I have learned to enjoy New Years Day and it is now one of my favorite holidays. I love it because it is a fresh new start. It is a good time for self-evaluation and regrouping. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” For several years now at New Years, I’ve been asking God to give me a theme and a focus for the coming year. Last year, it was from 2 Timothy 3:1-4 – about checking myself to see what and whom do I really love. It was a helpful reminder all year. Am I a lover of self or a lover of God? Am I lover of pleasure, or of God and His Word?, etc. I usually get alone with God on New Years day and spend a big, deep time with God in His Word, seeking His input for the new year. This year, I did my pondering and time with God on Christmas evening. I had an especially good breakthrough with God, finding hope and good thoughts from God through His Word, the Bible, for the coming year. I am glad God gave me that time early, because I ended up getting to have a nice little trip to the Gearhart area on 12/31 and New Years Day this year, and I did not have the time alone I usually have on New Years day.
Each year I typically have a list of “resolutions” which are from my areas of sin or bad habits I would like to improve upon. Each year, I make some progress on those personal improvements, but I have never completely become perfect or even gotten close to achieving what I’d like to in the areas of diet, exercise, etc. etc. I’m sure many people can sympathize. This year, my “goal” or “resolution” is much more general, broad and far-reaching, but I believe—if I can keep my focus on the goal with God—that it is going to make a much bigger impact for the life changes/improvements that God is calling me to and on which I so desire to see progress.
My resolution for 2018 is: To find out and execute how to be pleasing to God.
I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in the Protestant Bible (66 books). This means that all my sins and imperfections are forgiven by God, because of Jesus’ finished work for me on the cross, and I am in fellowship with and in right standing with God (I am justified—declared not guilty for my sins). But practically, I am still a sinner and am very much imperfect. I am in the process of being gradually sanctified by God, which means I am learning to obey God’s Word more each day, and I am more and more being set apart for God and for His purposes instead of my own. When I fail, I repent, receive forgiveness, and press on to obey and trust God. It is impossible for anyone to be pleasing to God unless they have realized their sinfulness and need for Jesus as Savior and Lord, so please don’t try to apply anything you read here, unless you have first put your trust in Jesus Christ. As always, if I can assist in you understanding the good news of Jesus Christ, please call on me.
I have now followed Christ for 30 years. I find it frustrating that I am not farther along on the path of obedience. I’ve been really puzzling over, and trying to figure out, how I can better obey God and fail Him less. I greatly desire to be pleasing to God. I want my daily choices, thoughts, words and deeds to make God happy and not sad or disappointed. I also do not want to waste the opportunity to be earning the eternal reward that is promised for choosing obedience. Though I don’t understand how that all works, I know I will stand before God in evaluation for reward, and I want to gain all I can for eternity—as it is going to be so spectacularly good, beyond what I can think or even imagine. And I also so desire to be useful to God—to help point others to God not just by my words, but also by my example.
I did a word search for the word “pleasing” in the Bible. I found the following verses which helped clarify for me what it means for a believer in Christ to be pleasing to God through loving God enough to choose to obey Him. I am going to include the key words and thoughts I gleaned from these Bible verses and you can look them up and read them in context for yourself if desired. (This list is likely not exhaustive—there may be more verses to find on this topic.)
2 Corinthians 5:9 Paul’s ambition was to please God whether dead or alive.
Ephesians 5:10 Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Walk as a child of light—in all goodness, righteousness and truth.
Colossians 3:20, 3:23 Obey Father God. Work for the Lord not men.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 Speak to please God not men (speak the gospel with gentleness).
Titus 2:9-10 Stay subject/obedient to all “masters” (those in authority over me), my husband, Pastor/Elders, etc.
Hebrews 11:5-6 Have more consistent faith and trust. Believe that God is God (and I am not) and He will reward me as I seek Him.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Praise God. Thank God. Persevere in doing good and sharing.
Hebrews 13:21 God must do the equipping. Pray for others to be equipped and pray for myself. Ask for prayer support to be equipped to obey God.
1 John 3:21 If my heart does not condemn me, then I have confidence before God. I will have whatever I ask from God because I keep His commands and I do the things that are pleasing in God’s sight.
