I have always appreciated the Westminster Catechism’s definition of the chief purpose of mankind. “The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
The concept that we can glorify and enjoy God is gratifying, but there is an attached truth that is exhilarating. We were created for God’s pleasure and are well equipped in body, mind and spirit to bring him reciprocal enjoyment. God is highly glorified by believers who delight in him as a person and have confidence that the enjoyment is mutual.
Occasionally, I am asked how I generate faith for God’s favor and provision. The answer is that I know of a surety that not only does God love me, but he actually likes me and enjoys my company. This confidence is an irreplaceable faith strengthener.
The religious mindset assumes that the only way to cultivate confidence of God’s approval is to fill most every waking moment with the pursuit of overtly spiritual activities. Many believers don’t feel that the Lord is glorified nor given pleasure unless they are engaged in the likes of singing choruses, listening to Christian teachings, witnessing and injecting Christianese jargon into every discussion regardless of the context and topic of conversation.
I believe this mindset is a mutant hybrid abnormality that has little in common with the biblical approach to authentic life in Christ. The contamination comes from preaching that emphasizes a division between secular responsibilities and spiritual responsibilities. Biblically, there is no such division as all aspects of life are spiritual, even though they are not all primarily religious. God’s divine influence and pleasure can be experienced in every arena of life, though every arena is not obligated to be overtly religious in its content and exercise.
This line of reasoning might be understood by considering how and why God created man and the record of the life of Jesus. As we do this, it is important to keep in mind that every Christian should be able to enjoy their relationship with the Lord; but, it is even more essential that we become the type of people whom God enjoys. We were created in God’s image and for his pleasure. (Gen. 1:26-27; Eph 1:5-9; Rev 4:11 KJV)
The fact that we are created in God’s image indicates that all of our talents, interests, and our abilities to find fulfillment in creative endeavors are reflections
of his nature. After the Lord created man, he placed him in a garden for creative productivity, rather than a church building for the observance of religious practice. (Gen 2:15) Apparently, God derives great pleasure from watching us enjoy non-religious activities.
This is clear because life was divinely designed in a manner that by necessity requires that the majority of our time be spent in mundane activities. God could have easily required that we set aside six days per week as Sabbaths for worship and one day for routine duties. This would have proven that he actually puts a premium on religion more so than routine tasks.
The Lord enjoys watching a mother diapering her infant and a father laboring to provide for his family as much as he does when each is engaged in worship or witnessing. God is the Eternal Creator and ceativity satisfies him. He delights in a child’s smile of satisfaction when showing-off a first finger–painting to parents.
It is as gratifying for him to watch Christians perfecting their vocations and avocations as it is for them to sense the inner joy that comes from confidence of God’s approval. The film “Chariots of Fire” featured a Scottish missionary who was challenged by his mission board to refrain from running in the Olympics.
The religionists did not think running was a worthy use of his energies. His response reveals much about the breadth of God’s interests. He said, “I feel the pleasure of God when I am running.” God inspires our desires for doing good things that please him and us. (Philip 2:13)
I sense God’s approbation as I pump out articles for the ministries of others as well as my own. The sensation of the warmth of God’s smile on my spirit does not dissipate when I take kids and adults hunting who have not previously camped in the wilderness. And, believe it or not, Prudence and I feel joy from the Lord’s presence when we occasionally visit the local horse track.
We make small donations in the name of the horses that have our “votes.” So far the ponies have delivered as predicted far more often than our favorite conservative politicians.
It would pay all believers to reconsider the theology that suggest that God dislikes anything that we like. Just because an activity is fun and is not preceded by an hour of concentrated worship and prayer does not make it sinful. The qualifier as to whether or not an activity can be enjoyed in righteousness is how easily you can imagine God enjoying watching you participate in whatever it is.
It was a joy for the Heavenly Father to observe his Son growing up and developing into a master carpenter during the thirty years before he launched into fulltime ministry. God the Father gave testimony of this at Jesus’ water baptism when He spoke from heaven and said, “You are my beloved Son, in you I am well
pleased.” (Luke 3:22) Up until this event, Jesus had not preached a single sermon or healed anyone. His life was that of an ordinary man of his day.
Jesus worked long hours to earn a living. He had relatives and close personal friends with whom He chose to fellowship. Like most Jews, he observed the Sabbath and the various religious holidays. For sure, the Lord looked forward to beginning public ministry. Nonetheless, none would imagine that he moped in agonized frustration until the day he was released to minister.
To the contrary, he said that he knew that he always did the things that pleased his Father. (Jn 8:29) The word “always” is all-inclusive without time limit. This indicates that He understood that God enjoyed him when he swept the floor of the carpenter shop as much as he did when he later raised the dead. Unlike many sincere contemporary Christians, there is no evidence that Jesus so longed for religious pursuits that he felt miserably unfulfilled when He was occupied with the ordinary activities of life.
Choose to Believe that God Likes You
We reflect the nature of God by the types of people with whom we choose to fellowship. Normally, we seek the companionship of those who exemplify security in the knowledge that they are meaningful to us. We are drawn to people who express a zest for life and enthusiasm for the projects of others.
Conversely, we tend to avoid people who are insecure about their relationship with us and incessantly try to win our approval. The emotional drain is too much to contend with outside of occasional ministry sessions.
Most people find it unpleasant to keep company with those who are frustrated with themselves and life in general. Unquestionably, God loves those who are insecure, frustrated, and needy. So should we. He graciously meets their needs and visits them with episodes of his comforting presence. So should we.
It is possible however, that the Lord finds pleasure in and prefers to abide with those who maintain an attitude of gratitude toward him and always look for the positive in every venue of life. This is not unlike our tendency to prefer the company of optimistic people who perceive us as valuable assets.
It is my conviction that teachings that condition people to be dissatisfied with necessary daily occupations are counterproductive to the propagation of the Gospel. Such doctrines cause people to plummet into that which 1 Peter 1:18 (NIV) calls “… the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.”
The quality of their lives spirals into emptiness because they have been robbed of the capacity to enjoy the pleasures that are divinely designed to comprise life here on earth. This has dismal end results. They cannot truly experience the Lord in his fullness and God misses the opportunity to enjoy them to the optimum extent.
In addition, they present a skewed picture to the unsaved of what the Christian life is all about. The worldly may be spiritually uninformed, but they are not undiscerning. They comprehend far more from what is exemplified by our attitudes and ability to flow in life’s diverse situations than they do from our testimonies of God’s power. Enjoyment of all aspects of life whether religious or mundane is an impressive demonstration of possession of God’s peace and power.
Unbelievers are attracted to us when we exhibit wholeness and a zest for life. If we demonstrate an existence that appears complicated by religious restrictions that have no obvious intrinsic rhyme or reason, it supports the notion that God and Christians are boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus has bequeathed to us everything pertinent to rich and satisfying lives. (Jn 10:10 NLT)
The Christian life is more so a decathlon than a 100 yard dash. Of course, if it the End is truly at hand, all Christians everywhere will have spontaneous stimuli to begin the final sprint. In that event, time spent in overtly religious pursuits will by necessity increase due to genuine revival mode.
Visitations of the Spirit and periods of refreshing from the presence of the Lord cannot be manufactured by the hyper-religiosity of man. More often than not, ministries that have been fountainheads of great outpouring confide that there did not seem to be any direct correlation with what they were doing and the onset of glorious periods. Church history has proven that those who copycat methods seldom have duplicate results.
The initiative is with God, not with man. Meanwhile, enjoy God and approach the entirety of life in a manner that gives God good reason to anticipate time with you as a refreshing delight.
Be blessed and be a blessing