"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Often I write and think of all the ways that I have strayed against God, and, if you're like me, it can often feel discouraging and a hopeless task to actually find refuge in Jesus. Or, maybe you're like me, and you think God is like the N.F.L... The No Fun League. God doesn't really want me to have fun. He's here to keep me in line, and I'll have joy later... maybe, so maybe finding refuge in Him isn't such a big deal.
In actuality, I think God encourages AND increases our joy when we honor him in the pleasures we enjoy here. Let me share an example.
I LOVE Boneless Buffalo Wings. And Pizza. And anything my wife Heather chooses to make for dinner. I think often that God just wants to restrict my joy by helping me realize that I shouldn't over eat, or that I shouldn't have a diet consisting solely of wings.
However, what scripture says is contrary to this. God actually wants us to praise Him when we eat, drink, have fun, etc. That actually, God is for our Joy, and that our greatest delight can't be in something as trivial as food, but instead it can be in Him who created it. Actually, biting into a fresh slice of Papa John's Pizza is not meant to cultivate worship for the food that lasts five minutes, but rather it cultivates a heart of worship for the Creator God who created the flavors, ingredients, and abilities for that pizza to arrive in my home and be devoured by yours truly.
But what happens when we worship the creation rather than the creator? When we forget to be thankful and captivated by God? We over eat. We make an idol. "Just one more slice," we say. And this happens across the board, right?
Sex, in God's confines, is this amazing thing that actually results in worship of the creator. In fact, God delights in human sexuality and the celebration of it in marriage! But, when we forget that it's about God and His glory, we go in different ways to satisfy the lust of our hearts. Pornography, fantasy, selfishness, romance novels... the list goes on and on in how we try to worship sex, rather than the creator of it and enjoy it in His confines.
Entertainment is the same way. When you watch Harry Potter, are you captivated by a carefully crafted and made up hero who saves the day? Or do you find even DEEPER joy in the shadow of Harry Potter, when we see the true and more perfect savior who actually died to see His beloved have true joy in an eternal lover?
Here's what I'm getting at: Are you thankful and giving glory to God for the things that you get to enjoy on a day in, day out basis? Are you seeing that when you watch Thor, play Halo 5000 (or whatever version they're up to), or eat that delicious wing, that it's actually an opportunity to worship the creator of all things? What happens when you do that? Worship happens! Joy happens! God is a good God who gives us good things!
How does this apply to our lives? Well, here are some practicals:
- Enjoy God's Gifts: Whether it's a job you're given, food that you get to eat, time off to rest, whatever it is, enjoy it and praise God that He has given it to you!
- Use God's Gifts for Good: One of the things that's striking in the I Corinthians 10 passage is Paul's encouragement to use their freedoms well. In other words, that they are called to give glory to God, but they are also called to use their freedom to care for others. So, food is awesome, but if you're with someone who is struggling with gluttony, it may not be a good idea to enjoy a pizza with them. Think about what will point people to Jesus.
- Remember that it's about worshiping Jesus: Whenever food, or any other gift, becomes about the gift and not God, it becomes a problem. Praise Him for football, food, people, etc. But also seek to understand when those things become idols, and repent from them. and turn to Jesus. (Examples: Getting angry during a basketball game, eating way past the point of fullness, engaging in sexual activity outside God's confines, watching movies/playing games when you should be working)