This is my first sermon. You can read it below or watch the video at the end.
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Pleasing people is a rough job. It’s a burden, as Crowder sings about above. (By the way, LOVE this video.)
Will anyone admit to being a people pleaser?
I mean, if you think about it, pleasing people is good at its essence. Serving, helping, assisting, and being hospitable are all good activities. When does it cross the line into a detrimental behavior? When you let others dictate your actions to the point of feeling resentful. The act of healthy serving and pleasing is kept in check by balancing the needs of others and the needs of yourself and your family.
And yet, during different seasons in our lives we have to put others before ourselves.
- Putting the team first before my selfish ambition to stand out and be recognized.
- Putting my spouse first when he/she needs more support.
- Putting my toddler first when she’s sick at 2am.
- Putting my mother in law first when we decided it was better to live with us than on her own.
People pleasing goes awry when we lose ourselves and our identity in the service of others.
How do you know if you’re a people pleaser?
- You often back down from arguments.
- You don’t often address conflict.
- You go out of your way to make people happy even at your own expense.
- You take little time for yourself.
- You sacrifice your time and money for other people to your own detriment.
- You have a lot of one sided relationships where the other party seems to gain more from you than you from them.
- Saying no is difficult and you rarely do it.
- People take advantage of your good nature
Ok, so maybe you can identify with some of these bullets above. What causes this behavior?
There are many causes of people pleasing behavior. It often comes from co-dependence mixed with low self esteem. In short you can’t stand the idea of being alone and yet you are low enough in self esteem that you don’t think people will want to be with you unless you are completely bending to their will at all times. This then means that you then bend over backwards to be compliant and accommodating in fear that the slightest disagreement will cause people to leave you – to break off their relationship or friendship with you and that this will then leave you on your own.
The Galatians had forgotten to please God over man and the Apostle Paul (my most favorite because he’s crusty and basically a jerk) wrote this letter to address this situation. We are going to look at two key issues that Paul wrote about to the people of Galatia about Christian freedom:
- Conquering the “need to please” everyone
- Concentrating on pleasing God
People pleasers often feel trapped by the expectations of others. They don’t feel free to make their own decisions or set their own boundaries and say, “no.” Last summer I didn’t feel free in my walk with Christ. I felt like a people pleaser on my blog.
Last summer, after a 5 week study of Acts with IF:Equip, I felt worn out. Tired from studying Acts. Confused about how the Old Testament laws fit into my New Testament life. I was ready for a simpler way. It can’t possibly be this difficult to be a Christ Follower in 2014. I was trapped in legalism and I didn’t even know it. We were about to embark on a three week study of Galatians when one of my fellow IF:Equippers said Galatians happened to be her favorite book because it freed her from legalism.
I wrote this on my blog in anticipation of the Galatians study.
Can there be a simpler way?
I found myself wistfully daydreaming that, perhaps, there was a book with only the red-letters of Jesus’ utterances. Maybe if I just cut out all subtext, context, cultural norms, societal boundaries and references to Old Testament law and applied only Jesus’ words henceforth, existing in this 2014 church realm might be just a tad easier.
I’m learning not all interpretations of Biblical precepts are the same. I’m learning that women, from the baby-Christians on up to those mature in their walk with Christ, all struggle with issues unsaid or deemed inappropriate for discussion within a church setting. It seems very simple: let’s talk about those things. Perhaps this stroll through Galatians will help me see how my walk can be simpler, more straightforward, yet still deep and meaningful.
Maybe I’m over-thinking things lately because they seem wrapped in politics, legalism and minutia. Maybe it really is just… simple.
What Paul is telling the people of Galatia is this: it truly is just simple, remember? I’ve already taught you this once.
The Jewish Christians in Galatia were teaching that salvation could be obtained through works and obedience to the laws of Moses (all 613 of them). Paul was refuting this teaching and reminding the Galatians why this was wrong. Paul also defended himself as having the right to bring the message as a true apostle and where the message came from (he wasn’t just making it up). Also, he was good enough to bring the message as a true apostle, just like the original disciples even though he’d never met Christ while he was alive. We’re going to see how Paul addresses these two dilemmas in his letter to the Galatians.
