Pleasing God and trusting God represent the primary and ultimate motives of our hearts, the inner drives or desires that cause us to act in a certain way. Our motives direct what we value and how we act.
Our motive as followers of Christ will either keep us in unresolved sin and immaturity or it will free us into God’s astonishing life for us. The key to our maturity and freedom lies in the dominant motive that governs our relationship with God. It all starts with motive.
Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” Notice that trusting God pleases God. If our primary motive is pleasing God, we will never please Him enough and we never learn trust. That’s because life on this road is all about my striving, my effort, my ability to make something happen. But if our primary motive is trusting God, we find out that He already is incredibly pleased with us. So, pleasing God is actually a by-product of trusting God.
If my life motive is an unwavering determination to please God,
then my value will be striving to be all God wants me to be,
and my action will be working on my sin to achieve an
intimate relationship with God.
When we embrace the motive of pleasing God, we reduce godliness to this formula:
More right behavior + Less wrong behavior = Godliness
This theology comes with a significant problem: It sets us up to fail. It disregards the godliness—righteousness—that God already has placed within us at infinite cost. Once we choose the path of pleasing God, the bondage of performance persistently badgers us.
We can never resolve our sin by working on it. Nor can our striving to sin less keep us from future sins. A theology of more right, less wrong behavior triggers and complicates the chain reaction of unresolved sin, causing us to lose hope. It keeps us immature!
Pleasing God is an incredibly good longing. It always will be. But it can’t be our primary motivation, or it will imprison our hearts. Pleasing God is not a means to our personal godliness; it is the fruit of our godliness for it is the fruit of trust. We will never please God through our efforts to become godly. Rather, we will only please God—and become godly—when we trust God.
If my life motive is trusting God,
then my value will be living out who God says I am,
and my action will be standing with God,
with my sin in front of us, working on it together.
God is not interested in changing you. He already has. God wants you to believe that He has already changed you so that He can get on with the process of maturing you into who you already are—a spiritually new creation born of the Spirit, a saint maturing into the image of Christ. Trust opens the way for this process—for God to bring you to maturity.
Now, we have pleasing God in its proper place. Those who live by grace get the privilege of experiencing the pleasure of God, because they have pleased God by trusting Him.
Adapted from Truefaced: Trust God and Others with Who You Really Are, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch