“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8b-10 (NIV1984)
Even if this were not in the Bible, it still sounds like a really good idea for someone who claims to love God to “find out what pleases the Lord”. If you agree with me (and the Apostle Paul, who originally suggested it) that this is a good idea, let me ask you, “What is your strategy for finding out what pleases the Lord?”
This short passage suggests that if we find out what pleases the Lord, we will be enabled to “live as children of the light”. That is, we will be able to grow to be like God in holiness and righteousness. That would also require us to put into practice what we discover about pleasing God. But we cannot put into practice something unless we first figure out what it is we should be doing.
I can only think of four ways to find out what pleases the Lord.
1) Learn from the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (NLT). It sounds to me like reading and learning from the Bible would be a good component of any successful strategy.
2) Ask God. I am a big proponent on talking to God and listening to what he has to say. I know I make mistakes sometimes in what I think God is saying to me (sometimes it is just me talking to myself). So I would never want to use this as my only strategy. I rely heavily on the Bible to keep me from not hearing correctly.
3) Experiment. You can try using different strategies, to see if any of them seem to please God. It is not clear to me, however, how you would know, unless you were also asking God and checking it out in the Bible. Sometimes you can do the right thing and it ends badly, and sometimes you can do the wrong thing, and it seems to end okay — which means that the outcome is not necessarily a good indicator.
4) Listen to someone tell you how to do it. A lot of us rely on preachers and podcasts to learn about God. While this can be extremely helpful, it seems like a poor strategy to use alone. How do we know if the preacher is right unless we have an objective standard like the Bible with which to compare? And how do we know that the preacher and podcasts have only focused on only a small part of the truth, but missed the greater and fuller truth (i.e., left out important parts)?
In the end, I have to say that for me, while I use all four methods, the Bible is my main source for finding out what pleases God. It is wonderful to have something objective, God-breathed (as the NIV phrases it in 2 Timothy 3:16), and unchanging to be a firm foundation and rock on which to stand.
What happens if you find out what pleases the Lord, but choose not to do it? That is, what happens if you consistently choose not to live righteously? This will be the subject of a future post, and will be based on the paragraph preceding the verses we just wrote about.
This post was written by Timothy S. Thomas. You are free to use all or part in anything you write, but please give proper citation.