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Four Ways to Make God Smile

For many of us, January is a time when we reflect on our life and question whether we’re fulfilling God’s purposes for our life. The most fundamental question in life is, “Why am I here?”

The Bible is very clear on why we’re here. “For thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11 KJV).

Nothing you do matters more than bringing pleasure to God. There’s a much-misunderstood word we use that describes bringing pleasure to God: worship. 

Worship is so much bigger than the songs we sing. Church services can be worship experiences for your congregation, but we’re called to worship throughout our entire week—not just on the weekend.

God says worship isn’t what you do with your lips; it’s what you do with your life. You can preach the greatest sermons or sing the most beautiful songs with Christ-centered lyrics and still not worship God.

I like how Eugene Peterson describes worship in his paraphrase of Romans 12:1: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (The Message).

That verse is a good example of a life that makes God smile. 

How can your life bring pleasure to God? Here are four ways:

1. You bring pleasure to God when you love him above everything else. “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me” (Hosea 6:6 TLB).

You can preach to thousands. You can lead people to faith in Jesus every day. You could become a leader in your community. All of those are great, God-honoring activities. But you can do them and still miss the two most important things God wants from you: to know him and to love him. 

Pastor, God doesn’t just want to use you in ministry. He wants a relationship with you.

When my children were little, they would run into my arms when I came home from work. They didn’t know anything about earning an allowance at the time. They just loved their dad. For me, their love was a thrill beyond any earthly accomplishment. God feels the same way when you love him and want a relationship with him.

2. You bring pleasure to God when you trust him completely. “The Lord treasures the people who honor him, the people who wait for his faithful love” (Psalm 147:11 CEB).

You trust God completely when you recognize that he knows what’s best for your life. When you do that, you begin to trust God for the impossible.

When I arrived in Southern California to start Saddleback Church, I had no money and didn’t know anyone in the area. In a way, it wasn’t much different than when God told Noah to build an ark. It seemed impossible, and I was scared.

But I did what God told me to do, and I’m so glad I did. More than four decades later, I’ve seen God use Saddleback to reach tens of thousands of people in every country of the world. I’m so glad I trusted God.

You and I serve a big God. He’s bigger than we can even imagine. We bring God pleasure when we take risks for him in faith.

3. You bring pleasure to God when you obey him wholeheartedly. “Here is what it means to love God. We love him by obeying his commands” (1 John 5:3 NIRV).

You can’t earn your way to salvation by doing good deeds. You can’t earn being born again any more than you earned your first birth. But just like your parents smiled when you obeyed them, God smiles when we obey his commands.

What does it look like to obey God wholeheartedly?

— Obey without reservations. Hold nothing back.

— Don’t procrastinate. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

— Obey completely. Don’t pick and choose what to obey.

— Obey joyfully.

Obedience isn’t easy. It’ll be inconvenient, even for those of us who have been Christians for decades. Obedience will cost you. But with obedience comes the smile of God. 

4. You bring pleasure to God when you fulfill his purposes. “God richly gives us everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 NCV). 

Too many people think that the only time God is smiling on their lives is when they’re doing something religious. But nothing could be further from the truth. God isn’t just pleased with us as we study our Bibles, preach, or sing spiritual songs. God smiles when we eat a good meal. He smiles when we exercise. He smiles when we play with our children.

God smiles when we do what he created us to do. It’s like the words of the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell, who was the subject of the movie Chariots of Fire. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” If God makes you a runner, he takes pleasure in you running.

It’s easy, as a church leader, to get into a habit of pleasing people—your family, your congregation, your denomination, and many others. 

But you really have only one person to please—your heavenly Father. 

Let’s echo Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn’t speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives” (CEV).

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