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Seek to Please God

Always follow Jesus — No matter what

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: What does it mean to be successful? This study will show you how the Bible looks at goal-setting and measuring success. It will also teach you how to not be controlled by other people’s ideas or opinions.

Part 1 of a 3-part series on “Successful Christian Living”

Part 2      Part 3

Make pleasing God your main goal

What does it mean to be successful? For many of us, it might be having a nice home, making a lot of money, getting straight A’s, or being popular. Or we might think success means having a wonderful marriage, great children, and close friends.

Others measure success by their accomplishments in sports or on the job, or in how well they play games on their smartphone, create a beautiful garden, or play fantasy football. Or they may think they are successful if they have power over others, if they are admired, or if people are afraid of them.

There’s nothing wrong with some of the above goals, such as having a nice home, succeeding at work, or enjoying a wonderful marriage. But they should not be our primary goals.

The Bible shows us a different way to look at goal-setting and measure success—to please God.

Jesus himself said his goal was to please God, not himself.

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

“The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29)

Paul made a similar point in his letters to the Corinthians, Philippians, and Thessalonians.

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)

Related: Who Do You Think You Are?

Make it personal

1. According to Paul, what should be our goal?

2. How does this goal compare to the goals people usually have?

3. If someone’s main goal is to please God, is it okay to also have other goals such as wanting friends, building a wonderful marriage, or having a nice home? Why or why not?

Don’t be controlled by other people’s ideas or opinions

It’s easy to focus on pleasing other people, not God. That’s because most of us are tremendously influenced by other people’s opinions.

If someone you admire (or fear) says something is good—or that something is bad—you may automatically agree. Likewise, if everyone in your peer group agrees about something, you will probably feel a lot of pressure to go along with them.

It’s normal to go along with others, yet God wants us to break away from being controlled by people’s opinions and peer pressure.

Don’t give in to peer pressure.

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. (Psalm 101:3)

Related: Overcome peer pressure, Part 1

Related: Overcome peer pressure, Part 2

I love Paul’s example. He was concerned about what God thought, and he cared little about what people thought. Let’s look at what he wrote in some of his letters:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else. (1 Thessalonians 2:6)

Related: Don’t take things personally

Make it personal

4. Why can it be harder to care more about pleasing God than pleasing others?

5. How can we change our way of thinking so we will focus on winning God’s approval, not other people’s approval?

6. Are there times when it’s okay to try to win others’ approval? Why or why not?

Don’t be devastated by criticism

It can be hard not to be negatively influenced by others’ opinions when they criticize or attack you. The following points can help you hear critical words without being devastated:

Learn, but don’t be crushed.

You already know you aren’t perfect. No one is. Try to learn something helpful when others criticize you—even if you don’t agree with everything they say.

Don’t take things personally.

If someone says critical or harsh words, ask yourself:

  • Are these words Christ-like?
  • Are these words loving?
  • Are these words wise?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” don’t take critical or harsh words personally. Instead, see that person as having a problem and pray for him or her. As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Related: Healing Life’s Hurts

Try to live at peace with everyone

Although pleasing God should be your first priority, don’t use that as an excuse to be unpleasant to other people. As Paul wrote, live at peace with others whenever possible.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Make it personal

7. How can we balance trying to please God while also trying to live at peace with everyone?

8. How can remembering your main goal of pleasing God help you when you are criticized?

9. What are some other ways you can learn from criticism without being crushed?

Examine your goals in life

What are your goals in life? Whatever they are, you may think that when you achieve them you will be content or happy. However, if you achieve them there’s a good chance they will not bring lasting contentment or happiness.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Make it personal

10. What have been your major goals in life?

11. In view of this study, what will be your main goal in life?

Related: Do you set yourself up to get hurt?

Memory verse

We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

Personal application

1. What did Paul say was his main goal? What is one verse in which he said this was his goal?

2. Take a minute to pray, asking God to help you have the same goal as Paul.

3. What have been some goals in your life that would have conflicted with this goal?

4. How do you think you can overcome the temptation to allow other goals to become too important?

5. Is there a potential conflict between trying to please God and trying to please others? Why or why not?

6. Since we should please God, not others, is there any reason to try to live at peace with others? Why or why not?

7. Why do you think so many people are successful in sports, business, finances, or other areas, yet still feel unfulfilled in their lives?

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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