Working to Please the Lord

from Apr 13, 2015 Category: Articles

Eric Liddell was a Scottish Christian runner who refused to compete in the 1924 Olympics on the Lord’s Day. In Chariots of Fire, the movie that chronicles Liddell’s bold stand at those Olympic Games, Liddell is depicted sharing with his sister, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” When this line is quoted among Christians, the perceived pleasure of God is usually presented as a kind of litmus test or affirmation for whether or not we are doing God’s will.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but let us recognize that this test places the focus almost exclusively on the human side. “When I run, I feel….” But the most important part of that statement is the last two words: “… God’s pleasure.” In doing what he was born to do in a way that honored God, the most important thing was not that Liddell felt God’s pleasure but that he brought God pleasure; he pleased God. Likewise, Christian men should use their God-given abilities to the uttermost, seeking to give God pleasure through the labors we offer up to Him.

In all our work as Christian men, whatever season we may be in and wherever we happen to find ourselves on the ladder of our chosen pursuit, the best way for us to honor God in our work is to offer up everything we do directly to the Lord Himself. In all things, our goal should be to please Him. This is what Paul urges: “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

Because nearly all of us do our work in association with other people, in a practical sense, almost everything we do, we do for others. Those who are on the lower rungs of the ladder are called to serve those above them in ways that please God. Those on the higher rungs are called to lead those below them in ways that please God. Clients have godly obligations to vendors just as vendors do to clients. We do our work for men in a manner that will be pleasing to God. This involves working with biblical motivations and an attitude of holiness, diligently pursuing excellence, and all the while seeking to love others as we love ourselves.

Serving Those over Us

A Christian worker in a twenty-first-century setting is called to follow Paul’s instructions to the Christian servants of ancient Colossae:

Obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:22–24)

Because school is itself a kind of work, I will use an example from my West Point days to illustrate this. I once had a cadet in my class who was a devoted Christian and a leader in student Bible studies. After he failed an exam, I called him in to discuss the grade. Knowing I was a Christian, he said that I would “understand” that his Bible studies had been more important than studying for the test he had flunked. In fact, I did not understand.

At one level, this cadet was demonstrating a poor grasp of theology. But at the same time, by appealing to our shared faith in an effort to excuse his laziness and wrong priorities, he was being a people-pleaser. After demanding that he stand at attention while I reprimanded him, I informed him that he was disgracing the Lord by failing to uphold his duties as a student. Whether student or employee, we do not honor the Lord if we neglect the work obligations that we have accepted and which others are counting on us to perform.

Leading Those under Us

A preacher should prepare and deliver his sermons for the benefit of the congregation—it is not pleasing to God for a man to preach as if no one is there. But he must preach in a way that first and foremost will be pleasing to the Lord, seeking His approval by being a faithful minister of His Word, before considering whether the congregation will like it or not.

Similarly, the first obligation of an employer or manager is not to set policies and pursue goals that focus primarily on making employees as happy and secure as possible. At the same time, he must recognize that God desires for his employees to serve in ways that are meaningful, productive, profitable, and suitable to their gifts and talents. This has numerous implications for the hiring, training, positioning, and rewarding of employees.

Loving Others in Daily Interactions

Doing all things unto the Lord will radically affect the way we treat others in the basic interactions of daily life. Jesus taught that in the final judgment, He will praise His people for the least of the mercies they showed to others in His name:

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:35-40)

Christians who labor unto the Lord remember that God cares about how we treat other people. Because we remember, we make it our own pleasure to glorify Him through sincerity, integrity, kindness, and love. Jesus reminds us that when we stand before Him, the great issue of our lives will not be what achievements we compiled, what honors we won, or what riches we amassed, but how humbly we glorified God and served our fellow man day to day.

This excerpt is taken from The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips.