Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Enjoying God

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

If I were to ask you “Do you believe in God?”, I suspect that very likely you would say yes (I think that most people who read this blog are Christians, after all). And suppose I asked “Do you obey God?”. I guess that you would answer “Well, I certainly aim to, though I often fall short.” So what about “Do you love God?” Again, I think very likely you would say “Well, I genuinely mean to, though I wish I loved him more!”

All right. Then what about “Do you enjoy God?” Could you say that?

You might reply “But the Bible never tells us to enjoy God!” Well, perhaps not in quite those words. But there are many places where it tells us to “rejoice in the Lord” and such like. And here in Psalm 34 we are told to “taste and see that the Lord is good”, or, as the Good News Bible puts it, “Find out for yourself how good the Lord is.” That sounds to me pretty much like an invitation to enjoy God.

It has obviously struck earlier generations of Christians that way too. A summary of Christian faith from nearly four hundred years ago (it’s called the Westminster Shorter Catechism) says that “the duty of man” is “to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” I like that!

Two questions spring to mind...

First, what does it mean to enjoy God?

It’s hard to sum up, but I would put it something like this... To live a life where every little nook and cranny of your being is soaked in the presence of God; to know that, through Jesus’ cross, all your sins are forgiven and your eternal life is assured; to have the Holy Spirit within you, prompting you to pray, worship, and live a Christlike life; to have a hope and a meaning right now in your earthly life, as well as beyond death.

Much more too, of course; but that’s perhaps the basics. Jesus said that he had come so that we might “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). So to enjoy God is to know him as Father and Friend, and to walk hand-in-hand with him day by day.

But then the second question: what factors spoil our enjoyment of God? Why do we find this aim so unrealistic?

I’ve picked out what I think are the three main problems...
  1. Sin - obviously.
This is far and away the major factor. God calls us to a pure and holy life, so if we flirt with sin - or, worse, brazenly embrace it - there is no way we will ever enjoy God.
I’m not talking about times we genuinely struggle against sin but fall short. Of course, that happens to all of us, because we are all sinners, even those who have been following Jesus for a whole life-time. No; I’m talking about the danger of allowing our hearts to become hard and cold, of putting our consciences to sleep. If that’s where we’re at, we might as well drop any hope of enjoying God. Forget it.
  1. Anxiety.
Is this our biggest enemy when it comes to enjoying God? Let’s be realistic: there’s no easy answer to it. We all have anxieties - over health or family, work or money, etc, etc - and these anxieties can’t just be wafted away as if with a magic wand.

Peter tells us (1 Peter 5:7) to “cast all your anxiety” upon God, and though that may sound very simple, in fact it isn’t. No, it calls for a real effort of will (cast is an “effortful” word!). Indeed, it’s a battle we will be fighting till the day we die. But by God’s grace it can be won. Anxiety needs to be hammered firmly on the head every time it rears up.
  1. Busyness.
This brings up the rear, but it’s also a big factor. Life is just so busy! - it’s hard enough sometimes squeezing God in at the corners of our lives, never mind enjoying him. And to make matters worse, often it’s busyness about God’s work - church matters, ministry responsibilities, meetings, agendas, committees, you name it - that prevents us enjoying God. Yes, we are so busy doing God’s work that we can’t enjoy him. How crazy is that!

The Bible tells us to “be still” and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10). Jesus told his disciples to “come away and rest” for a while (Mark 6:31). Jesus commended Mary for sitting listening at his feet (Luke 10:41-42). For us, this may amount to not much more than the occasional snatched fifteen minutes; but it will be worth it.

Our promise and our hope is that we are going to enjoy God for ever. So let’s make a start now! Yes - taste and see...

To be in your presence,/ To sit at your feet,/ Where your love surrounds me,/ And makes me complete./ This is my desire, O Lord,/ This is my desire... Amen. (Noel Richards)

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