Can We Earn the Pleasure of God?
by Heather Bock
See below for a chance to win a beautiful Art Journaling Edition Illuminated Bible that would make an amazing Christmas present for someone.
Every Tuesday in my homeschool, we do an “art project.” Art is definitely my weakness, which is why we only do it once a week (and on Wednesdays when it’s being taught in their homeschool community). Unfortunately, as our days are packed with other subjects like math, English, history, and geography, art usually takes a back seat.
My poor five-year-old son, JP, loves art and would like to paint every day. He tried to ensure this for himself by asking his grandma how to spell “paint rock” and added it to the top of his page-protected daily check-off list. Every day, I draw a line through it.
As a classical educator, I have great intentions to use my Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters book. However, when Tuesday rolls around, and the kids ask me what they need to do for art, I usually grab a drawing book like one in the Draw Write Now series, and the kids copy a drawing step by step.
When we started our school year, JP was nervous about copying a drawing. At the time, he drew on his doodle board in the car all the time–creations mostly from his own imagination. He just wasn’t sure he could copy a drawing and make it look good. For his first drawing, he chose a streetcar from Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains.
As he drew this picture, I couldn’t leave his side for a minute. He wanted me to direct his every line, telling him where each should start and finish. Even so, as you can see, each line he drew was fairly shaky. I was proud of him for tackling such a detailed drawing, though, and I was glad to help him.
Yesterday, three and a half months later, after our weekly drawings, I gave him a step-by-step drawing book and asked him to copy one of the drawings. He chose the Statue of Liberty, which I considered to be fairly difficult compared to the straight lines of the street car. I didn’t protest, though. I wanted to see what he would do on his own. That little guy only asked for help once–he wanted me to draw part of Lady Liberty’s arm. Yes, the headdress is a bit too big and missing a few of its spikes, and the bottom of the drawing looks abstract because his lines ended up out of place. However, as his mother and teacher, I was very pleased at my young son’s progress. He drew with confident lines, copying what he saw better than I expected, and he did it almost entirely without my help. I encouraged him to hang it up over my desk.
Pleased. My son pleased me.
Do you feel you can please your heavenly Father with what you do? Do you think He hangs your artwork on His heavenly fridge?
I’ve wrestled with this before, like in this post from more than two years ago, where I struggled to grasp Zephaniah 3:17, a verse showing God exulting over those He loves with shouts of joy. He showed me the great love He has for me through the love I have for my children.
When, though, does God exult over me? Can I earn my Father’s pleasure, or is He just always pleased with me as He looks at me through His Son?
Immediately, I knew I had to be theologically careful. I’ve been well taught that I can’t earn my salvation. The author of this article in Christianity Today states that I cannot earn God’s favor. He goes on to show that our salvation cannot be earned, quoting Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (NIV). My children can’t earn their relationship with me, either. They are mine, good behavior or not.
As the author asserts, I also clearly cannot earn God’s love. A few verses before the one I just quoted states, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5). In other words, He loved us when we weren’t doing much good. In fact, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8). Without God’s Holy Spirit in us, although God still loves us, apparently we can’t please Him.
Maybe it’s like when my kids are fighting with each other or refusing to do their schoolwork. No matter what they do, I will always love them with all my heart and would give anything for them. They can’t earn their position with me or my love, but as long as they live that way, they do not please me–quite the opposite, in fact.
However, as I do have the Spirit within me, I can please God. In addition, I believe the Bible makes it clear that sometimes I can please Him more than other times with what I do, just as I smiled more at my son’s work and growth yesterday. I Thessalonians 4:1 exhorts, “that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” Why would the author give instruction on how to please God if He is already perpetually pleased with us, if we couldn’t earn it?
The work I do for God might look a little abstract like my son’s. It’s certainly far from perfect–my lines aren’t all in the right place, and I have to particularly rely on His help in certain areas. I certainly have to remember and practice what He’s taught me if my work will come close to good. As I do this, though, I can be confident in knowing that I am pleasing my Father. I hope at the end of my work here on earth, I will hear the words I long to hear, spoken in Jesus’ parable: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things…Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:23).
“For this reason also, since the day we heard of [your love in the Spirit], we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10).
Drawing for the ESV Illuminated Bible: Art Journaling Edition
Speaking of art, I have the great opportunity to give away an exceedingly beautiful art journaling Bible that would make a lovely Christmas present for someone this year.
This hardbacked ESV Illuminated Bible comes encased in a thick cardboard sleeve, and when it is pulled out, you find the pages are edged in gold, and the cover is overlaid with navy cloth and embossed with beautiful gold lettering and floral design. Inside are 64 full-page gold book-opener illustrations related to the subject matter of each book, 50 gold full-page verse illustrations, more than 250 gold hand-lettered verses in the margins, and more than 100 other illustrations throughout. Even the chapter numbers and Bible verses written at the top are in gold. The margins are wide, leaving plenty of room for notes, prayers, or other artwork of your own, if you dare to write in such a beautiful book. I have truly never held such a gorgeous Bible–not nearly as lovely as the words of God within–but it makes a valiant attempt.
