What do pastors do on their day off? If I told you what I normally do on Mondays, it would bore you to tears. Not so yesterday. I spent an hour throwing an axe at the Mall of America.
I wasn't alone. Alaine, Jenny, Paul, and Kaitlin were with me. Our time together was a Christmas gift from Paul & Kaitlin.
To be honest, spending an hour axe throwing would have never entered my mind, if not for the gift. But you know something, I really enjoyed it. I would happily do it again. As I got into the swing of it, axe throwing was a quite pleasant experience.
What simple pleasures do you enjoy?
For some people, it's fishing. For others it knitting. Still others like to bowl or ski.
A dozen or so years ago, I wrote a devotion on pleasure that I thought about yesterday. As a matter of fact, I printed out a copy ahead of time, which Alaine read as the five of us sat down to eat at the mall.
SIMPLE AND ETERNAL PLEASURES
On Saturday something unusual happened. I slept in until 8:30am. This almost never happens. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I slept so late. Normally, I am an early bird. I typically get up at 6am, even on the weekend, even on holidays.
Do you know something? It felt good to sleep in. I guess I didn’t realize how tired I was. It probably also helped that I didn’t have a lot on my schedule for Saturday, and that I didn’t have a lot on my mind when I went to bed Friday night.
A good night’s sleep is one of the simple pleasures of life. Wouldn’t you agree?
This past weekend I had the chance to enjoy some of my other simple pleasures. On Saturday I read the latest issue of Time magazine. I took a walk around Phalen Lake. I watched a basketball game on TV. On Sunday I enjoyed some of my other favorite simple pleasures. I went to church. I took a nap in our recliner. I watched the Twins win their first game of the season. And I played basketball with my son and wife.
What simple pleasures do you enjoy? A cup of coffee? A warm bath or shower? Reading the newspaper? A visit from an old friend? Watching Wheel of Fortune?
Each of us has our own list of the simple pleasures we enjoy most.
As we get older, I believe there is new and greater appreciation for the simple pleasures of life. Is this true?
It is a shame that the church doesn’t talk more about pleasure. After all, God created us for His enjoyment. God created us to enjoy Him.
The opening question of the Westminster Catechism reminds us of this. “What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
As Christians we understand the idea behind glorifying God; but what about the second half of the answer—enjoying God? What does it mean to enjoy God? How do we enjoy God?
God created us for pleasure. God put Adam in the Garden to enjoy His companionship and so that Adam could enjoy the beauty of creation. God created Eve so that Adam and his wife might enjoy each other’s company.
Of course, now the simple pleasures of life can be tainted by sin. The simple pleasures of life can also become sinful when we pursue them above all else, including God. So many people today worship the gifts of God, rather than the Giver of each and every perfect gift.
But even the misguided and sinful pursuit of pleasure is, in reality, a desperate search for God. “[T]he young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” (From the novel, The World, the Flesh and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall.)
Ever since the Fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, man’s search for pleasure has ended on a dead-end road. Eve and Adam fell for the deceiver’s lie that they didn’t need God. They could be their own gods. They could decide what was good and evil for themselves. They could pursue pleasure on their own terms.
And so it has been down through the ages. The apostle Paul wrote: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”.
Doesn’t this sound very much like the time we find ourselves living in? Don’t Paul’s words describe America today? People have forsaken the love of God for the love of pleasure.
As God’s people we must fight an opposite temptation. What temptation is this? It’s the temptation to be puritanical. What is puritanism? It is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy. As Christians we sometimes need to be reminded that it is ok to be happy. It is ok to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
The key to the right understanding of pleasure is found in having a right relationship with God. And a right relationship with God is exactly why Jesus came to earth. The eternal Son of God became one of us to die for our sins that we might be reconciled to the Father. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. We can now rejoice in the Lord. And we can rejoice in His many good gifts to us, including the simple pleasures of life.
But there are other pleasures that await us. David writes about these in Psalm 16:
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.
And so, because of Christ, go ahead and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Do so knowing that even greater pleasures await you—all for His sake. Amen.