Tag Archives: how can I please God?

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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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.


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The Only Life That’s Pleasing To God

by Michael J. Klassen

God, what in the &*%! am I doing? I prayed early New Year’s morning as 2008 welcomed me with the force of a WWF wrestler throwing me into the ropes and then body-slamming me to the floor.

Twelve months earlier I was living on Easy Street. Working my dream job and enjoying a regular paycheck. A manageable number of writing gigs on the side. Life was safe, but deep down I knew it would eventually (soon?) come to an end.

As 2007 progressed, elements of my secure working environment began falling apart. Funds were running dangerously low. Coworkers were being laid off. But I felt pretty secure because I had recently been granted tenure-type status in my church.

Then the week of Christmas, I was told that my salary would be cut in half…beginning in two weeks. Such a happy alternative to a lay-off!

“But how can I replace my salary in only two weeks?” I asked the team of people burdened with informing me of the decision.

“You can just make it up with your writing,” they answered.

“But the publishing industry is dead until the end of January!”

As I left my meeting, a deep, gnawing feeling inside told me that I was being pushed into the life of faith. Kind of like pushing the baby bird out of the nest.

The Life That’s Pleasing To God

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Did you notice the first part of that verse? Without faith it’s impossible—IMPOSSIBLE!—to please God. As a writer, I do my best to avoid extreme words like “impossible” because I can usually find an exception to any hyperbole. But I pay attention to words like that in Scripture because they often communicate a powerful truth that shouldn’t be overlooked.

In case you’re tempted to assume it’s hyperbole, a different person–Paul–wrote in Romans 14:23, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

Something tells me this faith thing is pretty important. Extremely important.

The writer of Hebrews defines faith for us: “Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

My most trusted theological resources tell me that faith means “to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust.’”

In this context, I spell faith R-I-S-K.

Faith includes a semblance of assent on our part, but if it doesn’t translate into everyday living, it isn’t faith.

Abraham Knew How To Please God

Abraham is the paragon of faith in the Bible. Although plagued with poor judgment—especially in regard to his wife Sarah—he deeply believed in God’s ability to take care of him.

The writer of Hebrews points out that God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their home and move to another country. And Abraham obeyed, even though he didn’t have a clue as to where he was going. Imagine inviting all your friends to help you pack all your possessions into a moving truck.

“So where are you moving to again?” your friends ask you over and over.

“I don’t know. We’re just going to take off and see where God leads us.”

Reading about Abraham through 21st century eyes, we often overlook the risks Abraham and Sarah were taking. Moving from one place to another in our modern society is a hassle but doable. In Abraham’s day, it was life-threatening. Family and tribal agreements ensured a semblance of safety and security. Venturing into new surroundings meant that you were extremely vulnerable to attack. Murder, robbery, rape, drought, floods, ignorance of your surroundings, ignorance of customs, wild animals, injury, and sickness were constant threats.

Nevertheless, Abraham left his comfortable life on Easy Street for a life of risk—and the world has never been the same.


So January 1, 2008, I decided to resign my position. I felt like I had jumped off a cliff and now I was free-falling–which can be terrifying or exhilarating.

The first order of business: figuring out how to make up for the salary shortfall.

January 2 I received a phone call from a man living in the Midwest. He told me how much he enjoyed my book Prayers To Move Your Mountains (pretty ironic title, huh?). Then he said, “I’m speaking at a large church next Sunday and I’d like to sell your book to anyone there who wants it. Do you have any extra copies you can sell me?”

And with that 10-minute phone call, my salary shortfall was met for January. The next weekend I resigned my position and embarked on a new life of faith.

Within the month, I knew God was calling me to plant a church. He eventually led me to Eugene Scott, my co-pastor who also contributes to this blog. Month after month, we somehow paid our bills.

Three years ago today—July 1, 2008—I sat in my office at home and realized I had zero prospects of any income for the month. And our family was scheduled to take two weeks of vacation.

“Lord,” I prayed. “You’re going to have to do something or we’re in trouble.”

Later that day, my phone rang. A publisher needed me to help three co-authors finish a book. Because it was a rush job, they would pay me well—and fast. And with that 10-minute phone call, our bills were paid.

Three years later, I can look back and see how God strengthened my faith.

Here’s the clincher, though. The life of faith is the only life that is pleasing to God. But there’s only one way that faith grows: we must be in a position where faith in God is necessary. Unemployment, hardship, sorrow, and grief are optimal environments for faith to flourish.

God wants us to live in such a way that we’re completely reliant on him. He wants us to take risks on his behalf so we’re forced to depend on him. For one person, it might look like giving sacrificially to a worthy cause. To another person, it might mean befriending and helping a homeless person. To another, it might mean sharing your faith.

