People-pleasing can be a particularly addictive trait, especially for pastors. You’ll either lead your ministry in an effort to please people or to please God. The choice is yours.
If you choose to please people, letting them fit you into their mold, your ministry will never be what God wants it to be. It’ll cause you to miss God’s unique purpose for your life.
Here are six truths to keep in mind next time you’re tempted to please people:
1. Even God can’t please everybody.
Only a fool would try to do what God can’t do. Many people in this world will disapprove of you. Accept it.
Jesus reminds us, “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you” (Luke 6:26 NIV). If everyone speaks well of you, it’s bad news. It means you stand for nothing and are a chameleon. Pastor, the moment you take a stand, someone will start throwing rocks.
2. You don’t need anyone’s approval to be happy.
If you believe you must have other people’s approval to be happy, you won’t be happy. Even if you could make everyone happy, it wouldn’t affect your level of happiness. Why? Because happiness is a choice.
Some of you have spent your whole life trying to please an unpleasable person. Often, it’s a parent, and you’re wanting to show them they’re wrong about the worst things they’ve said about you. I’m sorry for the pain that person has caused you. But I also believe it’s a self-inflicted prison. If you haven’t received their approval by now, you never will.
Isaiah 51:12 reminds us that since we have God’s love and approval, we don’t need the approval of others. The Bible says, “I am the one who comforts you.
Who are you that you should fear humans who die, or a son of man who is given up like grass?” (CSB). Other people will move on from your life. God never will. His approval is all that you really need.
3. What seems important now won’t matter in the long-term.
Often we become people-pleasers because we’re more focused on the here and now than on eternity. Most of what you consider really important today won’t matter next week or next year—much less for eternity. And that includes the opinion of others.
I once saw a video taken during the Christmas shopping season. Someone went into a store and switched all the price tags. Stuff that should have cost $500 cost $1, and what should have been $1 was now $500. People were confused and angry. If you think that’s bad, Satan has done worse. He has switched the price tags in life. What the world thinks is important isn’t important. What’s truly important in life, the world treats as unimportant.
Jesus said it like this: “The things that most people think are important are worthless as far as God is concerned” (Luke 16:15 CEV). That’s why it’s important to stay focused on what will matter for eternity.
4. You only need to please one person.
You only need to please God. No one else’s opinion of you matters. Paul understood this. He wrote in Galatians 1:10, “I am not trying to please people. I want to please God” (CEV).
People-pleasing is actually a form of idolatry. The first commandment among the Ten Commandments is crystal-clear about God’s perspective on worshiping anyone but him: “You must not have any other gods except me” (Exodus 20:3 NCV).
Anything you put before God becomes a god. If the approval of other people in your life is more important than God’s approval, you’ve made the other person a god.
5. One day you’ll give an account of your life.
Romans 14:12 is the people-pleaser antidote: “Each of us will have to answer to God” (NCV). When you let that truth sink in, it’ll change who you try to impress.
One day you’ll give an account for every word you speak. You can choose now to be politically correct and socially acceptable, but one day you’ll give an account of what you’re saying to please others.
I’ve given many interviews in my life—and in some very public places. Often, I’ll get asked some tough questions about hot-button issues. My human nature wants to compromise and cop-out. I could choose to be politically correct and not ruffle any feathers.
But in those moments, I remember three things:
- I remember what Jesus did for me on the cross. He didn’t deny me. I won’t deny him.
- I remember that one day I’ll give an account to God for my answer.
- I remember Jesus’s words: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them” (NIV).
Remembering those three truths keeps me from saying something that pleases my listeners but not Jesus.
6. God shaped you to be you—not anyone else.
God doesn’t want you to be someone you’re not. When you get to heaven, God isn’t going to ask you, “Why weren’t you more like your dad? Why weren’t you more like your brother?” Instead, God will ask, “Did you become the person I created you to be?”
I love the PHILLIPS translation of Romans 12:2: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”
We must remember that God’s plan for us is good. He didn’t put us on this earth to fulfill someone else’s plan. And when we practice God’s plan, we are moving toward maturity.
There’s only one person in the entire universe you need to please. You don’t have to please your congregation. You don’t have to please your neighbors. You don’t have to please your family.
Let that truth free you to be the pastor God created you to be.
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