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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Perhaps you've heard the following statement spoken by a Christian leader at some point in your Christian journey. I certainly have heard it many times through the years, yet sadly it belies a misunderstanding of God and our relationship with Him. Having a fuller understanding of the dynamics of our relationship with God yields enormous spiritual benefits. The statement you have probably heard many times:

"There is nothing you can do to make God more pleased with you than He already is with you right now."

On the surface, there is an attractive quality to this statement because it affirms so strongly the love of God, as well as the pleasure He has over Christians because of Jesus' sacrificial death. Yet, a more careful examination of the statement reveals its incompleteness. Take a look at the numerous passages written to Christians clearly stating God's desire that we strive to please Him:

2 Corinthians 5:9, "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him."

Galatians 1:19, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

1 Thessalonians 2:4, "but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts."

1 Thessalonians 4:1, "Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more."

Why would the Scriptures consistently teach Christians to strive to please God if it were not possible? Would God command us to do something that's not possible?

Even more passages in the New Testament state specific activities undertaken by Christians that please God. For example: walking in righteousness (1 Thessalonians 4:1), faith (Hebrews 11:6), walking as children of light (Ephesians 5:7-10), financial generosity (Philippians 4:18), walking in a worthy manner (Colossians 1:10), children obeying parents (Colossians 3:20), praying for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4), keeping God's commandments (1 John 3:22), and taking care of one's parents (1 Timothy 5:4).

Because we can undertake activities that please God does not mean that we have in any way merited this pleasure of God. We do not earn salvation nor do we earn God's pleasure or favor over our lives. However, this does not mean there are not certain activities we can undertake as Christians that please Him.

Why do many forcefully state, "There is nothing you can do to please God"? They are trying to emphasize that salvation comes by faith alone which is absolutely true. However, becoming a Christian is just the beginning of our walk with God, not the end. As we walk with God it is possible to both please Him and displease Him. Because of the negative consequences of not pleasing God, Christians are given a helpful warning by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. Christians are reminded of Israel's disobedience and subsequent judgment:

1 Corinthians 10:5-6, "Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did."

When Christians today "desire evil" as the Israelites did, God is not pleased and disciplines us. It's very important to know that our actions and thoughts can displease or please Him, and therefore we should "make it our aim to please Him."

This is a powerful motivation to humble ourselves through fasting, prayer, and repentance. These bring pleasure to God and move Him to show favor and to reward His children.

Matt Bennett