Paul’s answer was to proclaim that Christians are justified by faith plus nothing and that we were sanctified by the Holy Spirit, not Mosaic Law. In essence, Paul was being accused of preaching a “cheap version” of admission to God’s kingdom. His argument can be seen in Galatians 1:10
Paul’s gospel was not popular because he was saying to obey God, not men. Not the Jewish hierarchy or religious elite. He was establishing and maintaining and supporting God’s authority over men, which makes these people angry. How dare you say we’re not in charge? How dare you say our time-tested, given-to-Moses-by-God laws are no longer valid? It was much harder to go against the grain, to swim upstream, to defy societal norms and say that Christ was sovereign over man. That was radical. So, to his point, it would have been much EASIER for Paul to seek the approval of man over God. He was highly educated and well-respected in the ways of man (Jewish law and rabbinical tradition). But Paul would not alter his message of the Gospel to gain favor or avoid punishment.
He refused to be a religious elite pleaser.
The article I read about How you know if you’re a people pleaser suggested several ways to get over it. Let’s see if Paul’s actions match.
- Be disagreeable from time to time – Practice being awkward, stubborn or just unpleasant in a low stakes scenario. This was pretty high stakes – Christianity without strings. Paul was certainly disagreeable, stubborn and unpleasant in his letter. But aren’t you glad?
- Practice letting people down. – He let down the Pharisees when he quit killing Christians and became their #1 enemy. But, he didn’t let down the people on whose side he was fighting for – Gentile Christians.
- Ask for something – He asked the Galatians to remember what they were taught originally and return to the truth.
- Tell people you struggle with this. – He told the Galatians he specifically was here to please God, not man. So, he didn’t struggle with this, and he said so specifically.
- Sever relationships that are one sided. He didn’t cut off the Galatians when they slipped up and started to return to the familiar ways of faith + works = salvation. He reminded them, chastised them, made his points again, got a little testy with them and impatient and ended in love. He didn’t sever the relationship.
How many of us can say that? We’ve stuck to our guns when we knew it was God’s plan for our life. Perhaps our friends and family were trying to sway us, said we were crazy, and doubted the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our life. And yet, we chose obedience over pleasing them.
Paul’s response to those who doubted his worthiness as a true apostle was to clarify the manner in which he received the Gospel – from Heaven, not books >>.
Paul was a Jewish scholar who, early in his career, dedicated his life to persecuting the VERY PEOPLE he was now part of: Christians. (See Acts 9). Can you imagine the meeting between Paul and the disciples? “Um, hey Peter, Paul the Christian-killer here. I’ve switched sides and now I’m on yours. K? Let’s go save some souls for Jesus!”
- It would be like Hitler converting to Judaism in the middle of World War II and meeting with Jewish leaders to inform them he’d converted and would now be actively seeking their support and assistance to further the religion.
- It would be like Hilary Clinton announcing she’d had a change of heart and would now be vying for the Republican nomination.
- It would be like one of the best Green Bay Packers of all time, #4, QB Brett Favre playing for the Vikings! Oh wait, that happened.
Based on his past, people doubted Paul’s message now. How could he be saying this now when he’d spent his entire early career doing the opposite?
Jesus doesn’t necessarily call the qualified, HE qualifies the called. Essentially, people doubted Paul had really been called by Christ (himself). He, a person who had actively pursued and murdered Christians in the recent past. You can’t get any more “how dare you” and “you are unworthy” than MURDER.
People will doubt your calling. They will think it’s crazy and stupid. They will ask you to prove how you are called and try to make you think you aren’t good enough.
If Jesus lives in you, if you have a good working relationship with the holy spirit, you’re basically just like Paul. He happened to encounter a resurrected Jesus on the side of a road. You can encounter a resurrected Jesus every day – without the pesky eye scales!
Would you deny what Jesus has told you just to please someone standing in front of you? If you’ve felt Jesus move in your life. If you can pinpoint even one single spiritual act that manifested in your life, how can you then deny that reality to someone standing in front of you?
Is it more important to please God or man? I’d rather please God because He will never leave me. He always has my back.
Can you say that about people?