Notes from a Recovering People-Pleaser
(1 Thessalonians, Chapter 2 Bible Study)
by John Miller
I’m a recovering people pleaser.
I always wanted people to be happy, no matter the cost to me. Everyone was my friend. I had no acquaintances. If I knew you I was willing to do whatever you needed to be happy, have fun, be comfortable in a group, whatever. Some was a natural knack for inclusion, but most of it was hustle on my part. Any negative feedback felt like a shot through the heart, and I was to blame because I was giving myself a bad name. If someone said something bad about me, I assumed it was true and tried my best to be a different person.
People pleasing takes a lot of hustle, and it’s not worth it.
When Paul went to Thessalonica, It’s apparent that some of his opposition tried to disparage his missionary efforts by making claims of deceitfulness. Paul defends himself against a litany of accusations: that he wanted to trick them (2:3), flattery, greed (2:5).
Two times in his defense, Paul says that he and his companions were in no way trying to please people. They were instead trying to please God (2:4, 6).
I need to hear that often.
I’m trying to please God, not people.
My goal isn’t making others happy, but honoring my Savior.
Obeying Jesus is paramount, all else comes after.
Pleasing people cannot be my goal, because, honestly, I’ll never achieve it. There are too many opinions from too many people to make everyone happy. It’s just not possible. I’ve got to keep my eyes on the prize of pleasing God.
Paul and his cadre were willing to be beaten, run out of town, and experience some pretty rough times in order for more people to hear the gospel of Jesus. More people needed to know that Jesus Christ offers forgiveness from sins in a way that the Old Testament Law never could. Jesus made it possible for all people, no matter their past or heritage, could live in right relationship with God. It’s amazing that we can have a friendship, a familial closeness to the Creator of the universe.
Nearsightedly, we will often swap divine companionship for the immediate shot of “people pleasing.” Pleasing God sometimes means making others mad, and we aren’t willing to do it. While we should make every effort to live at peace with everyone, we must draw in bold the uncrossable “honor God” line. It’s easy for us to lie, cheat, steal and destroy when it makes the people around us happy. The exchange of closeness with God isn’t worth happiness of others, but it’s a trade we often make quickly.
Paul lived with so much God-pleasing hustle because (one) he knew the importance of the Gospel of Jesus and (two), many scholars believe, Paul expected Jesus’ second coming to happen during his first century lifetime. He expected Jesus to be coming back before many people who heard him preach died.
If you knew that the last days before Judgment day were right now, everyone you knew would give account for their actions in a couple of years, wouldn’t you scramble to tell as many of your loved ones and neighbors about it?
Paul threw convention to the wind in order to change as many lives for Christ as possible.
But Jesus didn’t come a second time during Paul’s life. Two centuries later, we’re still waiting for that day. But in the meantime, we can take some life altering tips from Paul. If we are living to please God rather than people, there’s a chance we’ll ruffle some feathers. In the United States today, we most likely won’t get beaten for our beliefs. We won’t be run out of town. But we may be chastised verbally. Guess what, much worse has happened (and is still happening) to many believers across the globe. We ought to be grateful for the culture in which we live. It is ready to be impacted by the love of Jesus.
While we attempt to live in peace with everyone, let’s not sacrifice pleasing God for pleasing people. For some, pleasing God is the opposite of what pleases them.
Those people will just have to be disappointed.
God is more important than any earthly relationship, whether it be with family, with friends, with coworkers, or to our country. Even if we don’t believe Christ’s return is within our lifetime, let’s live so that he’d be pleased with us every single day.
This is part 2 of a series on 1 Thessalonians.