As I was tucking my 10-year-old princess into bed the other night, a question just kind of fell out amongst the pink blankets and snuggly kisses.
“Anna, what makes God happy with you?”
This was way easier than that science test we had just studied for. After all, she’s a pastor’s kid. A fourth generation follower of Christ. I expected her to nail it.
“When I try hard.”
What? Maybe she’s too tired. Brain shutting down. My 13-year-old will get this. So I wandered through the dimly lit hallway into the next room over and posed the same question to my favorite oldest daughter.
“Emma, what makes God happy with you?”
I sat back waiting to be blown away by her youthful wisdom and insight.
“When I get it right.”
Man oh man! Where are they getting this stuff? Maybe there’s a problem with the teacher and not the student? Is this the Gospel I’ve unfolded for them?
I’ve got three kids for a reason, and .300 is a pretty good batting average. So I moved with hope to my son’s room where I found him buried beneath a pile of stuffed animals. Make daddy proud, little man!
“Austin, what makes God happy with you?”
Come on son, you got this! No whammies!
”When I do everything I’m told.”
I was shocked. Saddened. Where would my kids have embraced this concept of reward-and-consequence affection? That morality and trying harder were the keys to God’s pleasure? That striving was the way to win God’s heart?
I’m pretty sure they got it from me.
Because that’s what I model. The lie that quietly seeps into my spirit. The default I revert to.
The message of the Gospel is so counter-intuitive to us. That God would give. That grace is free. That sin is paid for. Where’s the transaction? The effort? The pay scale?
What makes God happy is when we give up these self-righteous attempts to find the answers inside ourselves (try harder, get it right, do everything I’m told) and simply turn towards Him. That’s called repentance—a turning away from self and a turning toward God. It’s the realization you could never try hard enough, get it right enough, or obey enough to please the Holy Creator of the Universe. You can’t, so God did.
He smiles when you stop banking on your futile efforts and start embracing His accomplishments.
That’s what makes God happy. Remind yourself. You forget.
“If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it–you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked–well, that trusting-in-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift" (Romans 4:4-5, MSG).
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