How to Please God
A Word of Encouragement and Cheer
I would call your attention to the words of Paul in the first chapter of Colossians, verses 9 to 11.
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
“Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;”
I do not know whether I have ever spoken to you upon these words or not, but I was dwelling upon them recently in addressing the students of the Moody Bible Institute, and I have felt led to bring them to your attention as containing what I trust we shall feel to be a message from God.
Yet, I confess, dear brethren of The Moody Church, that I feel less like preaching a sermon to you this morning that I do like making you a warm, brotherly or rather fatherly, talk, for you are passing through a time of crisis as a church.
It is always a crisis in the history of a church, when it has lost a pastor, and is waiting upon the Lord and casting about for another.
This church has passed through such a crisis before and has come out strong and triumphant, and it will pass through this and come out in the same way. Do not doubt it for a moment. To doubt it would mean that you do not know God nor the history of His dealings with this church from the beginning.
The Moody Church and Its Founder
I speak to you thus familiarly for two or three reasons.
First, because I knew the founder of this Church, under God, D.L. Moody. And I want to say for the benefit of any unaware of it, that there has been no servant of God whom He has used as he did D.L. Moody through the English-speaking world, since the days of George Whitefield, now nearly 200 years ago.
Moreover, if we consider the writings that D.L. Moody left behind him, and the institutions he founded, such as the Colportage Association, the Moody Bible Institute, the Christian schools for secular instruction in Northfield and Mount Hermon, to say nothing of this Moody Church, then God has used D.L. Moody, not only in the English-speaking world but throughout the whole world, many times beyond George Whitefield or any other man in the same period of time.
Therefore, I wish you to appreciate if you do not already do so that to be a member of, or in any way connected with The Moody Church is one of the greatest spiritual privileges, one of the highest spiritual honors that can come to you. If you are as wise as I trust and believe you are, you will be slow to permit any individual or any influence to rob you of this privilege and honor against the day when you will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad.
And I speak to you thus familiarly, not only because I knew D.L. Moody, but because I have known this Church itself in its life and work, but 30 years coming next summer. It will then be 30 years since I first enjoyed the privilege of preaching in this pulpit. And by God’s grace and the favor of the people, I have been permitted to preach again and again, sometimes week after week, month after month and months at a time. After the resignation of Dr. Torrey, when he started on his worldwide evangelistic tour, I preached pretty steadily as a permanent supply until Dr. Dixon was called as his successor.
In those days I not only preached in the pulpit, but had the joy of presiding over your prayer meeting, and meeting with your various organizations and committees, and above all with your Executive Committee, composed of your elders, deacons, trustees, and other officers, one of the noblest, most prayerful, and most consecrated body of men I have known in the service of God in all my Christian life.
If I were to gather together those weeks and months into terms of years, it would appear that I have had a relationship with this Church longer than that of the average pastorate in these days. So I feel the deepest interest in all that you are and do, and am emboldened to talk to you with the loving freedom that I am now exercising.
Loyalty to Leaders
I exhort and admonish you therefore at this crisis of your affairs, to remain true and loyal to God and His Son Jesus Christ, which will mean, I feel satisfied, that you shall remain loyal and true to these servants of God whom He has set over you, standing with them shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart in all that they are trying to do.
Be in your places at the service at public worship no matter who preaches; maintain your Christian activities as before, and consecrate your offerings and gifts as you have always so nobly done, to the causes to which this Church is committed in this great city and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
Depend upon it, it will not be long before you will see the glory of God resting upon you here in a new way, in a way for which some of you have been longing for some time. God is on the giving hand. He is just now upon the very threshold of His Temple—not to depart, but to enter;—and that revival, that time of refreshing for which you have been praying, is about to break out upon you.
“It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord God of Hosts.” The blessing of God is not found in crowds and multitudes, but it is found in Himself. It is He Who is the gladness of your joy. Thirty-two thousand men were too many for God to use with Gideon, for they would have taken the glory of victory to themselves. Ten thousand were too many. God got the victory by using just 300 against the Midianites who were as grasshoppers for multitude. But when the 300 won the victory, the thirty-two thousand, who had run away, were glad to come back and be in at the reward. STAND STILL, MY DEAR BRETHREN, AND SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.
I have been talking to you about standing by your brethren who are over you in the Lord, in the matter of public worship, in the matter of your Church activities, and your offerings and contributions; but beyond all these they need you to stand by them and with them in your supplications before the throne of Grace.
