5 Nov 2014 by Lim Poh Ann –
Is embracing the pleasures of life incompatible with living a purposeful life? How can we be grateful to God for the blessings He has given us to enjoy—pleasures included—without going astray?
Obedience to God results in blessings, both tangible and intangible. These blessings enable the righteous to enjoy a certain measure of comfort.
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).
“Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17).
“Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
The ability to enjoy what God has blessed us is something positive. God is certainly not a celestial killjoy.
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6: 12).
“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15).
Even so, a lifestyle geared exclusively to the pursuit of pleasure cannot be the norm for a believer who desires to please and honour God (Colossians 3:17).
We have only so many hours in a day. If pleasurable pursuits take up the chunk of our waking hours, we are left with the crumbs for our devotional and family life and serving others.
The apostle Paul warned that evil will abound during these perilous end times. Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure more than God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Try to picture this state of complacency which God denounces:
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
You lie on beds adorned with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
(Amos 6:1, 4-6).
In modern-day terms, this scenario might mean lounging in our living room, clutching a remote-control, ensconced on a sofa, engrossed in hi-tech entertainment oblivious to the needs of our brothers or family members.
While setting aside time for relaxation is not wrong—in fact, it’s essential for managing stress—we must not let the enticing pleasures of this world distract us from lofty eternal goals.
We are exhorted to live circumspectly, not fritter away our time on the momentary pleasures of this perishing world. Time lost cannot be regained.
“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
The trouble with life’s pleasures is the fact they are subject to the ‘law of diminishing returns’. Over time, the “dose” of pleasurable activity has to be progressively increased to elicit the same desired effect.
In a sense, pleasure can be likened to the drug morphine which has calming and soothing effects. Over time this drug has the propensity to develop tolerance—its dose has to be progressively increased to get the same effect.
How can we be grateful to God for the blessings He has given us to enjoy—pleasures included—without going astray?
Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves so that we can think through our lifestyle:
- Is pleasure a means to an end or an end in itself?
- Have we allowed pleasure to be the most important factor to dictate how we should live our lives?
- Have we forgotten to be grateful to the Giver of all good things?
- Can we truly give thanks to God for a particular pleasurable activity?
- Have we forgotten the poor and underprivileged?
- How much of our time and money is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure?
- Are we able to say ‘NO’ to pleasure when the situation demands it? Or are we slaves to our hobbies and pleasurable leisure activities?
- Do these activities draw us closer to God and people? Or do they drive us away from God and makes us see people as objects of our selfish desires?
- Does it edify our inner man? Is it honorable, pure, lovely and excellent? (Philippians 4:8).
- Have we become desensitised to what is immoral and despicable? Just because the media promotes it, do we just lap it up, as if seized by herd mentality?
- Are clear in our minds concerning our goals and purposes in life? If not, have we sought God to show us what He has called us to do?
- Do we have a God-inspired vision for our lives?
- Have we flitted from one pleasurable activity to another (for example, one holiday after another or one movie after another) and, having done so, we still felt bored, empty, dissatisfied and unfulfilled?
The last question sends out a warning bell that we have not quite sorted out in our minds God’s calling for our life.
Though we have been called to freedom, we should not abuse our freedom by indulging our flesh (Galatians 5:13). We should not swing from one extreme to another—from stoicism to hedonism and vice versa. Man-made rules and rituals appear wise as they promote self-abasement but they cannot restrain sensual indulgence (Colossians 2: 23).
A practical question remains. Knowing what is the right path is one thing, having the strength to obey is another. The way to achieve victory over the flesh is to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16). And if we go astray, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and redirects us along the right path.
If we’re not careful, we might just be sucked into a maelstrom that titillates our senses: Twilight, Sex and the City, Harry Potter and now Fifty Shades of Grey.
By embracing a God-inspired vision, we can live purposefully—by design and not by default.
We have heard of dolphins or turtles getting entangled in fishermen’s nets. As these poor creatures can no longer roam in search for food, some may eventually die.
Somewhere along the way believers too get entangled in various pursuits which either impede progress or lead them off the intended spiritual path.
Being so focused and determined that we have one objective in mind. Once Jesus and Paul knew for certain what God wanted them to do, nothing on earth could make them change their minds.
When we come to a fork or crossroad in life, we know we need guidance.
How can we know God’s will for our lives?
A clear understanding of the ongoing battle between the “old man” and “new man” is essential before we can walk in victory. What is meant by ‘walking by the Spirit’?
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Source of Article : http://limpohann.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-pursuit-of-pleasure.html
ABOUT Author: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul
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