I know I have been taught this and told this many times, but I finally grasped something very clearly in a new way—I cannot become sanctified and obey God in my own strength. God must do the work and change me from the inside out, by His grace and power. Unless God works His miraculous power by grace in me, I WILL ALWAYS FAIL. It is critical that I pray more for this transforming grace and that I continually ask for prayer support from other believers for this. And I must be faithful to pray for my believing loved ones and friends and for my church. I cannot and must not try to earn my salvation or God’s grace and love which are a gift. But as God enables me by His grace, and I cooperate by persevering to believe and trust God more, and as I persevere to do good and make right choices, one choice at a time, then I will have whatever I ask from God. Presumably, if I am in right fellowship with God, I will be asking God for His best and perfect will, and not just for my own selfish desires, so God will gladly answer yes to my prayer requests. I am asking God in 2018 to enable me to be more obedient and pleasing to Him by His grace, mercy, and strength. I know this is consistent with God’s best and perfect will for me, so God will answer yes! (1 John 3:21). But I must also cooperate. I must desire to please God out of gratitude and love for my salvation God has secured for me, and not just to try to get what I want in this life, or even for eternity. I must trust God will give me what is best for both this life and for the next—all by His grace and love, not by my having to earn anything by my performance or ability to obey Him.
- I cannot please God in my own strength!
- I do not have to try to earn God’s love, grace, and empowerment. That was bought and paid for on the cross by Jesus Christ for me!
- I am weak and sinful (in my old sinful self). But God has made me a new creation (in my new, saved by grace, self). Not only has God given me the desire to please God, I have the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to be pleasing to God. I must ask for this, believe it, and live it. I must quickly repent and persevere if I fail.
- I must trust God instead of doubting Him. God help my unbelief is a great prayer.
As I pondered and examined myself before God again as the year ended, I came up with another long list of areas of sin that need surrendered to God. As I evaluated 2017, I found I still have a long, long list of improvements and good goals to reach. I will not bore you with my long list which is highly personal. God knows all my details. He fully understands my circumstances, situation, and sinfulness, but He loves me unconditionally anyway. But I will share a few general thoughts that I think might be helpful to others, and I want to make sure I remember these.
- If I am ever hurt or mistreated by someone, I must experience the pain with God alone, without any retaliation. I must persevere in goodness toward that person, despite their not seeming to deserve it. I must always forgive and extend grace to others, as God has done for me, no matter what.
- I must never stop believing in, trusting, and obeying God no matter how often I fail. God’s mercies are new every morning.
- I must surrender all my sadness and despair to God when it strikes, and ask for healing and joy. My disappointment with this present life reflects my desire for the high level of fellowship with God and other people that I will have in eternity, when sin is finally done away with. I must be patient as I wait for that kind of perfect fellowship with people which is not yet fully possible because of sin (my own sin and the sin of others). I must persevere in my desire to practice hospitality and have good fellowship with other people, despite how it often does not meet my high expectations and desires.
- I must practice really seeing my blessings and thanking God for them instead of only seeing my difficulties. I must trust that all the difficulties God is allowing for me are for a purpose and that He will work everything in my life together—the good and the bad and everything in between—for my eternal good.
- I must not expect instant perfection in myself, but I must keep on pursuing excellence by God’s strength and enablement. I must repent, ask for forgiveness, accept and believe in my forgiveness, and continue persevering in doing good and turning from sin, no matter how much I fail. I must rely on God’s strength! Apart from Christ I can do nothing good. (John 15:5).
So, as I embrace 2018, which is here ready or not, my heart is filled with hope for a good year of trusting God to help me change to become the woman of excellence (not perfection yet!) that He has called me to be. Please be patient with me when I fail. Remind me to get right back up in repentance and perseverance. Please do love me enough to know me, see if I am failing God, and remind me, encourage me, admonish me if necessary. I will do the same for you if you give me permission to speak into your life. And please, pray for me and I will be praying for my loved ones, friends, and for any who God leads to read this blog.
Dear God: I thank you for the breakthrough You gave me on Christmas evening and for the clear focus and sense of purpose You have given me for 2018. Please heal all my sadness and bring me joy. Help me to desire to obey You more and more, and give me Your strength and grace to make right choices, in thoughts, words, and deeds, one choice at a time, one day at a time. Help me to never give up on pursuing excellence, even though I know I will not be made perfect until the day Your eternal life begins and this present life is over for me. Please remind me to be asking for prayer support, and giving prayer support, to those fellow believers I love to be transformed to people of excellence by Your grace. Please help any who do not know You yet—call them to Yourself very soon so they can be rescued from their sin and find Your wonderful grace, love, mercy, peace, and joy. Please reveal to all who are reading this just how terrible and far-reaching sin is – that it hurts You God and makes You sad – that it always hurts the person sinning and other people. And show and remind us all how much sin cost Jesus Christ. Help all to know and remember that ultimately sin brings death!! Sin yields a heinous, eternal suffering that I cannot even stand to think about. Bring a great desire in my church—my community—my country—across this troubled world—to find peace with You alone God. Please make me useful to others in this present life by Your grace and strength. Use this blog post as You will for Your glory.