And yet, there is something back of that. Prayer is vital, but there is something greater and more vital than prayer; there is something that is a basis for prayer; that gives life to it that feeds and inspires it, and that something is the WORD OF GOD.
The Bible Our Great Need
If there ever were a time in the life of this Church when it were necessary for it to give the Word of God its rightful place in its history, which is the first place, it is just now. In its earlier days when I knew it better, this Church was always a Bible-loving Church, a Bible-reading Church, a Bible-studying Church, and that was what made it the great, strong, fruitful, and giving Church that it has ever been.
I brought with me a page from a letter, I have recently received, in which there is a paragraph I desire to read to you. It is written by the pastor of a church in one of our middle states, a man of maturity, who has recently gone there, and is writing me as to what he found on his arrival.
He says, “If you sit in a meeting for testimony, and listen, you will be impressed with the sound speech of all who take part; but if you talk to them, you will find that Paul is not to be believed in a whole of places; and that the blood of Christ is only a figurative thing, and that a chalk mark would have served the purpose just as well in Egypt, as the blood on the door posts; that Judas Iscariot was saved at last; that Unitarianism is alright,” and much of the same kind. Their sound speech was only sound, you see. They did not know what they were talking about. They had no apprehension of the fundamentals of Christianity and hence they were ready to be led away by any teacher who came along; by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But men and women who give the Bible its rightful place can not be so deceived.
It is to encourage you along this line and to warn and caution you, that I have chosen this text today, where Paul says:
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
Just one prayer he has to offer for this people of his love, and that was that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will which is another way of saying, “that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s Word.”
If you are to be filled with that knowledge, you must know more about His Word than that which you will hear once a Sunday when about all you will get of it sometimes is the text. You must know more about it than you will find in the Sunday School lesson leaflet, important and helpful as that may be.
The word “knowledge” here is peculiar, and means the deep, thorough, accurate, knowledge of God’s will. And the “spiritual wisdom and understanding” intended, is that which the Spirit of God Himself alone can give you, but which He will give you, if by faith you surrender yourself to Him to be your Teacher.
As there is but a single petition in this prayer, so there is but a single object for it, namely “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.” That is all we Christians have to do. Some of us think we have many things to do, and we are worried for fear that we can not do them all, but there is only one, and that is to please God.
But, my friends, how can you and I walk worthy of our Lord unto all pleasing if we do not know what it is that pleases Him? And how can we learn what pleases Him except as we come to His Word and find out what His will is? No wonder that men and women professing the name of Christ are running hither and thither and yon, and doing so many things that are strange, inconsistent, and fanatical. They are seeking to please the Lord without really knowing what it is that pleases Him.
Three Ways of Pleasing God
The inspired apostle points out three ways in which we may please Him. First, “Being fruitful in every good work.” Not in one good work, but in every good work; in the good work of workship, of character, and of service.
Second, by GROWTH, “being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in knowledge of God.” In other words, the Christian is not like a stalk of corn, which, when harvested, is cut down, or dug up, or plowed under. He is more like a tree, which not only bears fruit, but grows and increases as it bears, so that the next year it may bear more fruit.
Third, by PATIENCE. “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”
What has patience to do with it? Perhaps you ask this. The illustration of the tree will help you to an answer. It is supposed to bear fruit and to grow at the same time that it is bearing fruit, but it must do this sometimes in the face of many enemies—the drouth, that would wither its roots; the little animals, or insects or birds, that would suck out its life sap, or eat away its bark; the worms nibbling its leaves; the frost nipping the buds; the great storms breaking down its branches and possibly uprooting it from the ground.
The tree must bear fruit and it must grow, and this in the face of obstacles, hence its need of strength to suffer and endure and still be glad and joyful in it all.
So in our experiences as Christians, as witnesses for Christ. And not only as individuals, but oftimes in our corporate capacity as a Church.
The Moody Church is today called upon to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. It must bear fruit, and it must grown and increase as it bears. Hence, how much patience it requires as it faces the obstacles and hindrances before it, as it resists the enemies that are waiting to attack it.
Therefore, it needs just what the apostle tells us we all need, namely, to be strengthened with all might, according to God’s glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.
A Bright Prophecy
God stands ready to strengthen us, and to pour out His glorious power upon us. It is just at such a time as this, when the people of God are more prepared than at other times to fall upon their faces before Him that He will pour out His Spirit and might.
I venture to prophesy that you are coming nearer to God than you have been in many a day. Your hearts are being newly warmed and your spirits newly quickened to pray and to praise His Name. Great things are in store for you, and I trust God will spare me to see it, and rejoice over it with you before many days.