Seek to Please God Not Your Peers (Walk Worthy of Your Calling Part 2)
Updated: Jan 5
One of the saddest conversations I have ever had as a Christian counselor was with a man who felt he had wasted his life. I will call him Dan. Dan told me he was divorced from his wife and estranged from his children. He drank too much, was a deadbeat dad, and had even abused his former wife. A carpenter, he had spent his entire career bouncing from job to job, never satisfied and never staying in one place for long. Dan said, “If I died tomorrow, there isn’t one person on earth who would care.” After listening to this sad account, I told Dan, “In spite of all you’ve told me, it isn’t too late. You can still make the rest of your life meaningful and even significant. You haven’t yet walked worthy of your calling, but you still can.”
Not long before this meeting Dan had hit rock bottom. That was the bad news. The good news was when he had nowhere else to turn he turned to the Lord. He joined a church and was reading the bible and praying. When we met, Dan was just getting started on his Christian walk, but he was at least on the right track. It was a referral from a fellow church member that got the two of us together. What I told Dan that day is what I tell all Christians who are concerned about giving meaning to their lives: “Regardless of what you may think, your life matters because it matters to God. This is the message in Matthew 6:26 where we learn that if God cares about the birds of the air he must care even more about us. The world may think little of you, but God knows you have potential because He created you and God does not create junk. God wants you to have a meaningful, fulfilling life. He wants you to walk worthy of your calling and live a life of significance. Doing so begins with seeking first to please Him in all aspects of your life. When you stop trying to please yourself, your peers, and the world and commit to pleasing God, you have started down the right path, a path that can lead to a life of significance.”
What I told Dan that day is a truth too many people, Christians included, fail to grasp. It is not uncommon for people—Christians and unbelievers alike—to want to do big things, to leave a legacy for which they will be remembered. The desire to leave a legacy is a commendable goal, but what is even more important than your legacy is how you go about establishing it and why. In pursuing a legacy, are you seeking to honor yourself or God? This is the functional question when it comes to walking worthy of your calling and living a life of significance. A self-serving legacy is not a worthy legacy. Rather, it’s the kind Satan wants you to pursue.
Because of what happened in the Garden of Eden, we are a fallen people living in a fallen world. Hence, our human tendency is to seek the approval of the world, not God. We seek recognition and validation from people rather than God. This is unfortunate because the approval of the world is fleeting and unfulfilling. This is the message in Ecclesiastes 1:2 where we read, “Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” People tend to interpret the term “vanity” from Ecclesiastes as excessive pride, but a more accurate reading of the term, as used in this passage of Scripture, is “pointlessness.” Ultimately, the approval of the world is pointless because it feeds the ego not the soul. Only God’s approval can feed the soul.
To make matters worse, worldly approval is addictive. Once you become hooked on it, worldly approval shapes your self-image, feeds your ego, makes you prideful, and turns you away from God. The more worldly approval you receive, the more you want. Eventually you become like the drug addict who cannot function without ever-increasing amounts of the poison. Worse yet, worldly approval is fleeting. In the eyes of the world, you can be a hero today and forgotten tomorrow. There are hundreds of statues throughout America erected to honor prominent people who were heroes in their time, yet today nobody even knows who they were. This being the case, one might wonder why worldly approval can be so appealing.
WHY WORLDY APPROVAL CAN BE SO APPEALING
Seeking the approval of God rather than the world may turn out to be one of the most difficult things you ever try to do. Worldly approval, like most temptations, can be powerfully appealing. It is like the aroma of coffee and donuts wafting from a bakery early in the morning or the allure of an ice-cold drink on a swelteringly summer day. It appeals to something deep inside of us. Worldly approval tugs at the very core of our human frailties. Among other things, it appeals to our fears, ambition, ego, need to fit in, desire for validation, and preference for immediacy. These human desires are powerful, but trying to satisfy them instead of seeking to honor God is not walking worthy of your calling.
