Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Week Thirty - Pleasure

“The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.  Psalm 147:11
“For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.  Psalm 149: 4
What makes God happy?  Amazingly, the answer is us!  When we are walking rightly, giving him respect and reverence, he is well pleased.
I love it when the Lord gives me a hug.  You know, those times when He speaks directly to your heart and assures you of his love.  When He lets you know that you are the “apple of his eye” and He is proud of you. It rejoices my heart as I am affirmed as His.  I want to sing so loud and my heart is just overflowing.   He is showing that he is taking pleasure – delighting in – his child. Such a special time!  It brings me to a great sense of thankfulness and humility.
When I see the places where I let Him down I marvel that He would even take time with me. So great is His love toward me.  I totally do not deserve it, but by His mercy and grace, this is mine.
I read once, “God’s favourite place is with you.”  And that is what I am saying.  God loves his children.  He desires them to be in a place where He can commune with them in a loving and nourishing manner.  That opportunity comes as we walk rightly with him.  He is pleased and He is responsive. 
Do you have this type of relationship with your Heavenly Father?  Are you living in such a way as to bring Him pleasure?  Why not make Him happy today! 

 “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:13

This is one of my most favourite and encouraging verses in the Bible.  The promise that God is actually working in me for a purpose is so strengthening.  It gives me hope that He will somehow make sense of my life and that I am not just wandering aimlessly.
The idea that He is working to do of “his good pleasure” defines things even more.  It means that He is working according to his design and choice with good will and kindly intent.  He delights in doing this work.  It has the idea of benevolence – well meaning and kindness.
It makes me think of an artist who loves to paint, or a musician who loves to play.  They are not discouraged when things get hard, they love to figure out how to make their creation better.  They take delight, pleasure and satisfaction in a job well done. 
We are His creation; the work of His hands, and He takes great delight, pleasure and satisfaction in creating His will within us. He does not get discouraged when rough patches appear.  He already knows they are there and He will polish them into a thing of great beauty.  Remember the clay in the potter’s hand?  That is closely related to this verse.  He is doing a work.  And that work is you.  It is me. 
The question is  - are we yielding to the potter’s hand?  Are we allowing Him freedom of expression?

 “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought?  Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought.  I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.”  Malachi 1:10
What a sad comment – “I have no pleasure in you…”.  The children of Israel had finally exasperated God.  He was finished with their half-hearted sacrifices and double standards.  They were going through the motions to appease Him, but then going out to live lives against Him. 
It’s a sad thing when a relationship is broken in this manner.  When all of the joy and hope is gone and one party decides to simply walk away. I have known relationships like this.  Times when one party is finished with the actions of the other and there is no place for repentance or restoration.  The damage is irreversible.  There is no pleasure and no hope.  How much sadder when God Himself is finished. 
God is characterized by longsuffering and patience.  And, truly, He is.  However, God is also characterized by being just.  He alone knows what is in the heart of man.  He knows when enough is enough.  Now, lest we become guilty of condemning Israel and overlooking ourselves, maybe we should stop and ask, “Could God say the same of me?  Do I bring him no pleasure by my half-hearted service and double standards?  Do I just go through the motions of Christianity on Sunday and then live anti-Christian the remainder of the week?
What is your answer?  What would be God’s reply?

“For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.”  Psalm 5:4
Billy Graham is accredited with saying that this generation is afraid of offending everyone, except God.  When we look at the world and society around us we see the increase of wickedness and the acceptance and tolerance of things considered entirely evil by generations before. Mankind is certainly going its own way and expecting God to just sit quietly.
The Psalmist knew the Almighty God took no pleasure in wickedness.  The definition means desiring or delighting in - God does not desire wickedness, nor does he delight in it.  As a matter of fact, the Psalmist goes on to say that evil does not even dwell with God.  He is Holy!
Now, that brings us to a sore point.  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy”, says the Lord. (I Peter 1:15, 16)  If our God calls upon his children to come up to his standard in the matter of holiness, then what should be our outlook when considering wickedness and evil?  It leaves us rather certain that God expects his children to be of the same opinion as he – having no pleasure in wickedness.
Sometimes we struggle to call wickedness what it truly is because we believe that the word and idea are old or outdated.  We have “come so far” now that to deny ourselves a bit of “pleasure” is just too much to ask.  When asked to define wickedness we shudder, because the Bible lists can hit too close to home.  A peruse of Galatians 5 reveals things that too many of us have come to accept as just a necessary evil of our times.  We don’t like to use the term wicked.  It just isn’t politically correct.
Well, God isn’t politically correct.  He is holy.  And we, as his children, should take time to consider where we stand.
What about you?  Are you afraid of offending others and less concerned about offending God?  Is there wickedness in your life?  Does evil dwell in your home?  Have you come to believe that you must be politically correct and thereby have to accept a certain level of wickedness in your life?  Better be taking time to think about it!

 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  II Corinthians 12:10
No one enjoys being ill, unless they are a hypochondriac!  Sometimes I find that this verse is only used in relation to illness, but there is so much more in the verse.  Infirmities can be physical, frailties of the body, weaknesses of health.  Or, of the soul, a want of spiritual strength, the dark night of the soul.  Reproaches are insults or mistreatment.  Necessities are hardships that must be faced.  Persecutions are difficulties that chase us, or, harassment.  Distresses are narrow places where there is anguish of heart.  Yet in all of these Paul states that he will take pleasure in them because they reveal the strength of the Lord.
So, what does pleasure mean in this verse?  It means to think good, to choose, determine and decide, to do willingly, to be ready to, to prefer, to be well pleased with, take pleasure in, to be favourably inclined toward.  Okay, so he is saying that he is willing to choose the difficulties of life, to actually prefer them to the alternative of a life void of struggle.
Most of us spend all our days avoiding hardship.  We groan and moan when we feel we are hard done by or mistreated.  We never choose to take the hard or narrow way unless it is strewn with joys and a sure reward.
Yet, if we think about it, to see a trial coming and to face it with the determined choice that God will be able to use it and ourselves for His glory and the promotion of the Gospel puts a totally different light on trials.  Actually, it is the healthiest and most rewarding way in which to face trials.  We have to see them for what they are – temporary.  And, their temporary inconvenience, faced with a godly outlook, works for us – a more eternal weight of glory. (II Corinthians 4:8)

Do you face difficulty with dread?  Do you moan and groan?  Or, can you see that trials have an eternal purpose and take pleasure in the fact that God is working in your life?

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