Living to Please ?
I’ll be preaching tonight from a book that I’m studying through with a bunch of our teens, so I hope I’m on the ball here because they are watching me to make sure I preach right. Please turn with me to Colossians.
Before I start, let me share something to give you a hint of what we’re going to be talking about tonight.
In our passage for tonight, Paul talks about a rescue. In the video we saw the story of the rescue of a dog which was broken, lost, blind, hopeless; how it was taken into a new home, given life, given health, it learnt to walk, run and climb, its life was precious but fragile. Paul talks in our passage about God’s rescue of us, who were broken, lost, blind, and hopeless – the passage talks about how we were taken into a new home, about the life that He gives us – and Paul talks about how we ought to live in light of that. Let’s read together from Colossians 1:9-14.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
In our passage tonight, Paul starts by sharing the prayer that he has for the Colossian Church. Now this is important because what a person continually prays for is an excellent indicator of what’s significant for them. What do you continually pray for?
What’s significant for Paul is not an end to the possible discomforts or even persecutions that the believers in Colosse were probably experiencing; it wasn’t the material success of their businesses; even though these might be good things, Paul’s concern was elsewhere: That the Colossian believers would know God’s will.
Fanie shared this morning on knowing God’s Will. It’s exciting to have a list of things that we can look at and say these are always God’s will. And while God is interested in what you do, He’s more interested in who you’re becoming. So it’s important for us to know God’s will for us.
Paul prayed that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
It was important for Paul that the Colossian believers knew the will of God.
Are you concerned about the will of God for you?
Many of us get lost in our will and plans.
Maybe it’s on a small scale, such as Sarah and I go through from time to time: should we choose to go way ‘A’ or way ‘B’, should we go here or there, what suits me? Am I comfortable with this, or that? Will this advance me, what are the benefits for me of that?
This past week, we see it on a national scale: What will we do as a nation, will we stand up, or sit down? When a reporter asked Pravin Gordhan which way he would vote if it came to a motion of no-confidence he said he supposes that at the time he will vote according to his conscience. What suits my conscience, what am I comfortable with doing? Will this advance us, what are the benefits for us as a nation.
It feels natural for us to ask what would benefit ourselves. It’s not natural for us to stop and ask ourselves – where does God want me? What is God’s will for me here? How does God want me to respond in this situation?
My prayer and hope for us is that we would turn from what ‘feels natural’ and start living for the supernatural.
Here’s my prayer for you, and for us as a nation this week, “Lord, fill us with the knowledge of Your will.”
Vs. 10 “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way…”
The reason we want to know God’s will is so we can live a life that pleases Him.
Why do we need to know God’s will? Because we can’t live to please Him if we don’t know what pleases Him. And I don’t know about you, but I want to please Him.
What does Jesus say in John 15? He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit….”
I don’t want to be cast off by God. I want to please Him. I want Him to delight in me. You can live for your own delights, but that won’t serve you when it comes to eternity.
Paul prays that we would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will ‘in order that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way.’
Live a life worthy of the Lord. That instruction reminds me of a line from the movie Saving Private Ryan. I wonder if you’ve ever watched it. It takes place in the last days of World War II and tells the story of Captain John Miller and his team as they search for a paratrooper who is the last-surviving brother of four men in the army to take him home. As Captain Miller and his team go through dangerous country searching for Private Ryan they encounter battles in which a number of the search party are killed. Finally Captain Miller and what’s left of his team find Private Ryan on the front lines just as a horrific battle is about to start. They stay to fight and Captain Miller is fatally wounded.
The seriousness of the movie is that Captain Miller leads a team of men to give their all, and dies himself, to bring one man home. As Captain Miller lies dying on the bridge at the end of the movie, Private Ryan comes to find him. Captain Miller pulls him in close and whispers his dying words: “James…earn this. Earn it.”
The movie cuts to an old James Ryan standing by Captain Miller’s grave asking his wife to confirm that he has led a good life. He wants to know that he’s lived a life worthy of the sacrifice of Miller and the others.
Is it your desire to live a life worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus?
Is it your aim to live a life worthy of the Lord? Is it your heart’s desire to live a life worthy of the Lord? Is it your desire to please Him in every way?
For many years my driving force has been Jesus’ story in Matthew 25 of the talents. It’s a story of life and death and reward, and in it Jesus talks of a rich man going on a journey and leaving His possessions in the hands of three servants. To one He gives much, to another less, and to another even less. When He comes back – and this is a picture of the day we will stand before God and give an account of our lives – He asks the first servant what he had done with what the Master had given him. He says, I took the much you gave me and worked hard and doubled it to give back to you. What was the Master’s response? ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!”
I want to hear those words from my Master’s mouth when one day I see Him face to face. For that reason I will run from temptation. For that reason I will take up my cross. For that reason I will look to His hand and seek which direction He would send me in. For that reason I will endure great troubles and trials. Why? Because I trust that He is a faithful and kind Master and that He will reward me according to His promise.
Do you live to please our Master?
God is looking for those who will live to please Him.
Paul says, ‘We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…’
That phrase ‘may please him’ is specifically a negative phrase. It’s not talking about the son that greatly pleases his father by completing his degree with top honours. No, this is the way a subservient slave grovels at the feet of his master – eyes desperately looking for ways to please the one in authority. It’s the pitiable teacher’s pet who comes in early every day to water the class plants, dust the teacher’s desk, put the tables straight, fluff up the cushion for the teacher to rest against. It literally means obedient and attentive to an excessive degree. A closer translation of this word than ‘please’ is ‘bootlicking’.