WHAT IT MEANS TO HONOR GOD IN ALL YOU DO
What does it mean to honor God in all you do? How does a Christian who wants to walk worthy of this calling and, in turn, live a life of significance go about honoring God every day? What follows are specific things you can do to walk worthily down a path that honors God and leads to a life of significance.
Acknowledge God as the Author of your Achievements and Blessings
Because of our sinful nature, it is easy to view God-given blessings as personal achievements. People who achieve big things sometimes make the mistake of believing their own press clippings. Worldly adulation causes them to believe they are special. When this happens, it is easy to forget that God is the author of your achievements. King David speaks to this phenomenon in Psalm 14:2-3. These verses tell us God looked down to see if there were any faithful people, but he found none. They had all turned from him and become corrupt. This is what happens when we forget that, without God, we can achieve nothing.
The big things you achieve in life are blessings from God. No matter how hard you worked to achieve something admirable, the resources required—brains, money, physical prowess, motivation, talent, skills, attitude, circumstances—all came from God. Further, it pleases God when we acknowledge this truth, not just to ourselves but to others as well. When he played in the National Football League, Tim Tebow made a point of acknowledging God for his good fortune. Every time he or his team scored, Tebow took a knee, prayed, and gave the glory to God. He took a lot of criticism for this, but never wavered in his acknowledgment of God as the author of all his achievements; achievements he accurate viewed as blessings.
While other professional athletes danced in the end zone and engaged in childish chest-beating, Tim Tebow continued to thank God for blessing him with the opportunity to play professional football and for giving him the ability, motivation, and perseverance to succeed. Tebow honored God on the football field by how he played the game. He honored Him off the field through charitable work. In so doing, Tim Tebow shined his light so the world could see his good works and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).
Although he is a Heisman Trophy winner as a college football quarterback who set numerous records and had a list of achievements as long as your arm at the University of Florida, Tim Tebow will be remembered most for his determination to honor God in all aspects of his life. To kneel on the field and give thanks after scoring a touch-down is now known as “Tebowing.” The commentators who coined this phrase meant it as a pejorative, but fans have turned it into a compliment, a gesture young people should emulate. The commentators probably had not read Genesis 50:20 where it says “…you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good…”
Heed the Greatest Commandment in all Aspects of Your Life
In Matthew 22:34-40 Christ gave us the bottom line when it comes to walking worthy of our calling and living lives of significance. He told us to love God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves. When we love God with all our heart, behavior based on lust, greed, self-centeredness, misguided ambition, envy, jealousy, and other sinful motives can no longer be justified. When we love our neighbors as ourselves, we in turn show love for Christ. Never forget that Jesus told the Apostle Peter not once but three times that the best way to demonstrate his love for Christ was to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17). When we take care of our neighbors, we are feeding Christ’s sheep. When we feed His sheep, we are walking worthy of our calling and living lives of significance.
Show Others Christian Love as Described in 1 Corinthians 13
The quintessential Bible verses on Christian love are found in 1 Corinthians 13. In verse 4, love is described as being “patient and kind.” We learn in verses 4-7 that people who personify Christian love are “not arrogant or rude,” they do not “insist on their own way,” are “not irritable or resentful,” and do “not rejoice at wrongdoing.” Rather, they rejoice in “the truth.” People who are guided by 1 Corinthians 13 in how they treat other people are walking worthy of their calling and living lives of significance.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE PLEASING THE WORLD INSTEAD OF GOD
Seeking to please God rather than the world will never be easy. You can do well today and backslide tomorrow. This happens to all of us. Because of our fallen nature, we will always feel the lure of worldly approval. When you find yourself wanting to please your peers instead of God, don’t despair. You are going to be tempted, but remember temptation is not in and of itself sin. Giving in to temptation is sin, but being tempted isn’t. Therefore, when you feel tempted to seek worldly recognition, approval, and validation, do these three things: 1) pray for God’s help, 2) seek guidance in Scripture, and 3) seek the wise counsel of fellow believers.
