All through the gospel of John, Jesus uses physical everyday items people knew about to describe spiritual realities. Up to this point in the gospel Jesus has used the following everyday items;
- Light (to communicate the spiritual reality of Jesus’ purity in John 1:4-5)
- Temple (where God & humankind meet, which is now Jesus Himself in John 2:19-22)
- Physical Birth (the need to be born again, born spiritually in John 3:3-8)
- Wind (relating to the move of the Spirit in John 3:8)
- Water (the Holy Spirit within believers in John 4:7-15)
- Food (that which truly satisfies John 4:31-34)
In this encounter with the woman at the well, there is a moment when the disciples return from their mission to find some food in the village. They are astounded that Jesus is speaking with a woman, especially to a Samaritan woman (vs27) but don’t say anything to Jesus.
Maybe they were changing the subject onto something less controversial, maybe they did not wanting to risk delaying lunch with a new teaching from Jesus…? Whatever it was they urge Jesus to eat something (vs31).
Jesus’ reply must have surprised them further. “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (vs32). I can imagine the disciples maybe even feeling agitated that Jesus had some secret stash of food that they hadn’t shared in or didn’t know about. ‘Had someone in this foreign town brought food to Jesus they wonder?’
But Jesus was once again doing what he often did, using an everyday item to explain a spiritual reality. Jesus goes on to say;
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” (vs34)
Jesus had told the woman that He had water that would sate her thirst forever (vs13-14), here Jesus explains to the disciples that there is something more satisfying to Him than even food! They went into town, hungry, eager to find satisfaction for their hunger. They urge Jesus to eat, in order that He can be satisfied too. Jesus replies; I have something that satisfies me more than food!
Jesus lived with a longing, a desire, a motivation pulsing inside Him to do the will of His Father. Jesus’ passion to fulfill the will of the Father, to please the Father, is a theme that will develop all through this gospel (see John 6:38 for example).
Jesus’ passion to do the will of God was so real, so tangible Jesus likened it to what the disciples were feeling, their hunger for food. Jesus compares the satisfaction they felt after eating with the satisfaction He felt when He had done the will of the Father.
What a challenge! What satisfies you? What do you wake up longing for?
May I, may we be more and more like Jesus who was motivated to constantly do the will of the Father in all circumstances and was in turn satisfied, felt that happy full feeling when He knew He had done the will of the Father.
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)
These verses are the ‘hinge verses’ in this letter. Up until now, the apostle Paul has been referring back this whole time, looking back at their visit to the Thessalonians, taking them back to the Gospel that was preached amongst them.
From this point onwards, Paul suddenly switches looking to the present and future addressing certain practical ethical problems of Christian conduct which were evidently troubling the Thessalonians or were ethical life-issues that Timothy had observed and felt needed correction. So, Paul switches from explanations regarding his own behaviour to instructions regarding theirs because of their faith in God.
One of the great weaknesses of contemporary evangelical Christianity is our comparative neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice.
– John Stott
Paul presents a striking contrast when compared to our current neglect of ethics in our day. For the rest of this letter, he gives detailed instruction in Christian moral behaviour. Contrary to much of the thinking in our day and contrary to so much of the emphasis in our churches teaching, how we live really matters!
‘you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God’ (vs1)
Paul can say that these Thessalonian believers had received something from Paul and his team, they had left a deposit of how to live SO AS to please God. He could say that the Thessalonians knew the instructions they had been given on what gospel life should look like in practice.
Living to please God is an overarching guiding principle of all Christian behaviour. John Stott says the following about living to please God;
“First, it is a radical concept, for it strikes at the roots of our discipleship and challenges the reality of our profession. How can we claim to know and to love God if we do not seek to please him? Disobedience is ruled out.
Secondly, it is a flexible principle. It will rescue us from the rigidities of a Christian Pharisaism which tries to reduce morality to a list of do’s and don’ts. True, we still need to be instructed … how to live in order to please God (1), and this for us will necessitate the developing of a Christian perspective through biblical meditation. Nevertheless, our incentive will be not so much to obey the law as thereby to please the Law-giver, and this will become increasingly a matter of Christian instinct as the Holy Spirit trains Christ’s sheep to discern their Shepherd’s voice.
Thirdly, this principle is progressive. If our goal is to be perfectly pleasing to God, we shall never be able to claim that we have arrived. Instead, we are summoned to please him more and more.” (extract from “The Message of Thessalonians” – J.Stott)
May we, make it our life ambition to live in such a way that pleases God. After all, if we truly love God we will want to live in such a way that will please God. And so as we read on in this letter which focusses on ethical teaching regarding how we should live, let’s remember that to do so is not legalism but rather practical help to those who want to please God.
And finally, lets remember that pleasing God is something which is never complete but rather something we want to do ‘more and more’.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for so radically giving Your life in order to sacrificially save my life. I worship You and am so grateful to You.
Thank you for the gift of repentance and the offer of forgiveness because of your life lived in my place and your death died for my sins.
Today Lord I re-commit myself to living in such a way that will please you, finding out what does please you and then making changes to what I do and do not do, how I think, and how I speak and act towards others. Holy Spirit, I invite you to challenge and change me more and more so that I might live in such a way that pleases You. Amen.
‘People-pleasing’ is a terrible insatiable noose that breeds nothing but insecurity and robs one of joy and confidence. And yet its such a common ‘life-operating-system’ that people function from.
Double checking everything you do or say through the grid of; ‘what will they think of me if…?’ Such a life-operating-system results in inconsistency as one always feels you need to adapt your words or actions to what will please those you’re with. And so this life-operating-system sets oneself up for compromise and the inability to hold strong convictions.
Here in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Paul is looking back at his time sharing the Gospel with the Thessalonians (see Acts 17) and makes some arguments for why they can stand on, trust in the Good News He shared with them;
- He reminds them that he and his team had just escaped Philippi where they were beaten up and then imprisoned for the Gospel. People don’t tend to risk their lives for something they are not convinced of… (vs1-2)
- He reminds them that again in Thessalonica they had preached despite being ‘in the midst of much conflict’. They were again risking their lives to share this Gospel news…
- Therefore the Thessalonians can know that there message is authentic, is not some made up story or con-man’s scheme to trick them
- They know that God approved them and entrusted the Gospel message to them and this is why they keep going, keep speaking the Gospel despite opposition and threat – they are living to please God and not people.
There it is, an alternative life-operating-system at work deep in the apostle Paul;
‘God-pleasing’ not ‘people-pleasing’.
What’s your current default ‘life-operating-system’?
God-pleasing or people-pleasing?
Living the God-pleasing life results in;
- Conviction: because you’re living out of eternal truth & unshakeable relationship
- Consistency: because what you believe is founded on solid rock not quicksand.
- Courage: because you know the ONE you’re serving, & He promised to Help you.
- Commitment: because you’re living to please the ONE that matters forevermore.
- Celebration: because you will be rewarded one day into eternity for living this way.
- Calm: because you know the ONE who loves you, the ONE you’re living for!