For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 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. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
– 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 [ESV]
In the movie, Martin Luther: Heretic Luther is teaching theology at the university. His students are tracking with him, but not in agreement. He speaks of justification by faith, and one of the students exclaims, “Faith! Every German peasant has faith!” “Yes,” says Luther. “Will heaven be filled with German peasants?!?” he asks in disgusted disbelief.
But the conversation continues and Luther is leading this by his wit and intelligence to an even more important lesson than who will be in heaven. “It can’t be that simple,” says the student. Luther responds, “You think faith is simple?” Then…”You mean we can do whatever we want as long as we have faith? We can do as we please?!?” goes the incredulous reply. Luther: “And what pleases you? Spend the night in a whorehouse? Make silly faces at the Duke?” Luther goes on to teach that the tree makes the fruit good, not the other way around.
So…what pleases you? Getting away with whatever mischief you can? Finding a way to hide your wealth all the while you indulge your every pleasure? Seeing how little you can do to look good to others? Indulging yourself at every opportunity? Showing off your wealth in order to impress others? Belittling others who are less fortunate than you?
There are a thousand ways we can indulge our selfish appetites. But all of them have in common the desire to please ourselves or impress others. Better we should seek to please God.
Paul made a big deal about pleasing God rather than man. He made a point that his ministry was all about honoring God rather than gaining man’s approval. And he suffered for it. He alludes to that suffering here when he writes, “we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi.” In other places he speaks of having been beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and harrassed for the sake of the Gospel. Paul didn’t blink an eye when it came to choosing between pleasing God and gaining man’s approval. He chose to please God – no matter the cost.
If I am to order my life around pleasing God, I will be true to his word. I will obey his commands. I will encourage others in their walk. I will look to him for guidance. I will trust him above all things. That will sometimes mean suffering. I may be ridiculed. I may forego some worldly pleasures. I may miss out on some so-called fun. But I am choosing to align myself with God’s will and ways. When I fail, I repent and God forgives. How about you, Dear Reader? What pleases you?