|Luna Pier, Michigan, on Lake Erie|
One way to fail in life is to place pleasing people above pleasing God. The path to life success is: honor God above all. Love and serve God with your entire being, and then love and serve others. And note: This may, or may not, be pleasing to them.
We see this in Nehemiah. God led Nehemiah out of his comfort zone to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem. When Sanballat and Tobiah heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. (Nehemiah 1:10)
I am not thrilled when someone is very much disturbed with me, over something I feel God has called me to say or do. It gets to me.
On a few occasions a church person has directly or indirectly threatened to withhold their giving, or leave the church family, unless they get their way. Every pastor knows about this.
Nehemiah knew about this. Old Testament scholar John Goldingay writes: "Nehemiah deals with a situation in which his own people are in danger of giving up and his opponents look likely to succeed in frustrating his plans."
What were Nehemiah's plans? "To promote the welfare of the Israelites." What could be better than that?
Not everyone was thrilled. Sanballat, Tobiah, the Ammonites, the Arabs, and the Amalekites were not in support of this. They were absolutely furious. They put their heads together and decided to fight against Jerusalem and create as much trouble as they could.
I am now calling our church family to revival and awakening. Yesterday morning, using the battle motif out of Nehemiah, I called our people to spiritual warfare. I believe my church family wants this. Yet, as Collin Hanson notes in his study of revivals, "Revival doesn't sweep up everyone, and those standing on the sidelines can become the most outspoken critics." (Hanson, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir, Kindle Locations 186-187)
I am praying that my entire church family will be swept up in the coming revival. As I and others prepare the spiritual earth as seeds of awakening are planted by the Holy Spirit, I must remember what the apostle Paul wrote.
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.
The priority is serving Christ. Followers of Jesus will be pleased with this. But, as the goal, people-pleasing is a path to never-ending failure, because the critical, religious spirit is never satisfied.
Serving Christ is the narrow gate to contentment and blessedness. As John Bevere writes, "The only way to walk totally free from intimidation is to walk in the fear of the Lord." (Bevere, Breaking Intimidation)
Proverbs 14:26 counsels us: In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence.
Your fear of God will swallow up all lesser fears, producing the agape of love of Christ for others, which flows from the perfect love of God that casts out all fear.
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