In the second week of the Finally Free series, lead pastor Ben Snyder posed a provocative question: Are we seeking first to please God, or are we instead focused on trusting him?
At first blush, it may appear that these two choices need not be mutually exclusive. After all, isn’t it reasonable that we should desire to please God while also trusting in him? In reality, the question reveals a proverbial fork in the road of our spiritual journey that each of us must confront.
For many of us, seeking to please God is a compelling choice, primarily because it appears comparatively more “active” than the ostensibly passive path of simply trusting him.
What we quickly learn, however, is that seeking to please God is a path fraught with danger. The authors of the book The Cure put it succinctly: “When individuals assume that they can enhance their relationship with God by working on their sin issues, they are missing the basis for the relationship they have with God, namely the cross.”
When we seek to please God, we are inherently inserting ourselves – by relying on our own judgments – into the appraisal of what exactly is pleasing to him. In doing so, we can create an unattainable standard of perfection and attribute it to God. This path can quickly become a slippery slope. We strive for sinless living, and despite our best intentions, we fail. Failure, in turn, leads to self-loathing, separation from God, and in the most severe cases, even abandonment of our spiritual journey.
Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
The truth is we are not the arbiters of what is pleasing to God. We can no more influence his love and acceptance of us by our works than we can eradicate the sin in our lives.
God neither expects nor desires perfection. As our Creator, he, above all others, knows that we are both wonderfully made and beautifully broken. God loves us unconditionally.
Does this mean that God doesn’t want us to strive to become better versions of ourselves? Of course not! Trusting God does not equate to being content in our sinful life. But, God’s foremost desire is that we believe and trust in him. And this, in turn, serves as a rock-solid foundation for our walk with him as we learn to live from approval instead of for approval.
Do you have the tendency to feel as though God’s love for you is based on your actions? If so, what spiritual shortcomings or sinful acts are most agonizing to you?
Do you feel as though you are inclined – perhaps even hard-wired – to take action to be more “godly?” If so, will you trust and pray about that specifically, allowing God to do the work?
Set aside time this week to consider the fullness of your trust in God. While most of us cognitively understand that God’s love is unconditional, it is all too easy to be seduced into trying to influence our standing with him. Devote time – with a family member, friend, or perhaps members of your CedarCreek Group – to discuss the perils of determining by ourselves what is pleasing to God, as well as the importance of trusting in him above all else.
Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for the gift of your grace. I pray that you grant me the awareness to realize when I am seeking to please you at the expense of more fully appreciating the unconditional love you so graciously offer. Amen.
This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd enjoys sharing life with his wife Jessica and their family and serving at CedarCreek. He is a communications director at Owens Corning and enjoys reading, writing, music, and sports in his spare time.
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