The Purpose Driven Life
Makes God Smile?
Wednesday afternoon at precisely 13.35 I believe God smiled on me. I was on the
outskirts of Bedford sitting in the forecourt of a BP garage wondering whether
to continue searching for my rendevous or come home. I’d been last year to a
meeting in Bedford of the Trustees of Highway Projects, a Christian charity working
in the Middle East with which I assist. I knew the location of the venue, 43
Harrold Priory, Bedford. I also knew it was near a supermarket.
Using my innate navigational skills, and with a keen spirit of adventure, I had managed to locate Bedford but somehow found myself enjoying a delightful if involuntary hour exploring the pretty villages south of Bedford due to some less than helpful road signs that didn’t correlate with my AA map. I eventually found two large supermarkets on the outskirts of Bedford but neither looked familiar. I even stopped a lady to ask if there was an alterative to Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. “No there isn’t” she said.
Trying my old trusty Plan B - Directory Enquiries 118 118 I was told that no one with the name of Gundry lived in Harrold Priory. Try telling Directory Enquiries “Oh yes they do.” 118 500 told me there was indeed a person by the name of Gundry in Harrold Priory but that he was ex-directory. So it was that I stopped in a petrol station thinking, Plan C, I could look in a Bedford A-Z without buying it, but no, they didn’t sell them.
Just as I was beginning to think whether there was a Plan D or whether it was time to head home, the Lord smiled on me. At 13.35, James telephoned. Where are you? He asked. For the second time in less than an hour I admitted I did not know… precisely. But with the click of his mouse he opened Microsoft AutoRoute, found Bedford, zoomed in to the road where I was sitting in the petrol station forecourt, found Harrold Priory, and for the next fifteen minutes, in a calm reassuring voice he proceeded to guide me across Bedford to Harrold Priory, albeit by now, two hours late. But what did it matter. The Lord had smiled on me and I was smiling too.
I am pleased to say I did not need James’ services to get home. And if you find yourself in a similar predicament on the outskirts of Bedford, you might like to know that this fine market town is blessed with two Tesco supermarkets. God smiled on me. He showed that he loved me and cared for me when I was at my lowest point. And he used a phone call and a computer programme to do it. What makes God smile?
If “…pleasing God is the first purpose of your life, your most important task is to discover how to do that.” In Ephesians, Paul tells us, “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” (Ephesians 1:5 Message). The Bible gives us many examples of people who did. One of these is Noah. In his day everyone lived for their own pleasure, not for God.
God couldn’t find anyone on earth willing to please him - except one man. On man made God smile - Noah. The Living Bible translates Genesis 6:8 this way “Noah was a pleasure to the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8). It was as if God were reflecting “This guy brings me pleasure. He makes me smile. I’ll start [again] with his family.” Think about it - you and I are alive today because God smiled on Noah. Why did God smile on Noah? Rick Warren highlights five ways - five acts of worship Noah demonstrated that made God smile.
1. God smiles when we love him supremely
was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with
God.” (Genesis 6:9 NIV)
The Living Bible paraphrases it beautifully. “Noah consistently followed God’s will and enjoyed a close relationship with Him.” (Genesis 6:9 LB)
”This is what God wants most from you” This is what God wants most for you. “A relationship! It’s the most astounding truth in the universe…” “God made you to love you, and he longs for you to love him back.” As we are going to discover tonight in Hosea 6:6, God says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 NIV)
The Living Bible paraphrases it powerfully, “I don’t want your sacrifices - I want your love; I don’t want your offerings - I want you to know me.” (Hosea 6:6 LB)
“Can you sense God’s passion for you in this verse? God deeply loves you and desires your love in return. He longs for you to know him and spend time with him. This is why learning to love God and be loved by him should be the greatest objective of your life. Nothing else comes close in importance. Jesus called it the greatest commandment.” “Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
When does God smile? God smiles when we love him supremely. Secondly,
2. God smiles when we trust him completely
The Book of Hebrews says, “By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told… As a result, Noah became intimate with God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Noah trusted in God’s word when he couldn’t understand God’s reasons. Every command in the Bible has two reasons. Two positive reasons. God never gives a command to stop us enjoying life the way he intends. God’s commands are there to protect us from harm and provide for our future. To protect and to provide. God warned Noah he was going to flood the earth. God commanded Noah to build a giant barge to save his family and the animals. Noah had plenty of reasons to doubt.
Noah had never seen rain. (Genesis 2:5-6 tells us that God watered the earth from underneath). Noah lived a long way from the sea. Noah had no experience of caring for large numbers of animals. Can you identify with Noah? Feel like you are being asked to do things beyond your experience?
Beyond your comfort zone? Are there areas of your life where you need to trust God’s word, even though you cannot understand his reasons or comprehend his motives? “Trusting is an act of worship. Just as parents are pleased when children trust their love and wisdom” trusting God makes him happy” Also. Isn’t it interesting that just before the writer to the Hebrews mentions Noah, he says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6). God smiled because Noah loved him supremely & trusted him completely.
3. God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly
did everything just as God commanded him.” (Genesis 6:22).
Undertaking the work of the World Wild Life Fund single-handedly required considerable skills in animal husbandry as well as logistics and attention to detail. “Notice that Noah obeyed completely.” The New Living Translation says “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.”
