Simple Pleasure

It surprised me to find that the term, “pleasure” is the Bible 34 times! So anyone who
thought that God wasn’t at all interested in pleasure, for him and for us, was pretty much
mistaken. The problem is that we just don’t know what true pleasure, eternal pleasure,
pure pleasure is. And we don’t know how to get it. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Most men
pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.”

Let’s talk about 3 categories of pleasure: sinful, spiritual, and simple pleasure. I’m not
saying that all pleasures fit in with one of these three. This is not to infer that there is no
such thing as amoral pleasure. But I think you will find that even as we pursue pleasure
that is clearly neither moral or immoral, it’s how we go about it that seems to matter to
God.

Let’s take a simple look at pleasure…  

Resisting sinful pleasures
•        Proverbs 10:23 A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding
delights in wisdom.
•        Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart
no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my
labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

King Solomon satiated himself with pleasures. He had the ability, authority, and resources
to do anything and have anything he wanted. And apparently he wanted 700 wives and
300 other women to have sex with, called “concubines.” That’s what he later called,
“chasing after the wind,” and  “meaningless.”

At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes he wrote: “Now all has been heard; here is the
conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty
of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether
it is good or evil.” I don’t know about you, but I hear him saying, “OK, I’ve tried it all. I’ve
experimented with everything that promises to bring pleasure. And I want you to know that
it really only boils down to the simple truth that our lives are all about God and his
pleasure.”

Then you have the New Testament on pleasure:
•        
1 Timothy 5:6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.
•        2 Timothy 3:4 … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
•        2 Peter 2:13 Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots
and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.
•        Titus 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by
all kinds of passions and pleasures.
•        Hebrews 11:25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than
to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
•        1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to
abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

When God tells us not to do something that is pleasurable to us, it’s always a temptation
to think that he is just ripping us off and trying to keep us from having a good time without
him. That seems to kind of boil down what was going on for Adam and Eve in the garden.
“Did God really say…?” said the devil.  I really don’t think that God is interested in our
staying clear of the things on the “bad list,” as much as he is trying to get us to enjoy the
most pleasurable Person in the universe. He’s the Manufacturer, and he’s built us in such a
way as to function best when in intimate and obedient relationship with him. He obviously
knows when there’s stuff that harms us (that “wars against our soul”).  Anything that harms
us, offends Him and undercuts our pleasure in pleasing him.


Reveling in spiritual pleasures
So, you get it, right? Pleasure is not the complete anti-God thing. It’s pretty obvious that
the God of the Bible is not the one who wants us pleasure-less. If he were so offended by
us enjoying life I don’t think he would’ve given us taste buds, an appreciation for color and
beauty and sex and life!

Over the years I’ve come up with a couple of ways of expressing what I think the Bible
teaches about pleasure and the follower of Jesus:
    •  Our greatest pleasure is the pleasure of pleasing God!
    •   It gave God pleasure to make us in such a way as to give us the pleasure of
    pleasing Him!

Maybe the following passages will help. They’re on worship, joyful songs, rejoicing in the
Lord, and basically the fun of spirituality:
Psalm 37:3-4  
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself
in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 16:5-6, 11
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

These are not saying that there are no boundaries. There certainly are. They’re there to
keep us form wandering into the dangerous minefields of sin. No, we can’t have it all, there
are lines, but they’re in “pleasant places.” The Christian life is not all arduous and suffering.
There’s an incredible “beauty in holiness.”  And the pleasures he promises are “eternal,”
and are found “at his right hand.”


Relishing simple pleasures
The very first reference to pleasure in the Bible is found in Genesis 18:12. It’s where
Sarah refers to having a baby as, “this pleasure." If you’ve had a baby you know for sure
that birth in itself is incredibly laborious. But the labor results in a baby! And if you feel
about babies the way I do, you know that one of the most profound pleasures in life is the
birth of a child. It’s incredible. And it’s simple. (Ladies, you’re not hearing me say that it’s
“easy.” I said, “simple.” It’s part of the simple pleasures that God intends for us to enjoy.)

Our world, and its far-from-simple ways of seeking pleasure, has created millions and
millions of “adrenaline junkies.” You know that like a drug, adrenaline gives you the sense
of well-being. And also like a drug it can be very addicting. That need for a thrill, for
constant stimulation is rampant among our youth especially. Video games come in
something they call “The Adrenaline Pack.”  If you look at the ads for them, many of the
games promise to “Adrenalize you every time!”

I’m not saying, by any means, that video games are inherently evil. I’m just wondering out
loud about whether or not we’re doing ourselves any favors in our culture chasing the latest
rush of adrenaline in order to have pleasure.

What do you do for fun? Does it require a lot of stimulation? Does it have to cost lots of
money? Do you require an adrenaline rush for it to be considered a “good time”?

Part of what I mean by “simple pleasures” is learning to enjoy the work of our Creator.
Have you stopped and looked at a sunset lately, if you’re an early-riser, a sunrise? And if
you compared the pleasure you get from one of these wonders of God and a video game
or an action movie, which would you prefer? Again, I’m not saying the man-made fun-
machines are illegitimate. I’m just wondering if we could stand to have a greater
appreciation for the simpler things in life that don’t cost anything except to get off our
couch and go out and look? Listening to birds sing, watching the moon take shape
throughout the month, taking walks in the woods are simple pleasures that have
entertained humans for thousands of years. Have we forgotten how to enjoy what every
generation before us has found more than adequate for a pleasure-fix for the day?

Here are some simple suggestions for simple and/or spiritual pleasures while avoiding
sinful ones…
    •  Take a walk on the beach enjoying the beauty of God’s creation (simple pleasure).
    Have an honest and heartfelt conversation with the Lord while walking (spiritual
    pleasure). If you’re a male, don’t take this walk in the middle of a sunny day gawking
    at the hordes of female supermodel sunbathers (sinful pleasure).

    •  If you’re a musician - get a new album, sit down and listen to it (simple pleasure).  If
    something in it, regardless if it’s a “Christian album” or not, inspires a praise in your
    heart to God, express your praise to him (spiritual pleasure). If, after listening to it you
    begin to envy the artist their fame and say, “I can do better; they don’t deserve their
    fame and success; I hope their music career fails,” you’re now indulging in what one
    might call, sinful pleasure!

    •  You’re enjoying yourself (the competition, the exercise, the beauty of the day) at the
    10-mile mark running a Marathon (simple pleasure). Like Eric Liddell in Chariots of
    Fire, you come to the realization that  “when you run you feel the pleasure of God”
    (spiritual pleasure). There’s another runner who’s been trash-talking you all day and
    telling lies about you. He runs by you and you intentionally trip him  and end up beating
    him to the finish-line (sinful pleasure).

    •  You’re a avid Bible student, and love to study the Word. You get a new book on
    some deep theological topic. You very much enjoy the intellectual challenge and faith
    boost (simple pleasure).  You begin to take the information from the book, memorize
    large theological terms, and proceed to try to impress your friends with it (sinful
    pleasure).

In summary – let’s resist sinful pleasures, revel in spiritual pleasures, and relish simple
pleasures.
Simple Pleasure
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