"How can I make God happy?"
On the surface, this seems like a question you might ask before Christmas: "What do you get the person who has everything?" God, who created and owns the entire universe, doesn't really need anything from you, yet it's relationship we're talking about. You want a deeper, more intimate friendship with God, and that's what he wants too.
Jesus Christ revealed what you can do to make God happy:
Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)
Pleasing God by Loving Him
An on-again, off-again effort won't do. Neither will a lukewarm love. No, God wants you to give him your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind.
You've probably been so deeply in love with another person that they constantly filled your thoughts. You couldn't get them out of your mind, but you didn't want to try. When you love someone passionately, you put your whole being into it, down to your very soul.
That's the way David loved God. David was consumed by God, intensely in love with his Lord. When you read the Psalms, you find David pouring out his feelings, unashamed of his desire for this great God:
I love you, O Lord, my strength ... Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to your name. He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever. (Psalm 18:1, 49-50, NIV)
At times David was a shameful sinner. All of us sin, yet God called David "a man after my own heart" because David's love for God was authentic.
You show your love for God by keeping his Commandments, but all of us do that poorly. God sees our meager efforts as acts of love, just as a parent appreciates their child's crude crayon portrait of them. The Bible tells us God looks into our hearts, seeing the purity of our motives. Your unselfish desire to love God pleases him.
When two people are in love, they look for every opportunity to be together as they delight in the process of getting to know each other. Loving God is expressed in the same way, by spending time in his presence—listening for his voice, thanking and praising him, or reading and contemplating his Word.
You also make God happy in how you respond to his answers to your prayers. People who value the gift over the Giver are selfish. On the other hand, if you accept God's will as being good and right—even if it appears otherwise—your attitude is spiritually mature.
Pleasing God by Loving Others
God calls us to love one another, and that can be hard. Everyone you encounter is not lovable. In fact, some people are downright nasty. How can you love them?
The secret lies in "love your neighbor as yourself." You are not perfect. You will never be perfect. You know you have faults, yet God commands you to love yourself. If you can love yourself despite your faults, you can love your neighbor despite his or her faults. You can try to see them as God sees them. You can look for their good traits, as God does.
Again, Jesus is our example of how to love others. He was not impressed by status or appearance. He loved lepers, the poor, the blind, the rich and the angry. He loved people who were great sinners, like tax collectors and prostitutes. He loves you too.
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35, NIV)
We cannot follow Christ and be haters. The two do not go together. To make God happy, you must be radically different from the rest of the world. Jesus' disciples are commanded to love one another and forgive one another even when our feelings tempt us not to.
Pleasing God by Loving Yourself
A surprisingly large number of Christians do not love themselves. They consider it prideful to see themselves as worthwhile.
If you were raised in an environment where humility was praised and pride was considered a sin, remember that your worth comes not from how you look or what you do, but from the fact that God loves you deeply. You can rejoice that God has adopted you as one of his children and nothing can separate you from his love.
When you have a healthy love for yourself—when you see yourself how God sees you—you treat yourself with kindness. You don't beat yourself up when you make a mistake; you forgive yourself. You take good care of your health. You have a future filled with hope because Jesus died for you.
Pleasing God by loving him, your neighbor, and yourself is no small task. It will challenge you to your limits and take the rest of your life to learn to do well, but it's the highest calling any person can have.
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.