“Noah obeyed God wholeheartedly… without reservation or hesitation.” No wonder God smiled on Noah.
doesn’t owe you an explanation or reason for everything he asks you to do. Understanding
can wait but obedience can’t. Instant obedience will teach you more about God
than a lifetime of Bible discussions. In fact, you will never understand some
commands until you obey them first. Obedience unlocks understanding.” Often we
try and palm God off with partial obedience. We want to pick and choose which
commands we obey. We make a mental list of the commands we like and of those we
think were written for other people. Then we ignore “the ones we think are unreasonable,
difficult, expensive, or unpopular. I’ll attend church but I won’t tithe. I’ll
read my Bible but won’t forgive the person who hurt me.” Partial obedience is
On the other hand, “an act of obedience is also an act of worship. Why is obedience so pleasing to God?” For the same reason it is pleasing to you when your child obeys joyfully and willingly. It proves they trust you. It shows they love you. It demonstrates they respect you. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15). God smiles when we love him supremely, when we trust him completely, when we obey him wholeheartedly.
4. God smiles when we praise and thank him continually
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” (Genesis 8:20)
“Noah’s first act after surviving the Flood was to express his thanks to God by offering a sacrifice… Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we don’t offer animal sacrifices as Noah did.” Instead we are told “in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Joanna is a great cook. When we have guests, one of the things I love to do, is thank her for her lovely cooking, before they do. Why? “Few things feel better than receiving heartfelt praise and appreciation from someone else.” God has put that feeling in our hearts because it reflects his character too. Like Noah, “we praise God for who he is and we thank God for what he has done.” “An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving to God. When we give God enjoyment, our own hearts are filled with joy.” Learning to praise and thank God continually makes God smile, and our we are warmed by the radiance of his glory. God smiles when we love him supremely, when we trust him completely, when we obey him wholeheartedly, when we thank him continually.
5. God smiles when we receive his gifts joyfully
“Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth… Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” (Genesis 9:1,3)
Its easy to think God is only pleased “when you’re doing spiritual activities - like reading the Bible, attending church, praying, or sharing your faith… Actually, God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting or eating. He doesn’t miss a single move.” After the flood, God gave Noah and his family the same command he gave Adam and Eve. “Make love, have babies, enjoy one another.” We dress it up with expressions like “Be fruitful” but the bible shows, God delights and blesses us when we receive his gifts, including his physical gifts of our bodies, joyfully and reverently. The Bible says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23)
means everything we do can be done for God’s pleasure if we do it with an attitude
of praise. This includes washing the dishes, fixing the car, weeding the garden,
raising a family. “Like a proud parent, God especially enjoys watching you use
the talents and abilities he has given you.” Even the little things can bring
a smile to God’s face.
“In the film Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell says “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” On another occasion he said, “To give up running would be to hold him in contempt.” As Rick Warren says, “There are no unspiritual abilities; just misused ones… use yours for God’s pleasure … God also gains pleasure in watching you enjoy his creation. He gave you eyes to enjoy beauty, ears to enjoy sounds, your nose and taste buds to enjoy smells and tastes, and the nerves under your skin to enjoy touch. Every act of enjoyment becomes an act of worship when you thank God for it.” Paul writes to Timothy “God… generously gives us everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17 TEV). “God even enjoys watching you sleep.”
When our children were smaller, before going to bed myself, I would check on them. Sometimes I would just sit and watch them breathing, fast asleep. Its instinctive to feel protective if you are a parent but its also very satisfying. No matter what the day had been like, no matter what they had got up to, no matter what may have been said, or more usually, broken, I’d smile and thank God for them. “When you are sleeping, God gazes at you with love, because you were his idea. He loves you as if you were the only person on earth.” Parents do not expect their children to be perfect, or even mature to enjoy them. Parents derive enjoyment at every stage of a child’s development. “In the same way God doesn’t wait for you to reach maturity before he starts liking you. He loves and enjoys you at every stage of your spiritual development.”
As you were growing up, you may have had parents or teachers who were impossible to please. You may still do. “Please don’t assume God feels that way about you. He knows you are incapable of being perfect or sinless.” Noah certainly wasn’t. Psalm 103 reminds us, “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14).
What God is looking for in you and I is an attitude. The attitude of your heart. Your motivation. So let me ask you this morning - “Is pleasing him your deepest desire?” - I mean your deepest desire? Paul put it this way in his second letter to the Corinthians, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) Could you say that? “My goal is to please him.”
“When you live in light of eternity, your focus changes from “How much pleasure am I getting out of life?” to “How much pleasure is God getting out of my life? God is looking for people like Noah [today] people willing to live for the pleasure of God.” Willing to live to make God smile. Psalm 14 says, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who are wise, who want to please him.” (Psalm 14:2).
God smiles when we love him supremely.
God smiles when we trust him completely.
God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly.
God smiles when we thank him continually.
God smiles when we receive his gifts joyfully.
“Will you make pleasing God the goal of [the rest] of your life? There is nothing [absolutely nothing] that God won’t do for the person totally absorbed” with the desire to make God smile. Lets pray.
All quotations, apart from biblical references, are taken, with grateful thanks, from Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2002) pp. 69-76.