Anyone trying to follow behavioral rules set for you by others including your spouse, parents, or family or by well-meaning Christians and preachers by quoting rules from Scripture know that they can never be good enough to measure up to these impossible standards.
You jump through one hoop, and they put out another for you to jump through. You want to please people, but your good enough is never good enough to suit them!
Hoop-jumpers are like tigers in a circus. They are well-trained animals and are trained to go against their natural ferocious instinct. It’s amazing!
The hoop-jumping tigers are rewarded by the trainer with food and affirmation so that they will continue to jump through hoops at their next performance. They have been well conditioned to obey because their trainer has them under his control. The tigers have lost their natural identity.
So, pause for a minute and ask yourself. “Am I a hoop-jumping person seeking to please the person or people who have me under their control or am I free from the control of controlling people so that I can experience who I really am in Christ?”
Which is it? Controlled by others with my life being smothered or am I controlled by Christ who gives life and life abundantly and free?
The Apostle Paul knew the difference. In his former life, he was a people-pleaser striving to jump through all the hoops of the law in order to be affirmed by his fellow Pharisees and members of the ruling Sanhedrin. He went to the extreme of arresting and murdering Christians which pleased them immensely! People-pleasers and affirmation addicts will do almost anything so as not to rock the boat and get rejected and left out.
Paul beamed when his fellow Oharisees told him in front of their meeting, “That a boy, Paul, you done good! Way to eliminate those Christians and their threat to our prestige and power!”
But after Christ revealed Himself to Paul with His blinding light, Paul saw the light and his error of pleasing people. He wrote, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10).
But, Christ brought a stop to such a twisted people-pleasing addiction.
Yes, we can become addicted to pleasing people. It gives a rush when we are adored and approved with their “atta boy.”
By attempting to follow the letter of the law with all of its endless rules and regulations, the very life of Paul was being sucked right out of him! Paul thought that the law was bringing him life, but it was killing him.
Spiritual and emotional death and loss of identity are the consequences for those who are people-pleasers and try to jump through the endless hoops others put out there for them in order to gain acceptance, approval, and fit in. It’s an awful and painful way to live when you merge your ego inside someone else’s ego. You don’t know where you boundary line stops and where the other person’s begins. It’s like living in a river of green, slimy, stinking sludge! Yuk!
Paul saw the Light of Life. He realized his people-pleasing lifestyle was killing him and that only by living in the Spirit was true life!
There is another side to people-pleasers too. This is their effort to get what they want from God by attempting to please Him. “Dear Lord, if you will just give me this or that or heal me, I will go to church every Sunday. I’ll stop looking at porn. I’ll quit being so mean and short-tempered with my spouse. I’ll be a better Christian.”
Get the picture? Have you ever prayed like that? I have.
That’s the attitude of a Pharisee who tried to be righteous by doing. Jesus told a story about that.
A Pharisee looked at a sinner and prayed, “Thank you God that I am not like that sinner over there.”
The sinner prayed, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:9-14).
Which one went away justified with his sins forgiven?
For us, the prayer of the Pharisee would be, “Lord, look how much I’m doing and have done for you. I’m not like Susan who doesn’t even go to church regularly. Yet, she has everything I yearn for and have asked you for time and time again. She has the perfect husband and perfect children. She wears the nicest clothes and drives a late model Lexus SUV. You’ve blessed her with everything. What’s wrong with me that You haven’t blessed me like you have her? Why?”
For me, the Pharisee’s prayer was, “Lord, I have a seminary education. I’ve grown this small church. I work hard for you. I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me that I know to do. Why don’t I have a big, high-steepled church like the one in Evans instead of this small rural church in Jefferson County that I’m stuck in???
Instead, I should have prayed, “Lord, thank you for these dear people in my small congregation. You said, “Where two or three are gathered in your name that you are in the midst of us” (Matthew 18-20).
I made myself miserable in tying to be good enough to please God in order that I might get from Him a high-steepled church that I so earnestly coveted.
And like Paul, I finally saw the Light, and turned my prayers from my self-righteousness to prayers of gratitude thanking Him for allowing me to pastor my small congregation and loving and affirming me. When my praying turned around, that caused me to be happy and content with myself and my circumstances. The Spirit indeed gives life!
The Spirit gives freedom too. Paul was freed from legalism, religious rules, and wanting to climb the ladder of success in his religious world. The religious rules were and are impossible to keep.
The Spirit gave me freedom from comparing myself to the success of other pastors and freed me from covetousness. I became free to be me and who I am in Christ and to enjoy, really enjoy, all the blessings and Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that he gave and is giving me.
I am good enough for Christ just as I am. I couldn’t and don’t make myself good enough for Him. I found that’s impossible. I’ll never be good enough for that and was wasting my life trying to be “good enough!”
Instead, I discovered the truth. “Since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory” (Romans 5:1-2 CEB).
It’s all Christ’s mercy and grace that makes me food enough for Him. My righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Christ made me righteous and gave me the gift of inner mental, emotional, and spiritual peace. The Spirit indeed gives life. The letter of the law kills!