The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 2)

By Michael J. Klassen

“$#*&!!”

The word practically jumped out of my mouth that moment on New Year’s morning, 2008, because I knew what was coming. In a few days I planned to resign my position without any idea of how we would pay the bills.

Years ago, bumper stickers emblazoned with the hopeful observation that “$#*&!! Happens” were popular. Well, I had a strong feeling that $#*&!! was about to happen.

Last week, we explored the only life that’s pleasing to God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The apostle Paul adds, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Furthermore, he writes “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Faith is obviously important to God.

He wants us living in such a way that we need to rely on him. It means prayerfully taking a faith jump and depending on him to catch us just before we hit the ground. (If you haven’t already, click on the link at the beginning of this post. It’s an exhilarating example of taking the faith jump.)

Here’s the bottom line: God wants to play an intimate role in our life. God doesn’t want to be a part of our life, he wants to be our life.

So how do we get there?

You Can’t Live A Life That’s Pleasing To God On Your Own

Faith isn’t equivalent to sweat; you can’t force it out of you. Nor is it the result of finding a Bible verse that applies to your situation which you quote over and over until your “faith” forces God to surrender to your request.

You might find this a little frustrating (it did to me that January morning), but we can’t manufacture faith on our own. The writer of Hebrews states Jesus is the author, pioneer, or founder of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Other Scripture passages communicate the same thing—faith comes from God (see Romans 12:3). While this is true, that doesn’t mean that we should sit around waiting for God to suddenly impart faith to us, like a bolt of lightening.

This places us in a precarious position. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God; everything that doesn’t come from faith is sin. Yet we cannot generate our own faith. We’re stuck!

The Life That’s Pleasing To God Usually Includes Problems

Which brings us back to my New Years’ morning. Contemplating my impending resignation announcement, I asked God to show me what the new year would look like. That’s when I sensed God whispering deep inside me,

This year, I’m going to strengthen your faith.

Hence my guttural reply.

I knew that the only way faith can be strengthened is by placing it in the position where it is needed, or exercised like a muscle. In other words, the upcoming year would be a test of my faith.

EM Bounds, the great apostle of prayer, once wrote,

Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, trial, and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from him who tries our faith that he may enlarge it; that tests our strength to make us stronger (Power Through Prayer).

Quite often, God tries our faith in order to enlarge it and to make it stronger.

At the same time, I would be remiss to ignore one other important ingredient to strengthening our faith. Paul wrote that “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

The measure of faith every believer receives—even as small as a mustard seed—comes from God. Hearing, reading, and meditating on God’s word—which is really Jesus speaking to us because he’s the Word made flesh (John 1:1,14)—waters those seeds. Hardship forces us to go to God in prayer and seek his intervention. Then, as we see him respond, our faith is strengthened.

So what did 2008 look like for us? Constant challenges, usually related to finances. Yet somehow, the challenges never kept me awake at night. We paid our bills. God led me to Eugene Scott and we began working on planting The Neighborhood Church. And I decided I never wanted to live safe again.

Obviously, life rarely follows our plans nor does it come together as neatly as we wish. But when faith grows, we learn that we can trust God—even when the results look disappointing.

More on that in next week’s post!

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 2)

  1. Georgie-ann

    Excellent!

    “Put your hand in the hand of the Man who can part the waters,…”

    For sure, all the preaching, singing, reading of the Word, that we do together is a very big help to us, in getting on and staying on “God’s Bandwagon!”

    I’ve found that the (seemingly) “little things” that we do for God, and with the Body of Christ, are really the big things — especially our “faithfulness!”

    Faith grows as we feed and water it, and “exercise” it. It also seems to accumulate and eventually “overtake us” in ways we could never have initially imagined.

    If we have our sights set on too much grandiosity, or “producing impressive results” to somehow “prove something” about who we are and how big our faith is, we can easily overlook the importance and relevance of the genuine initial “small steps” of “walking the walk” in sincerity, love and truth with one another, establishing the “gold standard” of our character in God.

    This faithful beginning will be the basis of everything else good that comes, and is a very BIG thing, if not THE big thing! Certainly, the foundation of Christian living that we establish with God and with each other, is the basis of everything else that comes — Jesus, Himself, being the Faithful Cornerstone!

    As they said in my day: “Keep the Faith!”

