If you just thought, “That is not her normal topic, and she is not an expert on it”, we don’t necessarily disagree; but then I am not really an expert on anything. The only thing I propose to do is continue this journey of life as I follow Jesus. I like Jesus.
A few weeks ago, I walked home singing, “In Your presence there is fullness of joy and at Your right hand there are pleasures evermore. You surround us with Your favor, oh Lord; the earth is full with Your goodness. The earth is filled with Your love. Exceedingly. Abundantly. Far above all we could could ever ask or pray. Exceedingly. Abundantly. You give us all things to enjoy.”
Suddenly I heard the words I was singing. I was literally coming from a conversation about whether God wanted me to enjoy certain things in my life and whether it was important to Him whether I enjoyed them versus simply used them correctly. We talked about something like that anyway. I wasn’t purposely singing the answer to the question. God just had me accidentally singing it.
Knowing the worship songs from that era were often just rhymed Bible versus, I came home and googled the phrase. Where was it written that God had given me all things to enjoy?
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17
Just to be certain I wasn’t reading something it wasn’t saying, I read the whole book to ensure I wasn’t taking it out of context. But no, it seems to mean exactly what it sounds like it says. Everything He gives me He has given me to enjoy.
I don’t think I live my life with a focus on enjoying what He has given me. Often I live my life tolerating what He has given me and trying to make peace with it. Only this morning I found myself praying, “God, couldn’t You just call someone else to this task and release me? Why do You insist on using me in this way? I am tired of being used in this way. Why can’t I do something simple and quiet somewhere? Something easy?” Clearly not a selfless conversation with God that I can be proud of. However, I am proud that when given an option to opt out of what He asked me to do do later in the day, without hesitation I said, “No, the Spirit has not released me yet.”
I’d rather I’d pray, “Here I am, God, use me.” Has it ever struck you that you are entirely and completely qualified to do what God is asking you to do? I mean if you have received forgiveness for all your sins from God the Father because of the death of God the Son, and you have the Spirit of God who is the most powerful being in the universe living in you, and Jesus Christ has appointed you to the task by communicating to you through the Holy Spirit and His Word, what more do you need? What other qualification are you looking for? Isn’t “Jesus said so and gave me His Spirit to do it.” enough?
But I digress…
I think one of the things that scares followers of Jesus about living a life of enjoying what God has given them is that it is hard to imagine that this is what Christ meant when He said, “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me [to death].” How can focusing on enjoying God’s good gifts line up with a command like that?
It strikes me that Paul never said that God gave us things to pursue, use or abuse. Nor are we to be fulfilled by the things God has given us to enjoy. Gluttony and indulgence are not enjoyment. Keeping and hoarding are not enjoyment either. In the next verse, we are told to enjoy what we have been given by giving it away. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” Didn’t Jesus Himself say that it was better to give than receive? And that if we have two coats, we should give one away? Today it is so cold that I think I should wear two at a time!
Nor does God give us sin to enjoy. This verse is not an excuse to watch porn or mistreat the opposite sex in dating relationships. God hasn’t given us the right to be physical with people to whom we are not married. He definitely never gives us the right to take what is not ours (as in porn). He gives us sex to enjoy in the marital relationship; and even then He gives it to enjoy in the context of realizing that our body is not our own but our spouse’s and their body is ours. It is in the context of mutual surrender and selflessness.
I often use the things God has given me mindlessly without enjoyment and so without gratitude. My hot shower, clean water, expensive cereal, yogurt, reading glasses and warm bed often go unnoticed in my morning time with God. Often I just wish I was asleep again. I don’t like to eat much in the morning, so I pull up my nose at eating what is incredibly tasty. I don’t enjoy it. Sometimes I tolerate it.
It brings me so much pleasure when the kids I babysit enjoy the good gifts their parents give them. It must bring pleasure to my Father’s heart when I enjoy what His Son literally died so that I could have.
I am glad that this truth is finally beginning to sink into my heart. I am glad I stumbled across it in a way that I was able to begin applying to my life. I still believe that He has asked me to take all I have and give it to the poor. I still believe that biblically He has only promised His disciples food and clothing. I still believe that He doesn’t want me to pursue financial security beyond receiving my security from His promises. (I also believe that there are principles in the Bible that teach that He will provide me with food and clothing without me needing to acquire debt in order to receive them – contingent on the fact that I am not wasting His resources. Nonetheless when the Psalmist asks if I have ever seen the children of the righteous begging bread, sometimes I would like to answer, “Yes!”.)
I am not good at enjoying God’s good gifts. I am not good at trusting God will lead me somewhere I want to go if I entirely trust Him. I don’t always believe that if I ask for bread, He won’t give me a stone or if I ask for fish, He won’t give me a snake. I know this because while I was writing this article I thought, “I just hope that He doesn’t lead me down a path that degrades me.”
Believing God has good in store for me is incredibly difficult. To seriously paraphrase my counselor this morning, “It does no good to try to figure out how good can come from this. Only cling to His promises as you follow with a mind open to knowing His call may be different than you think.”
“Yes, Father, but can you first promise not to degrade me, then I will follow wherever You lead.”
“Then they slapped him in the face and struck him with their fists; others slapped him and said, ‘Prophecy to us, Messiah! Who hit You?’ Now Peter was standing out in the courtyard where a servant girl saw him…”
Someone was degraded.
Do you enjoy the good gifts God has given you? What do you take for granted instead of enjoying? Do you ever indulge in gluttony instead of enjoying what you have by giving it away to someone who actually needs it?