How can there be a problem with people pleasing, when we have been called by God to serve others . . . which obviously will be pleasing to them? It becomes a problem when we think too much about the approval or disapproval of the people we are trying to please. We all know this from experience. Some know it professionally in trying to please their boss. Others know it socially in trying to please their peers. And still others know it relationally in trying to please their spouse . . . or even their children!
We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else.
(1 Thessalonians 2:4-6)
The apostle Paul does a great job identifying one of our consistent struggles on this side of the grave: being people pleasers. He also teaches how to keep this from being our legacy: being a God pleaser. In the words “not looking for praise from people,” Paul gives us the key that unlocks us from the bondage of people pleasing. Paul knew the only approval he needed he already had in Jesus, so he did not need to seek it from people. He knew this because he had been entrusted with the truths of the Gospel. Do you know it too?
Paul refused to give people the power to break him by their rejection and build him up by their affection. He knew what kind of lasting damage that can do. There was a time in his life when this two-headed monster ruled his heart and shaped his life . . . but not anymore. On the road to Damascus he found out just how much God had approved of him, and that was the only approval he needed from that day forward. Knowing he could not be rejected by God empowered him to accept the rejection of others with a freedom and joy that could only come from a relationship with Jesus.
Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
For Paul, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7) was enough to know. He now knew the approval of people was nothing compared to the approval of Jesus. He now knew the affection of people was nothing compared to the affection of Jesus. He now knew the applause of people was nothing compared to the applause of Jesus. He had Jesus and Jesus had him, and because of this truth Paul considered everything a loss because of his Gospel gain.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!