Do you want more of God? Often there are other things we would prefer to be doing rather than spending more time with God. Do you even like God? We are generally pretty good at making quick decisions about whether we like someone or not. But with God it can be harder. God can seem like an impersonal force or a set of ideas. Maybe even cold, distant, and aloof. Maybe you feel numb towards God. Maybe you do already have a sense of a relationship with God but you want more.
Ultimately whether you pursue more of God depends on what you think of him. It depends on whether you think a relationship with God is worth pursuing.
Paul’s ministry was based around bringing joy to the people. Not a joy based on circumstances but a joy despite our circumstances. Faith looks beyond our circumstances to our relationship with God, a relationship that brings joy.
Here are some benefits of enjoying a relationship with God:
- Enjoying God helps us overcome temptation – temptation presents us with a choice between finding joy in God and in the pleasures of sin
- Enjoying God helps us endure suffering – the losses we feel during suffering are real and painful, those who experience God tend to cope better with these losses. They know they will never lose God and nothing will separate them from his love
- Enjoying God helps to energise our service – if you feel like a slave of a distant God who demands your obedience, then your service will always feel like hard work and a joyless duty. Instead you can delight to please your Father
- Enjoying God helps our vibrant witness – everyone is a great evangelist for the things they love, a sports team, a TV show etc. The more we find joy in God the more our evangelism will be enthusiastic and infectious, an overflow from our hearts
- Enjoying God helps to empower sacrifice – God himself is the treasure. The more we know God the more we’ll be willing to give up everything else. Sacrifices will not feel like sacrifices at the time because they will be the most obvious thing to do to pursue God and his glory. Sacrifice is an opportunity to express our delight in God
If you: often succumb to temptation, suffering and loss fill you with fear, your service feels like drudgery, your witness feels like duty, or your sacrifices feel like sacrifices. Then you are not finding joy in God as you could.
Enjoying God for God’s Sake
None of the above are our true motivations for pursuing a relationship with God. We pursue joy in God for God’s sake, because he is the source of joy!
The reason that Christians should be joyful is not the secondary (though significant) benefits that being joyful brings, but because we have reasons to be joyful. The number one reason is God himself. We have God: all that he is to us and all that he does for us. There are so many blessings from being a Christian, but the real blessing is Christ. Christ is himself his own reward.
This does not mean that we have to work hard at ‘doing’ joy. Paul often commanded people to rejoice. But he didn’t command that they simply rejoice. He commanded that they rejoice in the Lord. We obey the command to rejoice not by drawing up from within ourselves feelings of joy. In fact, there will often be legitimate reasons for us not to feel joyful. But we always have a reason for joy, which surpasses everything else, and that reason is Jesus.
In life we can often look for quick fix sources of joy – in status, possessions, romance, holidays. These will quickly fill us with joy but that joy won’t last. God wants to give us joy, and a joy that will last.
The Observer’s book of God
Maybe all of the above makes sense to you but it seems very theoretical. Joy in God may seem like a distant prospect. What does this actually look like in practice?
Similar to the Observer’s Books (e.g. of wild birds), this study is the Observer’s Book of God. It identifies the main ways in which God interacts with us each day. It’s about what God has achieved in Christ. It’s a book about grace, about how God in his kindness invites us to share in the delight of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father through the Holy Spirit. It’s a spotter’s guide to all the very ordinary ways in which that happens every day.
Relating to each Person of the Trinity involves opening our eyes to the work of each in our day-to-day lives. This is an act of faith. So faith then enables me to respond to God the Father – to offer a prayer of thanks for a meal or to accept problems as my Father’s means of transforming my heart.
All the time God is around us, behind us and before us. It’s as if we can’t move without bumping into him. What we really need are eyes to see and ears to hear. That’s what this study will attempt to do for you.
- Last week we ended with a challenge to pray to the Father, to the Son, and to the Spirit. How have you got on?
- Do you like God? Does it seem like an odd question?
- How has enjoying God helped you overcome temptation or endure suffering? How has it energised service, witness and sacrifice?
- The Bible commands us to rejoice. But how us joy something we can be commanded to have?
- What might it mean for you to pursue other people’s joy in Christ (as Paul did)?
- How have you observed God at work in your life over the past 24 hours?
Whenever you’re alone this week, start a conversation with your heavenly Father in which you talk to him about whatever is on your mind (the day ahead/past, worries & excitements).