He does this because he wants to be a vital part of your life. In fact, he loves you so much that he wants to be your life.

God invites us to a life of risk and reliance. It isn’t comfortable nor is it easy. I still stumble and fall.

But I never want to return to life on Easy Street. It’s so boring. The life of faith, on the other hand, is an everyday adventure.

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


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The Surprising Picture Of True Faith

Most of my family and friends don’t realize that I went to college on an athletic scholarship: my college paid me not to play athletics.

Much to my dismay, I’m not a very good basketball player. The position I play best on a basketball team is “bricklayer.” If I could rebound better, I would call myself a defensive specialist. Nevertheless, I do relish the fact that I participated in the biggest blow-out in college intramural basketball history.

In college, our intramural basketball league had five different classifications: A (where the true athletes played), A-, B+, B, and C (which was more like tackle basketball). I was a C league star.

My floor had a B+ team and a C team. Unfortunately, no one from our B+ team could make a particular game, so our C league team stepped in. Little did I know that I was about to play a part of basketball history. “This can’t be so bad,” we convinced ourselves.

When we showed up on the court for warm-ups, we noticed the guys on the other team were huge. Then we discovered that the opposing team consisted of former NCAA Division 1 basketball players. They had registered too late to get into A or A- league, so they were placed in the B+ league.

Before the tip-off, one of the players from the other team approached us and asked, “Are you sure you guys want to play this game?” Obviously he had watched us warming up and was overwhelmed with compassion.

“Of course we want to play,” we replied, offended by his offer.

Well, the opening tip resulted in a dunk for the other team…and it went downhill from there.

Let me also mention that we were short one player, so we convinced a guy to join us who had never played basketball before. In fact, every time we passed him the ball, he started he running with it. So really, it was a game for four against five.

A perfect storm was brewing.

By halftime, we were down 70-7. Again, the compassionate giant offered to stop the hemorrhaging. “Do you want to call it a game?” he asked.

“Look, if anyone quits, it’s going to be your team.” You know, college men can be extremely arrogant.

During the second half, a crowd started to form. People knew they were witnessing history. The other team felt so bad for us, one of their star players came over to our side to coach us.

My personal goal was to lose by less than 100 points—and we achieved it.

We lost 115-20. In the second half we almost doubled our point total and reduced their point total in half. So if we had continued playing another decade or so, we might have caught up with them!

Yet that game embodies the meaning of true faith.

Please join us as we explore this further in our daily Bible conversation.


Ezekiel 27:1-30:26;
Hebrews 11:17-12:13;
Psalm 111:1-112:10;
Proverbs 27:15-17

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


Hebrews 11 extols the great men and women of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, even Rahab the recovering prostitute. According to the chapter, the great heroes of faith conquer kingdoms, rout armies, and receive back their dead.

Sounds like the team that spanked my remedial basketball team. In fact, this describes how most people view the life of faith. It’s something nearly unattainable, something limited to only a few great men and women.

The end of the chapter gives us a completely different picture of the life of faith: torture, jeers, floggings, imprisonment, being sawed in two, destitution, persecution, mistreatment. These people wander in deserts and mountains, and live in caves and holes in the ground. “The world was not worthy of them,” the writer reflects on the men and women who drank from the common cup of suffering (Hebrews 11:38).

Wait a minute! This doesn’t fit into our definition of faith. In fact, it more closely resembles my C league basketball team.

Then the writer concludes with a profound comment that brings perspective to my chaotic, self-absorbed life: “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Hebrews 11:39).

What is the truest picture of faith? It isn’t the fulfillment of the promise before we die, it’s dying with the promise unfulfilled. It’s holding on to the promise in the face of overwhelming circumstances that whisper, “Do you want to call it a game?”

Some people would see this as discouraging, but I find this tremendously encouraging. Just because God doesn’t answer all my prayers doesn’t mean I’m a failure at living by faith. Perhaps holding on to Jesus in the middle of a past church firestorm—which I partially brought upon myself—was a greater exercise of faith than when I prayed for a person who was healed.

When Paul explains the armor of God in Ephesians 6, he describes the battle this way:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

What’s the picture of the valiant warrior in this passage? Standing. Just … standing. Not overcoming. Not stomping on the Enemy’s head. Just surviving.

If you’ve been beat up in a tough battle, this should come as a relief. You don’t always have to emerge from a struggle with the victory in hand. Sometimes, oftentimes, all you can do is survive. That’s good news.

That’s something anyone can do…if you have faith.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How does your definition of faith compare with the end of Hebrews 11?
  3. Do you find encouragement in the definition of faith according to Hebrews 11? Why?
  4. Think back through your life. When were you living by faith–without realizing it?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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