If you had to choose, would you rather please God or trust God?
I first came across this question on YouVersion, a devotion written by TrueFace. I was curious, which usually is the beginning of these devotional posts I write, so I started the plan wondering where the authors were leading.
Turned out, it’s a deeper hole than I thought, with foundational motivations that dictate how we live our lives.
A Daily Battle
“It is presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. I must leave it to the Lord, Who knows me, to lead me by the path which is best for me, so that in all things His will may be done.”
~ , Spanish nun
What if I asked this question: Are you a sinner or a saint?
Oh, how many of us quickly identify ourselves as sinners. It’s what we hear from many church leaders, it’s preached from pulpits and written in books.
And we identify with it. We know so much of what we do wrong, even if we never admit it out loud. That errant thought, the desire for what we know leads us down the wrong path. The moment we strike out in anger or frustration. Most of us like to think we’re generally good people, but we know the truth that lies just beneath the surface. We’ve got issues.
Yes. But . . .
But, is labeling ourselves ‘sinners’ biblical.
What the New Testament says.
Let’s start with the basic premise that what I’m about to say applies to Christians, to those who have trusted in Christ as Savior and strive to allow Him to be Lord. If that does not describe you, then we need to have another conversation entirely.
In many of Paul’s letters to the churches, including Rome, Philippi, Corinth, Colossae, and Ephesus, he wrote some variation of the following: To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:1, NIV).
In case you overlooked the point I’m making, let’s look at the same verse in the English Standard Version: To all the saints in Christ Jesus.
Or in the New American Standard Bible: To all the saints in Christ Jesus.
Or in the Amplified Bible: To all the saints (God’s people) in Christ Jesus.
And Paul is not alone in his thinking. For example, Jude, Jesus’ half-brother wrote in 1:3, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Let that sink in.
We often hear these kinds of words expressed in church or Bible studies, but perhaps like me, you struggle to truly grasp the full impact of the meaning. We get that we are called holy, that one day we will be like Jesus, but we rationalize that away because our enemy reminds us of who we are right now.
Or at least, who he wants us to identify ourselves as.
Less than. Imperfect. Broken.
But that’s not who we are, and it’s certainly not who we have to be. It’s our choice. We can act out of the label of imperfect and broken, or we can step into grace and act out of our true identity: strong (1 John 2:14), light of the world (Matthew 5:14), Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20).
For a longer list of our biblical labels, check out Pastor Craig Groeschel’s list by clicking here.
Please God or Trust God?
Which circles us back to our original question. Do you want to please God? Or trust Him? When I first thought about it, I wondered why I couldn’t do both, but as I worked through the devotion I understood that the writers of TrueFace were asking for my primary motivation. Which one do I want to do more? And, which is best?
If I think from the place of a sinner who is trying to be a saint, I will work to please God. If you think about this at its most basic level, someone trying to please God is concerned about disappointing Him, making the motivation works-based. In other words, the deepest part of the heart believes they have to earn salvation, God’s approval and concern.
Now, it doesn’t necessarily present that way of course, but follow the logical path and see if you end up at a different conclusion.
Trusting God looks different. And you can feel it.
But those who strive most to trust God live from the understanding that they are God’s children, first and foremost (1 John 3:1). They are saints who still sin but are not disowned. They are being perfected, sanctified, and loved into who God made them to be.
And the beautiful part is that as we move more and more into trusting God, resting and being content in Him, knowing that we don’t have to do one more thing to earn His favor and love, we please Him.
Saints know that they don’t have to go to church or read their Bible or serve in a ministry or love their neighbors to earn God’s approval. But they can’t help but do all of that, seeking for God to improve them in places where they are weak because their relationship with God compels them forward. It’s always more about the relationship with God rather than service to or for God.
Are they perfect? Of course not. But they are growing in godly, healthy ways.
The bottom line is that we are human, and we will mess this up. We may all struggle with the battle between accepting who God made us to be and wanting to work for approval all of our lives.
But the beautiful promise that we can all saturate ourselves in? Philippians 1:4-6.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.