    • Thanks Georgi-ann. Friedrich Nietzsche once write that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I agree with him to a point. What doesn’t kill us CAN make us stronger. Unfortunately, IT killed him.

      Thanks for your thoughtful and incisive insights.

      • Georgie-ann

        Dear Michael,

        We can never forget that we have a very real and constant enemy. He and his legions are at work every single minute to destroy whatever is possible of God’s creation, or at least to co-opt it for their own nefarious endeavors. Fortunately for us, God loves us and is the greater/stronger, but this does not mean that our “faith” will go unchallenged. Jesus even told Peter that the devil was going to try to “sift him as wheat.”

        Luke 22:31,32

        31 “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ ”

        I can attest to surviving many “a (spiritual) battle,” mostly pertaining to the challenges of the “unsaved”/unregenerate character of both the intentional and the blinded and un-witting (huma “enemy.” (Bottom line,…”don’t ask.”)

        But God really IS Faithful beyond all we can ask or think:

        Ephesians 3:20,21

        20 “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

        And Romans 8:28 always applies: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

        It looks to me like Mr. Nietzsche, although possibly “quite sincere,” was playing on the wrong team — (“God is dead”) — and that’s not set up to “pan out” quite so well.

        But we ARE in a mortal battle, so to speak. Even Jesus died in the conflict, and barring the exciting potential of the Rapture to mitigate such effects, so will all of us,…eventually.

        I would not be envious of those currently in the position of facing into the headwinds of our own secular/atheistic, corrupt culture, and trying to “make a ‘go’ of it.” It would seem that so many of our former Christian “supports” are being pulled right out from under us!

        Believe me, I became very content to simply cry out to the Lord for “mercy!” in many of the things that I have faced, and judging by the outcomes, — (decades later) — He has been “more than enough,” and faithful beyond my imaginations! Many of the concerns that I covered and protected “with my faith,” have survived the challenges quite nicely.

        I am now seeing other results where people/friends were not as confrontative in their approach to various situations, and the meager “results” stand as a testimony to “the less (spiritually) invested, the less returned.”

        God is not mocked.

        Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

        These are the things that we do in faith, trusting that our God will lead us. We cannot see the end from the beginning, but we must take our steps and our stands anyway. I have always found “solid ground” under my feet as I follow my deepest impulses in the Lord:

        Joshua 1:1-9 [God’s Commission to Joshua]

        1 “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 EVERY PLACE THAT THE SOLE OF YOUR FOOT WILL TREAD UPON I HAVE GIVEN YOU, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU. 6 BE STRONG AND OF GOOD COURAGE, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may OBSERVE TO DO according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; DO NOT TURN FROM IT TO THE RIGHT HAND OR TO THE LEFT, THAT YOU MAY PROSPER WHEREVER YOU GO. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall MEDITATE IN IT DAY AND NIGHT, that you may OBSERVE TO DO according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; DO NOT BE AFRAID, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.’ ”

        God has written His Law in our hearts. We are sure to find strong guidance there.

        Hebrews 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: ‘I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ ”

        God is Faithful Love.

      • Georgie-ann

        oops: human “enemy”

      • Georgie-ann

        double oops: (human) “enemy.”

  2. Barry

    The past couple of years I had no choice but to live by faith. I reached the same conclusion, Mike: I don’t want to live a “safe” life any longer.

    • My hunch is that God’s reply to you is “Mission accomplished!”

      • Georgie-ann

        I don’t find much of the world’s offerings, according to it’s “play-by rules,” to be very “safe” for the soul.

        Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

        Some of the supposed “challenges” we face, may very well end up being God’s design to bring us into greater safety with regard to our souls, and those of whom we love.

        Acts 3:6 “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.’ ”

        And: Matthew 6:19-34

        19 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

        20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

        21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

        22 “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

        23 “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

        24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

        25 “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

        26 “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

        27 “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

        28 “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

        29 “And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

        30 “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

        31 “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

        32 “(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

        33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

        34 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

        And: Matthew 10:27-31

        27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

        And, I’ve almost been living long enough to say:

        Psalm 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

        God Bless You for choosing a path in which He can lead you and keep you closer to His heart.

        Habakkuk 3:6 “He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, The ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting.”

  3. Pingback: The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 3)…And It’s Not What You Think! | The Neighborhood Café

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