draw your praise from every tiny, mundane activity they do. And they are pained by any indication of rejection. This pure desire to please we see in children, uncorrupted by so much pride and prejudice developed later, is a clear reflection of how we are designed. In the same way that our biological inheritance causes us to seek the approval of our dads, our spiritual inheritance causes us to seek the approval of our Father. God gave us the biological drive as a reflection of our spiritual drive. The difference is that our dads, no matter how perfect or well-intended they are, can hurt. They are only human.
But God the Father is unchanging. In his presence we cannot be hurt. His love is pure and without error. He is not good, he is goodness itself. He is not loving, he is love itself. It is from his very nature that these things flow. Though we seek after him through a glass darkly, he waits with open arms, leading us gently to him. We are to be like his children, continually seeking his praise and his presence.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 18:3
C.S. Lewis put it this way:
”Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
— 2 Corinthians 5:9 ESV
“Are you happy at me?” This is a line from one of my favorite movies from a little girl who just wants to know her mom is happy with her. For as long as I can remember, that has been the cry of my heart. I want others to be happy, to be okay. I want to do anything within my own power to make that happen. This in and of itself doesn’t seem to be a problem. However, the desire to please others grew into a lifestyle of wanting to always do the right thing, make the right grades, say things that were always above reproach, be the best, try to keep people at peace, and above all else, never let others be disappointed in me, especially God. How stressful! How unrealistic! By the time I was in college, my perspective was totally out of whack, and when I received my first C in school, I truly thought I might have a nervous breakdown.
I remember calling my parents, crying and broken. Over the years, this “good” girl had placed herself on a pedestal that would inevitably crash. My freshman year of college was hard because of this unattainable goal of perfection and people pleasing, and at the time, a lifetime of always doing the “right” thing had become a god to me. I can see that now, but that realization came with lots of love, understanding, acceptance, tough talk, and the greatest epiphany of life in knowing that my calling has to be grounded in the truth that God alone is perfect. His ways are not my ways. He is always greater, and his unending, unconditional love isn’t dependent on my ability but on my humble broken heart that accepts his grace, love, mercy and forgiveness, because I am not meant to measure up. I’m meant to follow his lead.
My default is to be content and happy. That might seem like a weird way to describe a people pleaser and perfectionist continually in recovery, but I have always been someone who wants others to be at peace and to be happy. I guess that it is only natural that I am a problem solver by nature — a fixer, some might say. I think this is why I love to serve. I want more than anything to live a life that honors and glorifies God. In the words of Cody Carnes, “Nothing else, nothing else, nothing else will do – I just want you.”
It’s amazing the God perspective, love, peace and joy that overflow when we are doing the right things for the right reason. Acting and pursuing the passions of our hearts, walking into the steps God firmly plants for us, and seeking ways to look and live like Jesus allows that desire to please man to be transformed into purposefully living surrendered to worship and bringing glory to the Kings of Kings. In my heart of hearts, I know God has called me to make a difference, but that only comes from the difference he makes in me.
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
— Psalm 54:4 NIV
Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.
— Colossians 3:23 MSG
Child rearing can be tricky, even in the happiest of circumstances. Most of the tricky parts of raising kids are creations of our own doing. The same could be said of life in general, but a lot of my life at present involves children.
To commemorate your child’s birth, quite honestly the happiest of all occasions, it’s customary to throw a birthday party. A day to celebrate the fact that you’ve been blessed with one of God’s greatest gifts. And only we as humans could take something so wonderful and so beautiful and spend a full 24 hours, and sometimes even more, mucking it up. Every person who has ever laid eyes on your child must be invited. In preparation for the festivities, we try to select the perfect location, as well as the perfect snacks (sweet but healthy, nuts out of the question). It must be perfectly themed. Make sure the cake is a flavor that is enjoyable to everyone’s taste buds. And don’t forget presents! You must get the toy of your child’s dreams.
The day comes, and the stress is at its threshold. What began as an idea of a delightful time to celebrate the gift of your child’s life has crumbled into utter despair as you realize that Susie’s parents are allergic to the sun, Johnny can only have gluten-free snacks, Becky’s family is certain your theme is some form of cultural appropriation, and, although you had vanilla and chocolate cake available, the Smiths were quite disappointed that strawberry was unavailable. The icing on your strawberry-less cake? Your child has received seven carbon copies of the perfect present. How could a perfect party all go wrong?
This is a nightmare party for some, and this is life in general for so many others. Is it wrong to want to make everyone happy? No, not necessarily, but it is wrong to seek your own happiness through the happiness or the approval of others. It can’t be done. It will never be done. So why set yourself up for failure? Now, don’t stop serving others. We can indeed receive peace of mind with service, but the peace of mind comes from a right mind. A mind towards Christ, that’s the key.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
— Galatians 1:10
We were built to please. That’s why we seek it out so strongly. Like many areas of our nature, it’s all been muddled up and broken. But that’s not the end of the story. There is hope yet. We are broken, but then there came the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was not. The perfect example of what our true nature was always intended to be until we broke it, he came to fix, to heal, to serve, to please.
and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
— Luke 3:22
Through his death and resurrection, we are made whole again, with the opportunity to fulfill our nature and please the one true God. So don’t spend your days trying to please all men. Even Christ couldn’t accomplish that. But he knew that he didn’t need to, and he wants you to know that you don’t need to either. So enjoy your cake, hug your kid, serve others with love, and lighten your load. Pleasing others is heavy. Pleasing God is freeing.