The people in the prophet Micah’s day complained that God was never satisfied. They snidely asked, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?” (Micah 6:7). It was their way of asking, “What does God want from us, anyway?” Some people today feel like all their striving to please God goes for nothing, and they, too, ask, “What does God want from me?”
Jesus was asked once which commandment of the Law was the greatest. He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30–32; cf. Matthew 22:37–39). What God wants is really quite simple: He wants us. All our service for God must flow from those two commands to love, or it is not real service; it is fleshly effort. And Romans 8:8 says that those who are “in the flesh cannot please God.”
First, God wants us to trust in His Son as Savior and Lord (Philippians 2:9–11). Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” We come to know Jesus through repenting of our sin and accepting Him as our personal sacrifice (Romans 10:9; John 1:12). When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to show them the Father, He replied, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). God wants us to know Him, and we can only know Him through Jesus.
Next, God wants us to “become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). The Father wants all of His children to be like Jesus. He brings situations into our lives to refine us and chip away those flawed characteristics that are in the way of our becoming who He designed us to be (Hebrews 12:7; James 1:12). As Jesus was obedient to the Father in everything, so the goal of every child of God should be to obey our Heavenly Father (John 8:29). First Peter 1:14–15 says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”
Many people, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, try to put the external action before the inner heart change (Luke 11:42). They place all the focus on what they do rather than who they are. But, unless love for God is our motivation, outward displays of goodness only result in pride and legalism. Neither pleases God. When we surrender ourselves totally to Him, His Holy Spirit empowers us to love God fully and serve Him from the right motive. True service and holiness are simply the outworking of the Spirit, the overflowing of a life dedicated to the glory of God. When our focus is on loving God rather than simply serving Him, we end up doing both. If we skip the relationship, our service is of no use and benefits nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1–2).
The prophet Micah responded to the Israelites’ complaint that they didn’t know what God wanted from them. The prophet says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). God’s desire for us is very simple. People complicate things, tacking on rules and man-made laws that ensure frustration and kill the joy in following Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6). God wants us to love Him with all our hearts and let our obedience stem from a heartfelt desire to be pleasing in His sight.
David understood what God wanted when he prayed, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:16–17).