Living to Please God, Not Others

By Matt Henslee

One of the biggest struggles I have is disappointing people. Shoot, my mom could whip me seven days a week, take away all my video games or ground me for a week, and I’d be fine. But if the words “I’m disappointed in you” came out of her mouth, it’d crush me!

I remember a time a member of a church I served got really fired up — in a good way! They were ready to conquer the world. Over time, they had opportunities to serve in a few areas. Looking back, they did a pretty good job meeting a number of our church’s needs.

That is, until they didn’t get something they wanted. In the blink of an eye, they were gone. All of the time invested counseling them, discipling them and providing avenues to serve seemed wasted. More than that, we now had extra holes to fill within a week. What’s more, they launched a pretty strong social media attack filled with lies and threats.

As a Barnabas to pastors, I hear similar stories all of the time. And a lot of the pastors are a lot like me. They’re not hurting as much because someone is gone or worried they can’t feel empty spots; they wrestle with a feeling of having disappointed someone.

In the Gospels, there’s the well-known story of the “Rich Young Ruler.” A man comes to Jesus to ask what it takes to have eternal life. Jesus walks him through some of the Ten Commandments, to which the man responds, “I have kept all these from my youth” (Mark 10:20 CSB).

Jesus, moved by love for the man, replies, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21 CSB).

If this happened today, the man would probably head to Google to write a bad review or pen a passive-aggressive post on Facebook. Instead, 2,000 years ago, Mark tells us: “He was dismayed by this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions” (Mark 10:22 CSB).

The man was disappointed in Jesus’ reply. Not because Jesus was wrong, but because, at the core, he didn’t get what he wanted. He wanted his cake and to eat it, too, we could say. Jesus turned to his disciples to use this experience as a teaching opportunity, but the point for us as we aim to live like Jesus is pretty simple:

It’s okay to disappoint people, at least if you did the right thing. What’s best for others might not be what they want. When they don’t get what they want, they might leave like the rich young ruler. It hurts, but it’s okay. The last thing you need to do is give in to demands just because you’re afraid to upset or disappoint someone.

Notice a few things about Jesus in Mark 10:17-27 (or the cross-references in Matt. 19 and Luke 18):

  • Jesus listened to him (Mark 10:17, 20)
  • Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21)
  • Jesus led him (Mark 10:18-19, 21)

As we aim to live like Jesus, we should keep that in mind. We can’t please everyone. After all, we aim to please God. Instead, when we encounter people, we must listen and love, but also stand on truth. People may reject the truth like the rich young ruler and leave disappointed in you — and even try to hurt you, but that’s OK. God is pleased, and that’s all that matters.

This post originally appeared at 1Disciple.

Published January 15, 2021

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Matt Henslee

Matt Henslee (@mhenslee) is the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico, D.Min student of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of a few books, including Evangelize to Revitalize and Text-Driven Invitation.