On October 15, 1971, Ricky Nelson, along with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell, gave a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. Ricky began his part by playing the 50’s era rock that made him famous – hits like “Hello Mary Lou” and “You Belong to Me.” But when he played “Country Honk” (a country version of the Rolling Stones song “Honky Tonk Woman”) the crowd began to boo. Some who were present said the booing was directed toward the police at the back of the audience. But, whatever the real reason, Ricky took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert from backstage and did not return for the grand finale at the end of the concert.
In 1972, Ricky wrote the song “Garden Party,” a recollection of the concert in Madison Square Garden. The song tells of those who were present – Yoko Ono, John Lennon (the walrus), and George Harrison (Hughes, hid in Dylan’s shoes and wearing his disguise). The song notes that, when Ricky played the song “Honky Tonk” it was time to leave and out stepped Johnny B. Goode (a reference to Chuck Berry playing the song by that same title). The song ends with the words “If all I could do was play memories I’d rather drive a truck” (probably a reference to Elvis Presley driving a truck before he “hit it big” with his music.
The chorus of the song includes the following: “But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well, You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” It is said that this sentiment became the guiding principle for Ricky’s life.
I don’t write this to be critical of Ricky Nelson. I can see where it would be important for him to play music that he wants to play, regardless of what others may expect of him. But the words in the chorus caused me to wonder. It is true that we cannot please everyone. But should we consequently focus on pleasing ourselves? What’s wrong with such a philosophy? It leaves God out!
Christ, being our perfect example in all things, is our perfect example in pleasing God. “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29 ~ King James Version). Also, see Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5 and Matthew 26:39.
No one will ever have the mind of Christ until he makes fully pleasing God the focus of his life. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4 ~ King James Version).
What does it take to live a life that is pleasing to God? It begins with faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ~ King James Version). Faith is what enables us to “get out of the boat” and do those things God wants us to do (Matthew 14:22-33). Because of their little faith, too many Christians have spent years refusing to leave their comfort zone. When opportunities to serve the church come their way, their too often heard cry is “I’ve never done that before. Go ask someone else.“ They are very much like the one talent man in the parable of the talents; a man whom Jesus described in the parable as “wicked and slothful” (Matthew 25:14-33).
Pleasing God requires that we take God’s will and put it ahead of our own. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39 ~ King James Version).
Pleasing God may sometimes involve displeasing men. “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 ~ King James Version). I can easily live with my own actions, as unpleasing to men as they may be, if I am confident they are pleasing to God.
Pleasing God requires that we think of others and cast out all selfishness from our lives. “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16 ~ King James Version).
Pleasing God allows our prayers to be answered. “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22 ~ King James Version). Can a person who lives a life that displeases God and has little regard for God’s commandments really expect to be pleasing to God?
How about you? Is your life pleasing to God?