“Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
Paul instructed the Christians at Thessalonica on how to do it. He asks them to do it. He urges them to do it. He tells them to do it more and more.
What is it?
Living to please God.
We need to chew on this for a while. We can live to please God. God can be pleased by the way we are living. The way we live our lives can bring pleasure or delight to our God. Paul’s ministry included instructing the church about how to live in order to please God. Shouldn’t that be our purpose in living — living to please God? Yet so much of our energy is spent in trying to please ourselves. We need this instruction today, just as surely as the Christians at Thessalonica needed it in the early days of the church.
Paul seems to be recapping some of that previous instruction in the verses that follow. Living to please God means — controlling your body so that you live as set apart for God rather than in passionate lust (4:3-6), loving each other in the church at Thessalonica and loving even the wider body of Christ throughout Macedonia (4:9-10), living peaceful, quiet lives characterized by a work ethic that wins the respect of outsiders rather than being idle busy-bodies (4:11-12), encouraging one another with the certainty of Jesus’ return (4:13-5:11), respecting spiritual leaders (5:12-13), living in peace (5:13), encouraging, even warning the weak with great patience (5:14), treating others with kindness and grace rather than seeking revenge (5:15), living joyfully (5:16), praying continually (5:17), giving thanks for everything (5:18), letting the Spirit’s fire burn (5:19-22), and allowing God to set you apart for His use (5:23-24).
Other passages shed additional light on how to live a life that pleases God.
Hebrews 11:1-6 You cannot please God without faith, that is, a life that pleases God is not focused on the things that are seen, but on the unseen.
Romans 5:5-8 A life controlled by fleshly desires is not pleasing to God. A life that pleases God is controlled by God’s Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:19-26 clearly distinguishes the difference between spiritual and fleshly living.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 God is pleased when we pray for everyone, including government leaders so that we can lead lives that are peaceful and quiet, godly and dignified.
Romans 12:1 Giving your body to God as a living sacrifice in response to His mercy is pleasing to God. Romans chapters 12-16 give numerous examples of how to live your life as a sacrifice to God.
Romans 14 (especially verse 18) Paul teaches the Romans to please God in the way they deal with disputable matters (gray areas). To please God you need to treat those with whom you differ with acceptance (rather than judgment or even looking down on them), appreciation (of the other person as being God’s servant whom God will judge), love (not putting an obstacle in front of them or causing them to fall by judging them), and peace (not confusing the core of kingdom values with the disputable matters); all the while living according to your conscience.
Philippians 4:10-20 (especially verse 18) Paul knew how to live with out without financial resources. There were times when he lived in plenty and other times when he lived in want. As he thanked the Philippians for their financial gifts to support his ministry, he told them that giving these gifts pleased God because they were an offering to Him. Giving financial gifts to support others to the glory of God pleases Him.
1 Timothy 5:3-4 Paul instructs Timothy on how the church at Ephesus should go about supporting the needs of widows. He teaches Timothy that the church should not prevent the family from first caring for the widow’s needs. God is pleased when a family takes care of their needy.
We have been instructed on how to live a life that pleases God. If Paul were here, I think he would ask us and even urge us, as he did the Thessalonians, to do this more and more. May God take delight in the lives we lead.