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How do we test what is pleasing to God?

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If you’re anything like me, you like to make plans. You appreciate being organized and knowing what is ahead, and you love to be prepared. Maybe you’re the opposite and prefer to go with the flow, tackle what comes and enjoy the ride along the way. Regardless of which side you fall on, we can all easily be led more by things of the world than things of God. It isn’t always obvious, either. In fact, usually, it begins with subtle things and before you know it your focus is off in left field, God’s desired path for you is out of your sight, and you are left feeling stressed and defeated. Intentionally seeking what is pleasing to God helps to keep your focus on His desires for you. But how do we know what is pleasing to God, and how do we keep our focus on Him and not the distractions surrounding us?

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

1 John 2:15-17 CSB

Our life is evidence of our heart’s desire

The world is full of distractions. There are temptations and shiny new things all over the place. Look to the right and your neighbor seems to have greener grass and a newer car. Look to the left and there’s a shop with those new shoes you really want, but there’s just not enough after paying that pile of bills. Look behind you and there are people that look like they are having such a great time doing things you know you shouldn’t do, but they just look like they are having so much fun. Opening Twitter may seem a lot more appealing than opening your Bible right now.

It is important that we do not grow attached to things of the world or let them distract us. By being content with what we have, where we are, and what God calls us to we can find rest in God’s design and desires for our lives, and we can confidently do what is pleasing to God.

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,[a]10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you[b] to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.

Colossians 1:9-12 CSB

We need to constantly, daily check our hearts and align our intentions with God’s design. Our life exposes our desires. If we are truly intent on honoring God, it will be evident in the way we live and the fruit we bear. If we are not, this will also be evident.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.[a]

Galatians 5:22-23 CSB

We must honor God, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the guidance and wisdom in God’s Word. We need to pray constantly, intentionally, and even strategically that we are being God-led and not self- or world-led. It is essential that we be in scripture every day, pray over the Word of God, and seek God’s wisdom and guidance in every area of our lives, big and small.

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 ESV

As we pray, read and study God’s Word, we discover more of God’s heart and character.

As we discover more about God, we learn more about His desires for us.

As we learn more about His desires, we can then apply them to our lives and set our desires on Him.

By aligning our desires with God’s desires we can intentionally honor God in any circumstance we face; good, bad, peace, chaos, struggle, and comfort.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 CSB
How do we test what is pleasing to God
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16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 CSB

How do we filter our intentions?

We need to filter all things through the Word of God in order to test what is pleasing to God – don’t test something you think might be wrong – test what is good. Bring it to scripture and to God in prayer, and lean on the promptings and reminders of God’s Holy Spirit. Then, we must obey the wisdom God reveals to us through His Word and Spirit.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light[a] consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 testing what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Ephesians 5:8-11 CSB

21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 CSB

Do you feel a tug to help someone but are not sure God is telling you to? Test that.

Think maybe you should invite that friend to church but you are worried the timing isn’t good or they’ll say no? Test that.

Have an opportunity to share your faith with someone in your favorite game, at the grocery store, at a party, at work, at Thanksgiving dinner? Test that.

Did someone make you angry, but you could forgive them and show grace? Test that.

Have an opportunity to serve someone just cuz? Test that.

Finally[a] brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8 CSB

16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,[a] singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Colossians 3:16 CSB

Satan is absolutely going to whisper to you, discourage you, tug you the other direction, convince you to stay where you are more comfortable, where it feels more convenient, that you will have another opportunity later, that someone else will come along and do that instead, that someone else is better suited to the task… the list of lies and discouragement goes on and on, and we latch on to these excuses far too easily. What we need to do, though, is do what is pleasing to the Lord, not what is convenient or comfortable for us. Don’t let Satan throw you off and steer you away from God’s desires for you. Stay watchful, diligent, and constant in your loving obedience to the Lord, doing what is pleasing to Him above all else.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

How do we do what is pleasing to God?

We test by doing something, not by staying still and silent when it is time to act. Testing doesn’t mean we just wait around for something to happen – there is a time for waiting, and there is a time to act. Test what is good by DOING what is good, doing what scripture says is pleasing to God.

If you are doing what is pleasing to God (with the right heart and intention), you will please God. If you test what is pleasing to God by doing nothing, you will never know, and you will miss opportunities to please God. If you test by doing what is likely or clearly unpleasing to God (again filtering through scripture), you are not testing what is pleasing – you are making an excuse to do what you want even though you know it isn’t what God wants. We must seek to learn what is pleasing to God, and then actively apply this wisdom and guidance to our lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[a] Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 CSB

So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:7 ESV

Are you doing what is pleasing to God?

What do you need to correct in your life right now? Are your intentions out of alignment with God’s desires? Are you resting in what is pleasing to you over what is pleasing to God? What steps should you take to get right with God and do what is truly pleasing to Him and not the world?

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 CSB

I encourage you to go to the Father in prayer, repent, seek His forgiveness, and let Him guide you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, and the work He has prepared for you to do.

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