Pray for God’s Help
If you want to honor God in all aspects of your life, begin each day with a prayer in which you ask Him to help you do just that. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 admonishes us to pray continually. This is good advice for Christians who want to please God by their actions, behaviors, and attitudes every day. Satan is always lurking in the shadows trying to find ways to lure you away from God. One of his favorite ploys is to use our own egos, fears, need to fit in, and desire for validation against us. He uses our human frailty to manipulate us.
This is the warning found in 1 Peter 5:8 where we are admonished to be cautious because the devil is always prowling around like a lion looking for defenseless prey. Don’t be defenseless. Use prayer to strap on the armor of God “that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). God will strengthen you against the wicked schemes of Satan so that you may honor him in everything you do today and, in turn, walk worthy of your calling. Then ask him for the same help tomorrow and the next day and the next. Never stop enlisting the help of God through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Seek Guidance in Scripture
God gave us the Bible in part so we would have a guidebook for daily living. Every situation you might confront in life is spoken to in Scripture. Whether pressure to seek the approval of the world comes from fear, ego, the need to fit in, the desire for validation, or any other source, the Bible provides the best guidance for responding. This is the message in Proverbs 3:5 where we are told to trust in the Lord rather than our own understanding and He will show us the way. This message can be a lifeline when you find yourself enticed by the seductive allure of worldly approval.
One of the benefits of living in the age of electronics is that finding the verses you need in the Bible is much easier now. For example, if you feel yourself wanting to please your peers rather than God, do a quick Internet search on “Pleasing God instead of peers” and numerous sites will pop up that guide you to the relevant verses. Scripture is replete with verses about pleasing God instead of the world including Galatians 1:10, 1 Corinthians 10:33, John 12:43, and Ephesians 6:6 to name just a few. The guidance you need to choose pleasing God instead of the world is available in Scripture. You need only seek it and heed it.
Seek the Wise Counsel of Fellow Believers
When facing faith-related challenges, we are admonished to seek the wise counsel of fellow believers. The Bible is clear on this strategy and replete with verses that make the point. Proverbs 12:15 tells us it is wise to listen to the advice of others. Proverbs 11:14 assures us there is safety in an abundance of counselors. Proverbs 19:20-21 states we gain wisdom by listening to advice and instruction.
When you struggle with wanting to please God instead of the world, seek the wise counsel of fellow believers. Your brothers and sisters in Christ might have experience, wisdom, or insight you don’t have. They have probably faced the same challenge you are struggling with and still may be. Proverbs 20:18 admonishes us to act on the basis of sound guidance. Some of the wisest counsel I have ever received came from a fellow believer. I will call him Matt. Matt and I along with two former governors and a U.S Senator had just been inducted into the Veteran’s Hall of Fame for the State of Florida.
One of the former governors was from my home town. I had met him once when I was just a young boy. As a youngster, I was awestruck being in the presence of the great man—he was already a local legend. But he was kind and encouraging and put me at ease. He told me to study hard and obey my parents and one day I might be governor myself. Now, here I was more than fifty years later being inducted into the Hall of Fame along with him and other luminaries. This was heady stuff and I was soaking it up like a sponge.
The current governor and his staff had gone all out to make the ceremony memorable. My fellow inductees and I received engraved medals cast just for the occasion, framed certificates, and photos with the governor. But the piece de resistance was the unveiling of our names which had been inscribed on individual bronze plaques and mounted on the wall of the Capitol just a few steps from the Governor’s office. The unveiling was done with great fanfare, and I must admit the worldly approval was turning my head. But before my ego got the better of me, Matt leaned over and, in a whisper, provided some wise counsel.
Matt referenced Ecclesiastes 1:2 saying, “David, enjoy this day. You deserve it, but don’t let it go to your head. All of this is vanity. Today the world loves us, but in a few days, we will be yesterday’s news.” He told me to seek the approval of the Lord not the world because in the final analysis that is the only approval I really need and the only one that really matters. I am thankful to this day that Matt brought me back to earth before I sailed away on a cloud of self-importance.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com