Power to Please Our Heavenly Father
Congregational activities take different forms in different congregations and denominations. Some people pray and praise loudly and spontaneously with a lot of emotion and excitement; others read pre-written liturgical praises and prayers. Some sing contemporary praise and worship songs with the lyrics projected on a screen; others sing from old fashioned hymn books. Some congregational meetings are casual and loosely structured; others are more formal and rigid. Some Bible studies are conducted as a group discussion; others consist of a presentation by one speaker, with little or no input from others. Some celebrations of Feast Days are very formal, with little or no casual fellowship; others are more informal, with lots of casual fellowship.
How many times have you heard someone say, after visiting a congregation for the first time, “I didn’t get anything out of it. It didn’t do anything for me”?
I have heard many people utter statements like these over the years. Maybe you have said something like this after attending a meeting. It’s even possible that I myself may have said something like this at some time in the past. But it now troubles me to hear people make such statements. Let me explain why.
First of all, if you attend a meeting, you do not really know whether or not you “got anything out of it” or whether it “did anything for you.” Just because you are not aware of any immediate benefit, you cannot assume that there will not be some benefit that appears in the future.
Cause and effect, like sowing and reaping, varies according to the seeds which are planted. Some plants spring up and bear fruit very quickly; others take much longer. If you plant lettuce seeds and walnut seeds in your yard, both will provide food, but you will have to wait a lot longer for the walnuts than you will for the lettuce.
We live in a universe which is governed by cause and effect. Sometimes the effect is immediate; sometimes it takes years or decades. And sometimes we do not even know the cause or causes behind events which happen. So if you attend a church meeting, you really have no right to say that you “did not get anything out of it,” or that it “did not do anything for you.” Maybe you did get something out of it, but you just don’t know yet what it is.
A second and more serious reason that such statements trouble me is because of what these statements reveal about the speaker. If a person attends a meeting and afterwards says, “I didn’t get anything out of it; it didn’t do anything for me,” this statement suggests that the purpose of the meeting was not primarily to worship God, but rather to provide that person with some immediate tangible benefit.
It’s true that we should expect to receive benefits as a result of attending congregational meetings, whether those benefits appear immediately or later. However, the primary purpose of a normal congregational meeting is first of all to worship our heavenly Father. Any benefits that we happen to receive as a result of our attendance and participation are secondary.
If people attend a meeting and afterwards say, “That was a good meeting; church was really good today,” what do they mean? Usually they mean that the style of music and praise and prayer was the style that they personally prefer. They mean that they enjoyed hearing the speakers. They mean that they personally liked the meeting. It made them feel good. It pleased them.
This is all fine. Ideally we should be pleased after attending and participating in a meeting. However, the important question should not be “Was I pleased by the things that were done and said in the meeting?” The important question should be “Was God pleased by the things that were done and said in the meeting?”
Pleasing God should be our primary goal when we gather for a congregational meeting. You may not particularly like the style of music and praise and worship and prayer at your local assembly. Maybe it’s too loud and boisterous for your personal taste. Or maybe it’s too quiet and subdued in your opinion. Maybe you would prefer to see the meetings conducted differently, or the teachings done differently. Maybe you would like to see more teaching and less praise and worship, or vice versa.
We all have our personal tastes and preferences about “how to do church.” But the important question should not be “Am I pleased?” The important question should be “Is God pleased? Does He accept this as worship?”
We were created primarily for the purpose of pleasing God, as it is written, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
We were created to please God. We all need to quit focusing on what pleases us personally, and instead pursue those things that please the Lord. The Bible is filled with examples of things that please and delight the Lord, and things that displease and grieve Him.
If we wish to please the Lord, it must start by trusting Him, because “without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). If we really believe this, we will diligently seek Him, not seek Him half-heartedly.
As soldiers in the Lord’s army, we will focus more on pleasing the Lord than on the affairs of this life, because “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4).
If we want to please Him, we will offer the sacrifice of praise continually, the fruit of our lips, and do good and share, because “with such sacrifices God is wellpleased” (Heb. 13:15f).
If we wish to please the Lord, we will avoid doing things that displease Him. That means that we will learn from the example of the children of Israel who were overthrown in the wilderness, those with whom “God was not well pleased” (1 Cor. 10:5). We will remember that “when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and His anger was kindled” (Num. 11:1).
We will stop living and walking in the flesh, because “they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). We will stop living like heathens, because God says He is “very sore displeased with the heathen” (Zech. 1:15). If God is very sore displeased with the heathens for living like heathens, how much more very sore displeased is He if His own children, who should know better, live like heathens?
If we wish to please the Lord, we will be especially careful to never do anything to exclude little children from the presence of the Saviour and deprive them of His blessing, remembering that when the disciples tried to send children away, this was the one thing they did which, “when Yeshua saw it, He was much displeased” (Mk. 10:14).
Finally, we will look to Yeshua as our example, the One who said “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). We will remember that the Father testified of Yeshua, first at His baptism and later at the Transfiguration, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17 & 17:5). We will diligently seek to likewise be beloved sons and daughters in whom the heavenly Father is well pleased.
I tremble when I ponder the power that God has given to man. I am not talking about the carnal power to create civilizations, nor even the spiritual power to do miraculous signs and wonders. I am talking about the power we have been given to either please or displease our Creator. Though we are created beings, we have the power to please or to displease God. We can make Him happy or sad, mad or glad. By our obedience or disobedience, by our zeal or apathy, we have the power to affect the feelings of our heavenly Father. I don’t know about you, but the thought of grieving Him grieves me and brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. I know I have done things in the past that grieved Him. My prayer is that I will now do always those things that please Him. I hope you will make that your prayer too.