If you’d like to enter in my drawing for this free Bible (retailing at $44.99):
- Click the button “follow” in the place under my picture (top right of a computer and way down below the comments on a phone) where it says, “Follow Blog Via Email.” Once you hit the button, it should give you a place to type in your email address. You may have to follow up with an email sent to you to fully subscribe, so check your spam folder if it doesn’t arrive in your inbox.
- Please notify me in a comment of your name so I will know who to congratulate if you win!
To earn more entries, or if you’re already following my blog,
- Share this post via social media. Each share to a different social media venue earns you one entry (up to three).
- Let me know in a comment where you’ve shared.
- Notify me of your name.
Giveaways are open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada and are only open to those who have not won from me in the last year.
I will announce the winner on Wednesday, November 22, so look for it! If I don’t hear from the winner within a week, I will draw another name. Thank you!
I haven’t yet heard from the winner of Rick Warren’s God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible, Abigail Joy. Abigail, please contact me at heather.bock[at]glimpsesofjesus.com by this Saturday, November 18 with your address if you want me to have the Bible sent to you. If I don’t hear from you by then, I will draw another name.
Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
0 thoughts on “Can We Earn the Pleasure of God?”
I love this blog post! It really made me think! So many times we can look at our relationships with our children and take lessons on our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Thank you for exploring this idea of whether or not we can “earn” the pleasure of God. Well written!
Thank you! I had Greg check it before I put it out there—I wanted to make sure I was going off theologically!
Beautiful post! -Marci
Love this perspective, Heather. Only recently married, I’m not a mother yet – I am able to enter into this place of longing for affirmation yet resting in the knowledge that God already finds pleasure with me. Grateful for that truth. The Bible is gorgeous. What a great Christmas gift it would be! – Lizzie Attaway
Did you enter the drawing? It could possibly be a present from you!
I am thankful that I know that no matter what, God always loves me.
I see that you did enter the drawing—great!
Heather, so happy to have found your blog! I loved working through your Bible study Glimpses of Jesus.
PS. I entered your contest!
Thank you for entering! I’m glad you enjoyed my study, too!
Great post! I love journaling and especially art journaling. I followed your blog and scheduled a shout out to this post for 10am on Facebook and Twitter.
Wonderful! Thank you so much! You’ve been entered 3 times.
Love this perspective, Heather. Although newly married, I am not a mother yet. Even still I am able to enter into the place of longing for affirmation yet resting in truth that God finds pleasure with me. Thank you!
What a beautiful Bible, I’ve never seen one like this. Definitely would make for a great Christmas gift. – Lizzie Attaway
Love this Bible and just subscribed to your blog and shared this on Twitter 🙂 I’ve followed you on twitter for a while and I love reading your posts!
Thank you for following my blog and for following me on Twitter, too! Sometimes as a writer, I wonder what God might do with what I send out there on cyberspace. It’s really encouraging to know someone enjoys what I post. You’re entered in the drawing!
Such a great post!! 🤗
Oh Heather, I absolutely LOVE this post and needed this reminder in the midst of hustle and bustle of life. So grateful for the truth you presented and am now a follower of your blog. <3
Thank you for following my blog and for this extremely kind comment! I’m glad it was helpful for you.
I want to start journaling more but can’t seem to make it a habit. It’s hard with a Bible out and a notebook. Plus the added stress of which cute notebook to buy!!! I love that you homeschool and manage this. I need advice! You are a rockstar. Sabrina.
I’m not a journaler, either. My blog IS my journal! Writing on paper is too tedious to me, so if I do journal, I type it in a Word document with a cute font I’ve found online. I need to do that more often!
If you really want advice, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but I’m no rockstar! I’m still trying to figure out balance. I often have one really late night per week! I’m trying to figure out how to change that, but it hasn’t happened yet. Other than that, I have a really tight schedule planned out for my work, so I have little wasted time. It’s a bit crazy!
This is so great Heather! I think it can be easier at times to picture God not pleased with us–rather than to picture Him smiling because of us. But when are in Him, like you say, and doing the things He has created us to do–we really can experience his pleasure and what a gift! It makes me think of the main character in the movie, Chariots of Fire–when he says he feels God’s pleasure when he runs. So beautiful.
That’s exactly the one I thought of—Eric Liddell! I’ve always heard his quote about how when he runs, he feels God’s pleasure. I never really understood it until looking into this myself.
Great food for thought! I’ve been reading Tatoos on the Heart, written by pastor who works with gang members, and he talks a lot about how in love with us God is, no matter how messed up we are. I’m not sure whether this is the same a being pleased or not. It’s something I’ve been pondering. Also, I’m entering the giveaway!
I think His love for us and His pleasure in us are two separate things. I compare it to my relationship with my children. I always love them, but I’m not always pleased with them!