The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 3)…And It’s Not What You Think!

Two people are struggling with cancer. Both cling closely to God, asking him to raise them up from their death bed. One person dies and the other miraculously recovers. Which one had greater faith?

The answer might surprise you.

We’ve now entered the third and final installment of our weekly series on faith. This is an important subject because the Bible clearly tells us that without faith it’s impossible—IMPOSSIBLE—to please God (see Hebrews 11:6). If you’re interested in reading the other posts, click here and then here.

The Life That’s Pleasing To God Isn’t Necessarily Defined By Answers To Your Prayers

Through childhood and even much of my adult life, I envisioned the man or woman of great faith as the person who partners with God to overcome any obstacles that stand in their way. They successfully fight cancer. Proclaim the gospel in the midst of persecution yet go unharmed. Believe that God will rescue them in their finances—and he does.

In other words, I sought to emulate the people who enjoyed the fruit of their faith. And I would be remiss not to acknowledge their great faith.

But they aren’t the only people with great faith.

In Hebrews 11:1, the anonymous writer defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Funny, the person mentions nothing about receiving anything in the present. Nevertheless, we read further in the same chapter about people like Enoch and Noah who experienced the reward of their faith in the here and now.

A little further, we read about Abraham, who abandoned the safety and comforts of home to seek a better country. But alas, we read that he and his heirs lived in tents—a sign that they never completely settled. For generations.

The Life That’s Pleasing To God Sometimes Means NOT Getting What You Pray For

In Hebrews 11:13, the writer describes great men and women of faith:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Did you catch that? They did not receive the things promised. In other words, faith isn’t necessarily defined by what we receive in this life.

Further on in the chapter, we read more about other people of faith. You might find this fairly disconcerting:

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (Hebrews 11:36–37).

Doesn’t sound like a modern-day example of faith. The writer concludes by saying

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39–40 italics added).

Living By Faith Means Living From An Eternal Perspective

Not one person who really lives by faith—who lives in a way that’s pleasing to God—receives in this life what has been promised. The truest picture of faith is relying on God completely in this life knowing that the full reward comes in the next life.

Now that’s called living from an eternal perspective.

So if you’ve been praying for God to rescue you, and you’re still clinging to God, you’re a man or woman of faith.

If you’re still unemployed but you haven’t given up your faith in God, you’re a man or woman of faith.

If you’re you’re still praying for a son or daughter who has strayed from God, you’re a man or woman of faith.

I find this fact tremendously encouraging. All too often I think we formulate a picture of the life that’s pleasing to God that is totally unrealistic. Faith isn’t defined by getting what we want in this life, it’s defined by our continued trust and reliance on God throughout our lives regardless of the outcome. It’s rests on the belief that the world to come is so much better than anything in the present.

So…keep the faith!

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


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2 responses to “The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God (Part 3)…And It’s Not What You Think!

  1. Georgie-ann

    For sure, Michael!

    Again, I hate to say it, but the television has helped to add more than a bit of exaggerated glitz, glam and excess to our concept of “what it is to be a Christian” in the here and now. Playing up external appearances, making everything “look picture perfect” for the camera, creates “illusions” which are very unreal and also unsubstantial. Once again we are “driven to keep up with these televised Christian Jonses” just as they appear “on camera,” not much different from a contrived Christian Brady Bunch. But there is just as much real reality going on “off camera” that we do not see or get to relate to as well: the tiredness, the bad mood, the messy hair day, the impatience, and a lot of imperfections — some quite normal, and some maybe not. After all, who can resist “acting” in front of a camera? No one wants to appear unphotogenic, or fat, or frumpy, or nasty, so it’s time to put that “best foot forward” and smile smile smile, (fake teeth and all)! (-:

    Trouble is how quickly it becomes “an act,” and how quickly we begin to “believe our own act” and become demanding to maintain all these external props and visual supports, as if this is really what God is “looking at” within us. It is so easy to be deceived and to deceive our own selves and others. If our attention is so diverted to externals, then we will be missing a lot of what is really going on internally. If we’ve “learned all our lines” and “look great,” we’ll think that’s all there is to do, and that we have “arrived.” But that is “so not true.”

    Look at some of the virtues that God does care about: honesty, faith, courage, kindness, reliance on Him, and concern for others, the “hidden man of the heart” and “a meek and quiet spirit:”

    1 Peter 3:2-4

    2 ” … your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

    3 “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

    4 “But let it be THE HIDDEN MAN OF THE HEART, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

    Great “faith teachers” and faith teachings have a blessed contribution to make to our understanding about God and our lives, but I agree with you that we need to keep in mind the full counsel of the whole of the Word of God. “Using our faith” to purposely manipulate circumstances for ourselves and for our own advantage in this life can easily end up far afield of God’s purposes for us, (especially if we “get an attitude” about what we supposedly deserve!).

    Matthew 7:13-23 [The Narrow Way]

    13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

    [You Will Know Them by Their Fruits]

    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

    [I Never Knew You]

    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 MANY WILL SAY TO ME IN THAT DAY, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

    God’s Kingdom is first and foremost a Kingdom of Righteousness, a Kingdom of Good Character. This is where true strength comes from. A noble and righteous person can endure the world’s unbelief and insults, and can counteract and withstand the inevitable seductions and lies.

    Luke 6:27-36 [Love Your Enemies]

    27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

    32 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

    Only in these ways will we build the Kingdom of God on earth. It is not about us becoming the grand centers of our own little earthly universes, in competition with the world’s glory, — proverbial little King Tuts, reveling in self-aggrandizement, resenting those who do not acknowledge us as we wish to be acknowledged.

    Uh-uh. It’s easy to get “faith teaching” very wrong if our hearts have not first been totally surrendered to God, and our walk with Him become spiritually matured.

  2. carri

    Wow Mike, this was an amazing post and so timely for me as far as where I’m at with my walk and some of the questions and doubts I’ve been struggling with lately. I’ve read these same verses in Hebrews hundreds of times but today they seemed to jump off the page in a new light. Thank you so much for posting this!!!

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