Did Paul live this way? Read his words in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13: “I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools… Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”
Paul saw it as an honour to serve God even in the most dishonourable ways because He – the Lord – is worth it.
How does that compare to the way that you serve God?
It is an honour to serve God in any way, even the smallest, most dishonourable, apparently thankless, forgotten way.
Are there things God calls you to do which are too low for you to do? Or too difficult?
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that your needs don’t matter, but the Lord is a faithful Master – if you live to serve Him, He will take care of all your needs. He promises to, multiple times through His word.
Paul used this word deliberately.
Many of us live to please others in this way. How many of us walk on tiptoes through our workplaces because we’re afraid of getting on the boss’s wrong side – or you work all hours of the day and night to make sure your project is done so that they’ll commend you at the next team meeting – maybe you agonise for months over buying your Mom the best birthday gift or Christmas present knowing they’ll probably never actually use it – maybe you slave to make sure your kids are always happy even if it puts you out completely.
And we file these actions away as being a ‘good employee’, a ‘good son or daughter’, a ‘good parent’.
But to talk about acting this way towards the Lord and it sounds alien to us. That’s why this sermon is entitled “Living to Please ?” because we’re all living to please someone, just fill in the blank.
Who are you living to please?
Why should we live to please the Lord? Well, let’s look at Paul’s reason: “For He has rescued us…”
What has He rescued us from? “the dominion of darkness…”
Maybe many of you can remember what it was like to be lost in sin and without a Saviour.
What has He rescued us to? “into the kingdom of the Son he loves…”
In fact, let’s talk a little bit more about this.
“He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…”
The Church at Colosse was a relatively new Church – the believers there couldn’t have been believers for more than just a few years.
Many of us, as we grow old in the faith we grow cold in our passion because we grow mould on the memory of what we were and what we’ve come from. Have you forgotten what bondage to sin was like? Have you forgotten what it was like in Egypt? Maybe you need to ask God to remind you.
Maybe you need to be reminded of where you came from.
My friends, before God rescued me I was a liar and a trouble-maker. I was two-faced, with a foul mouth. I wasn’t interested in God, I was blind to my sin and I was hopeless about my future. I was very much like that dog in the video: without a Master to protect me, blind and confused and lonely, so sick in my soul that I couldn’t stand, all I could do was hide in the furthest corner of the cage I lived in. Money, pornography and popularity were my gods and I served them all through the day.
In fact, shortly before God rescued me I turned my back on God and decided I would give up everything, whatever good that was left in me I would give up to gain popularity.
On the outside I was dirty and sinful, everybody could see that, but that didn’t begin to show the darkness of the darkness which was inside of me.
I turned my back on my Creator and I was walking away from Him when He in GRACE picked me up out of my cage, washed me clean, healed my wounds, and brought me into a new and happy place where I could learn to stand, walk and run.
I’m not ignoring our responsibility in the salvation message of turning to the Lord, but I’m not focussing on that right now – I’m focussing on what God did.
He could have left me, I would have walked myself into my own destruction and God would have been guiltless – He would have been guilty of no wrongdoing. I would have ended up in hell with not a single defence or accusation to bring against God. My eternal punishment would have been just, just like yours would be if God allowed you to continue in sin.
BUT NO! It pleased Him to reach out to me, to open my cage, to break the chains that shackled me in service to my own sinful desires; it pleased Him to lift me up out of the kingdom of darkness where I was destined to suffer; it pleased Him, as God’s Word says about the Israelites when they left Egypt, it pleased Him to rescue me with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
And where did He bring me into? Into a dry wilderness? Into an empty pit? No – into a new kingdom. But not a kingdom He was indifferent to. No – He brought us into His own kingdom, the kingdom of the Son He loves. He’s brought us to Himself.
This is the gospel.
Read verse 21 and 22: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…” – He did it.
If you can see this – if you can see what God has done for you – how will you respond? If this doesn’t drive you to examine your heart and your life and desire to change, then you’ve grown cold to God and deaf to reality.
The knowledge of God’s actions towards us should drive us to want to please Him, even to the uttermost. It should drive us to want to live worthy of the sacrifice and the gift.
Do you live to please Him? Do you live to please Him in your relationships; do you live to please Him in your reputation; do you live to please Him in your finances; do you live to please Him in your work; O God! that I would please You in some way because of all that You’ve done for me. That I would leave this earth and enter your presence to see a knowing smile on Your face. That I would be able to give you back something of value, something of worth, something worthy of You, Lord! worthy of what You’ve done!
I’m not ashamed to grovel to my King, because He’s not a human being like me just richer; He’s not my equal, but smarter; He’s my Creator, my Sustainer, my Rescuer, my Deliverer, my Father, my Friend; the Conqueror and now Defender of my soul.
Who do you live to please? Who do you live to see smiling at you? Are you spending your time and affections foolishly on empty promises? Or are you spending them on the One who already spent it all to get you?
So God, fill me with the knowledge of Your will, so that I can live a life worthy of my Lord, and so that I can please You in every way, because of all that You’ve done for me: rescuing me from darkness, and settling me in Your kingdom for eternity. I’m forever grateful.