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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 (NIV)
Not too long ago my mom and I sifted through hundreds of family pictures together in her living room. Tucked amongst the photographs was a collection of my report cards from elementary school. Believe it or not, they weren't full of A's. However, not every aspect of assessment that my teachers put to me was marked with a letter grade. Things like "citizenship" and "class participation" typically had an indication of whether I had performed in a satisfactory manner. I frequently discovered comments from my teachers; things like "a pleasure to have in class," and "keep up the good work." Even all these years later, it made me smile to know that I had pleased my teachers.
Unlike getting high marks from an elementary school teacher, living a life that is pleasing to God is no easy thing. I have recently been reading a series of sermons that describe how we are to worship God, particularly as those who have been adopted into God's family through Christ. The more I learn about the weightiness of the greatest commandment, the more I realize how far short I fall of properly pleasing God. When I picture God's Laws as a report card, I am dismayed to see that I am in danger of failing.
Or am I?
Because I cling to the hope and faith that Jesus lived the perfect life that I cannot, I know that God sees me not as a failure, but as one of his faithful. Today's verse refers to the instructions that were given by the apostle Paul to the church at Thessalonica as to how they were to please God. Specifically, this included acting out of love to one another, particularly their Christian brothers. It also involved respecting those outside of the church. These are the things that Paul writes that they have already done well, and should continue to do so more and more.
If God were to write a comment on my spiritual report card, I think he might write something like "keep trying...you'll get it!" I may not be perfect in my walk with God, but mercifully, Jesus has taken over that responsibility for me. Since I know Jesus and cling to him, I know that I cannot be a miserable failure. As I look to Jesus' example, and ask the Holy Spirit to make God's Word dwell richly in me, I know I will be pleasing to God more and more.
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