Have you ever considered what pleases God? In Ephesians 5:10, Paul charges his readers with this very task: “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” Jesus Christ is not merely someone to believe in; He is Lord and Master over His people. He has saved us by grace through faith, and He has called us to serve, love, trust, and obey Him (Eph. 2:8–10; James 2:14–26). In other words, we shouldn’t think of faith as a basic package of salvation with optional add-ons for devotion. Part of God’s purpose in salvation is that we will live in a way that is pleasing to our Savior.
Thankfully, Paul does not leave us on our own to figure out what God wants. In Colossians 1:10–12, as he recounts his prayers for the Colossian church, he unpacks what it looks like to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.” Such a walk is comprehensive, touching every dimension of our lives. Yet Paul prays about four ways of living in particular that will help us to please God.
1) Fruitful Living
The first thing Paul prays for is a life that is “bearing fruit in every good work” (Col. 1:10). Christians who bear fruit are those who display the righteousness of Christ in their lives, which overflows in loving service to God and neighbor.
As the people of God, we are united to Christ, and this union is our sole source of spiritual vitality. Jesus said, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If we would bear fruit, we must remain intimately connected to Christ through all the means of grace available to us—prayer, God’s Word, the fellowship of believers, and so on. When we abide in Him, He works in us and through us to produce fruit for His kingdom. Even when we feel useless, inadequate, and incompetent, Christ works through us when we abide in Him. Indeed, He specializes in bearing fruit through weak people.
The inverse is also true: there is no amount of innate gifting or personal goodness of heart that can produce lasting fruit in someone who is not abiding in Christ. Neither is there fruit to be found in those who treat the Lord Jesus as an add-on to their lives. Claims of faith in Christ from people who do not truly abide in Him are simply—and sadly—empty professions, with the result being lives that are indistinguishable from the world and its ways. But for those who cling to Christ, the Spirit will indeed bear fruit (Gal. 5:22–25).
2) Knowledgeable Living
Paul also prays that his readers would please the Lord by “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).
What kind of knowledge is this? It’s not the kind that turns us into tadpoles, swimming around with enormous heads and hardly anything else to show for it. It is rather “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18–19). Facts and figures and philosophies can be very important, but personal knowledge of the deep riches of Jesus Christ is indispensable. When the Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse of who God is in the Gospel of Jesus, it transforms our hearts and renews our lives. This is the knowledge that pleases the Lord.
Even when we feel useless, inadequate, and incompetent, Christ works through us when we abide in Him.
If you truly love someone, you are not satisfied with a mere static awareness of him or her. You want to grow in your familiarity of that person. So it is with God. We should want to be “increasing” in our knowledge of God because we love Him. We should want to enjoy hearing His Word, because that’s how we know Him. We should want to enjoy engaging in conversation with Him in prayer, pouring out our hearts before Him. The knowledge that pleases God goes further, goes deeper, goes harder after that which pleases Him—and He uses it to reveal His transforming power in our lives.
3) Powerful Living
Paul prays further that his readers might be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11).
How do you know if you’re living according to this power? Does it manifest in great deeds of strength and miraculous works? No, it is found in “endurance and patience with joy.” This is the kind of power that Christ modeled for us when, “for the joy that was set before him,” He “endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2, emphasis added). The power of God that resides within us leads us to the kind of steady persistence and quiet, faith-filled confidence that Christ displayed at Calvary. And it is this kind of humble power that is pleasing to our Lord.
The power of God that resides within us leads us to the kind of steady persistence and quiet, faith-filled confidence that Christ displayed at Calvary.
Paradoxically, the Christian’s power also is found in an awareness and acknowledgment of personal weakness, which teaches us to depend on God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9–10). While we are continually weak in ourselves, we may continually find God’s power at work within us. His power is not like a cannon, where there’s an initial blast that eventually fades away. No, to be in Christ means that we are carried along from start to finish by the power of His glorious might. This is something for which we should be exceedingly thankful.
4) Thankful Living
Finally, Paul prays that we would please the Lord by “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12).
Those who are most thankful will always be the most joyful—and of all people in the world, God’s people have the greatest reason for gratitude. We grasp that our sins are many and that they merit judgment. But in Christ, we do not get what we deserve; we get what Jesus has earned for us. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Father has allowed us to share in the inheritance of all God’s people. We have fellowship with God and with all His people, and for this we should overflow with God-pleasing gratitude.
There is no greater gift than the gift of eternal life that is ours in Christ. In response to such a gift, we gladly sing, “Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe!”1 There is no higher or more joyful call than to pursue a life in Christ of fruitfulness, knowledge, power, and thankfulness. This is pleasing to the Lord.
Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All” (1865).↩︎