For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
In our last two Life for Leaders devotions, we have been focusing on Ephesians 5:10, which encourages us to “find out what pleases the Lord.” Today, I want to reflect a bit more on the process of discovering which actions are pleasing to God (and, therefore, which are not).
Sometimes, of course, this is easy. If my wife asks me to help her carry in the groceries, for example, I don’t need an hour to figure out what would please God. Unless I’m involved in some absolutely crucial and time-sensitive activity, I should help my wife. That will please God and her as well.
But many times in life, we’re just not sure what might please the Lord. We wrestle with challenging questions: What career should I choose? Should I marry this person even though we think differently about matters of faith? How many children should we have? Should we join the church with the strong Sunday School program for our children or the one that offers stronger worship and teaching for the adults? How can I live out my faith in my workplace? To what extent should my Christian values be reflected in the business decisions I make at work? Should we move our family to a faraway place because of a tempting job offer? Should I retire even though I feel as if I still have so much to offer? What should I do in retirement? And so forth and so on. You can add your own ethical queries to this list. I’m sure you have plenty.
This line of questions could lead us into a far-reaching discussion about knowing God’s will. I don’t want to engage that conversation right now. Rather, I want to stay focused on the passage we are reflecting on. It supplies one trustworthy answer to the question: How can I know what pleases the Lord? The answer: Pay attention to all goodness, righteousness, and truth. As you think about the possibilities before you, ask yourself and ask the Lord which one has the potential to produce more goodness, which will produce right relationships, and which is consistent with God’s clear truth. Take time to seek the Lord’s wisdom about this, consulting wise sisters and brothers in Christ.
But—and this is key—make sure your understanding of goodness, righteousness, and truth is shaped by Scripture. It would be easy to fill in the meaning of these words with your own hunches or with whatever is trendy in the culture. Yet, by doing either of these, you would be likely to miss the mark. If you are going to produce fruit that pleases God, then you need to be sure your life is filled with what God considers to be good, right, and true. As God’s children, we are to reflect his own character in our lives. Thus, our life choices should be shaped by God’s own goodness, righteous, and truthfulness as revealed in Scripture and made flesh in Jesus Christ.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of an example where the biblical understanding of goodness, righteousness, or truth differs from what seems natural to you?
Can you think of an example where there is a difference between biblical values and the culture?
Where in your life are you producing a harvest of goodness, righteousness, and/or truth?
Something to Do:
Talk with a wise friend or with your small group about an issue in your life where you’re not sure about how to act in a way that is consistent with God’s goodness, righteousness, and truth.
Gracious God, I want to live my life so as to please you. Sometimes, though, I’m not quite sure what this means in practice. I face choices that perplex me, choices not between right and wrong so much as between gradations of right. I want to do what’s best, but sometimes am not clear what this is. So help me, Lord, to find out what pleases you. Guide me to see how my life can produce the abundant fruit of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Lead me through your Word. Counsel me through your people. Help me to be more like Christ each day. Amen.