There is a great scene in one of my favorite films, Chariots of Fire, when Eric Liddell (an Olympic champion 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.
JESUS AND THE FATHER’S PLEASURE
We receive a major insight into this dimension of the nature of God in the relationship that the Father has with Jesus. 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 paraphrase 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
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 or 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.”
SCRIPTURES ABOUT GOD AND PLEASURE
Actually, the Bible has a number of verses that relate to God experiencing pleasure.
- Proverbs 16:7 speaks about a man’s ways of 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 times 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.
WAYS TO BRING PLEASURE TO THE LORD
What are some of the things we can do to bring pleasure to God? There are many ways, but let’s just consider a few:
Faith and Obedience
Hebrews 11:6 declares that “without faith, it is impossible to please Him.” Abraham is a great Old Testament example of this. In Hebrews 11:8 it tells us, “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go . . . and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” When we step out in faith and obedience to the word of God, it brings pleasure to the Father. It is as if He looks down at us and says, “That’s my child, see that? There he (or she) is, stepping out in faith and obedience according to my word. I’m pleased with him (or her).
God is looking for what one author describes as “the fervent, passionate worship of God Himself. . .God is looking for complete, heartfelt, full-body worship that captures everything about us – spirit, emotion, and body.” (From Permission Granted to do Church Differently in the 21st Century by Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell).
When David brought up the ark to Jerusalem, he worshipped the Lord with all his might, and today God is restoring the tabernacle of David to the church (Acts 15:16). So we worship, not just because it makes us feel good, or even to usher in His presence (which we should seek), but to give pleasure to God (John 4:23-24).
When we open up our hearts to allow the Holy Spirit to fully reign in our lives, I believe we bring not only power and purpose to our lives, but we bring pleasure to God.
Fulfilling Our Destiny
In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:21), the Lord rewards the good servants and says, “Well done good and faithful servant. You were faithful. . .enter into the joy of the Lord.”
Just think of that – sharing in the joy that God has in seeing his servants fulfill what they were called to do. As we fulfill our destiny in God, we will be able to say, as Paul did in Acts 26:19, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (i.e., the call God placed on his life).
Prayer and Intercession
There has been a remarkable resurgence of personal and corporate prayer in the church in this generation, expressed through such ministries as Houses of Prayer, Prayer Mountains, Intercessory Prayer Movements, etc. God is looking for people who will pray not just because they have to, or are expected to, or have a duty to, but because they want to. People who want to develop an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord want to “hang out” with God like Enoch did when he “walked with God and he was not for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Hebrews 11:5 records that “he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
When you spend enough time with a person, they become your friend. Moses was a friend of God and a great intercessor (Exodus 33:11). Jesus also told us that we could be His friends, too, if we obey Him.
Let’s go back to the first thought we shared in the quote from Eric Liddell: “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” After Liddell (the Olympic champion) died in a prisoner of war camp in China where he was serving as a missionary, a service was held in Glasgow, Scotland, the land where he grew up. They read the words of Hebrews 12:1-2, which challenges us to “run the race set before us.” When we do, I believe we bring pleasure to God and receive a “well done” from the Lord.
So, let us run to bring pleasure to our Lord.
The content of this Langstaff Letter was originally published in Fall, 2012 and was the first in a new series of Langstaff Letters.