I recently starting reading a book written in the 1600’s by a man named Francis Fenelon. Fenelon was a Catholic priest but very much concerned with personal piety and the pursuit of a genuine relationship with Christ. He was quite extraordinary in a time characterized by cold, formal and ritualistic religious practice. He starts describing what he calls a state of “holy indifference,” by which he means indifference to pursuing our own desires and pursuing God. In his Maxims of the Saints, Article 5, he continues,
“We no longer desire our own salvation merely as an eternal deliverance, or merely as involving the greatest amount of personal happiness. Instead, we desire it [our salvation] chiefly as the fulfillment of God’s pleasure and as resulting in His glory, and because He himself desires and wills that we should so desire and will it.”
Basically he is saying that some people become Christians to escape hell. Others do so because it makes us happy. But what caught my attention and caused me to reconsider my approach to the Christian walk was the way he re-defined our pursuit of God as a means to fulfill God’s pleasure. He essentially says, “We should seek to grow in our faith, not because it is simply a good thing for us and will make us happy, but we should pursue salvation, holiness, faith because it makes GOD happy and brings Him glory.” I had never considered that my spiritual growth is a source of pleasure to Him. It never occurred to me that by maturing in faith, I could actually increase the amount of glory that God receives here on earth.
It also finally makes sense of this statement Paul makes in his letter to the Philippian church:
…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)
I had always focused on either the “work out” or the “God who works in you” parts of that verse, but in neither case was I completely encouraged. It always felt like it was a battle I had to wage to prove myself and God would help me along the way. But when I finally focused on the last phrase – “for his good pleasure” – it transformed by understanding. It wasn’t a battle to validate the genuineness of my commitment to Him, but God’s work in my life was solely driven by His pleasure in me. It made Him happy.
It changes our motivation doesn’t it? It takes our focus off us and plants it firmly in God. Instead of asking ourselves, “how am I doing?” We ask our Father, “How can I delight you?” And as we seek the fulfillment of God’s pleasure, our lives start to reflect Him more and more. People will see us as living for something – or someone – other than ourselves. That will bring Him more and more glory. To me this is the next step in our maturity as one of His kids. We say to Him, “Father, be delighted in me.”