liddellThere is a great scene in one of my favorite films, Chariots of Fire, when Eric Liddell (an Olympic runner who eventually went back to China as a missionary) says to his sister,

“I believe God made me for a purpose – for China. But He also made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Pleasure – it’s not a word that is common in the Christian vocabulary. How long, if ever, since you heard a message on God’s pleasure? Perhaps it is a forgotten aspect of God’s nature that God can express pleasure – real pleasure.

We receive a major insight into this dimension of the nature of God in the relationship that the Father has with Jesus, His son. Twice in the Gospels it is recorded that a voice came from heaven and said, “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.”

This happened once at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan (Luke 3:22), and then on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). In both cases two dimensions are mentioned: Love (You are My beloved Son.), and Pleasure (In You I am well pleased.)

The Message translation puts it this way: “This is my son, marked by my love, focus of my delight.”

Just as Jesus was loved by his Father, so are we. Unfortunately, many people have difficulties experiencing the Father’s love. But more than that, many people never even consider that God could be pleased with them (i.e. find pleasure in them and what they do.) Maybe we don’t think that way because we have the idea that God is always on the lookout for us doing something wrong.

Love and pleasure are not the same.

Love is unconditional. It can never be earned, it can never be won. Nothing we will ever do can deserve the kind of love by which God loves us because God is love. He loves us unconditionally, independent of our actions and our deeds. That’s grace. (See John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9.)

Pleasure is conditional. It relates to our walk with God on the road of discipleship and our growth to maturity in Him. Pleasure is to have delight in someone or something bringing enjoyment, and good feelings of thinking well about a person or situation.

We see a glimpse of this in our relationship with our own children. Good parents will love their children no matter what they do, but there are times when they find pleasure – they delight in – what their children do. It may not be world shattering, it may simply be scoring a goal in a soccer or hockey match, or learning to ride a bike, or doing well on a test at school when they worked hard to succeed.

Have you ever thought God is like that? We can actually bring Him pleasure and cause Him to not just love us, but to delight in us, as well. Isaiah 42:1 declares, “My elect in whom My soul delights.”

Actually, the Bible has a number of verses that relate to God experiencing pleasure.

Proverbs 16:7 speaks about a man’s ways pleasing the Lord.

Psalm 149:4 tells us that Lord takes pleasure in His people.

Psalm 35:27 has David declaring that God has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant (i.e. He is pleased when we succeed and prosper).

Many time we do things to earn brownie points, or to accomplish some goal, or to achieve some new level of success. But think about doing those things, achieving those successes, for the purpose of bringing pleasure to the God who created us.