Life + Culture

When Did You First Enjoy God?

When Did You First Enjoy God?

Back-to-school each fall brings a veritable spring of new relationships. New teachers and students. New classmates and their parents. New patterns and routines. New faces at church, and often new neighbors on the block. If we want to get to know someone new, one of the most telling, but simple questions to ask is, “What do you enjoy doing?” Our enjoyments give profound insights into who we are.

What kind of music you enjoy has something to say. As does what kind of restaurants and food. What hobbies and entertainments. Not only “What do you do for work?” but “Do you enjoy your job?” Or, “Do you enjoy your major?”

And even more revealing than what we enjoy is who. Who do you most enjoy spending time with? And who do you admire (up close or from afar)? “If you could have lunch with one living person on the planet today, who would it be?” We can make serious progress in getting to know a new face when we hear who and why.

Worth of a Soul

More than 300 years ago, pastor and theologian Henry Scougal (1650–1678) lived a short life of just 28 years and wrote a short book, still in print today, called The Life of God in the Soul of Man. There he memorably claims, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” What and whom we love, according to Scougal — what and whom we enjoy — reveal the quality and character, “the worth and excellency,” of our souls. Enjoying classical literature communicates one degree of excellence; bottom-feeding on Netflix speaks to another.

Yet even the disparity between the highest and lowest things of earth as our soul’s object of love is quickly dwarfed by the God of heaven. If Scougal is right, then the worthiest and most excellent souls are those who most value the Person who is supremely valuable.

Do You ‘Enjoy’ God?

One of the most liberating discoveries for me in those all-important, trajectory-shaping college years — maybe it was the single most important breakthrough — was finding that God is not just the appropriate object of the verbs believe, trust, fear, obey, and worship, but also he is the most fitting, most satisfying, most worthy object of the verb enjoy. Do you enjoy him? Not with the small enjoyment of chuckling at a clever commercial, but the large enjoyment of basking before an ocean. Not the thin enjoyment of humming along with a pop song, but the thick enjoyment of a great novel’s or symphony’s long-anticipated pinnacle. Not the shallow enjoyment of acquiring some new trinket, but the deep enjoyment of reconnecting with a longtime friend.

Not only does God invite us to believe him, trust him, fear him, obey him, and worship him, but to enjoy him: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8). “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). He satisfies the human soul (Psalm 63:5; 107:9), which he designed to find its true rest in him. Our soul’s thirst for refreshment we only find in him (Psalm 42:1–2). A deep soul hunger draws us to enjoy him. A deep soul thirst calls out to be quenched in him. As God’s own Son promised, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

The invitation to enjoy God is not icing. It is the cake of Christianity. If he is not enjoyed in real measure, then he is not truly believed, trusted, feared, obeyed, or worshiped. God is not seeking disinterested praise, but “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). He isn’t enlisting dutiful soldiers, but those who will serve with gladness (Psalm 100:2). He is the kind of God, so rich and full, so free and secure, that he will not settle for human compulsion and going through the external motions. He calls, and effects, the willing and eager. He wants, and is worthy, to capture the heart. The trust he wins is not disinterested faith (as if that were really possible), but the kind of faith that enjoys him (2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 1:25; Hebrews 11:6).

Learning to Fly

Learning that God wants, and is worthy, to be enjoyed can be liberating. But finding that enjoying God is necessary can be burdensome, because we know how sluggish our hearts can be. God knows this. He remembers our frame (Psalm 103:14), and his Son knows us and what is in us (John 2:24–25). Coming to enjoy God is a process. The discovery might come all at once in a moment, but the daily experience doesn’t happen overnight. In Christ, we all are in the process of being renewed and refined by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). He is transforming our enjoyments, from one degree of joy and glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18). He is sifting through our countless earthly enjoyments, redeeming many, and relegating others to refuse.

Each new day introduces a fresh occasion to hear his voice in the Scriptures, not mainly as marching orders, but as a meal to feed our souls. Not just for soul nutrition, but for enjoyment. God’s words become sweet to our taste (Psalm 119:103); his path (verse 35), his commandments (verse 47), his law (verses 70, 77, 174), our delight. We come to “rejoice at [his] word like one who finds great spoil” (verse 162), and in what he says we “delight as much as in all riches” (verse 14). Through his words, we receive his joy, and our joy becomes increasingly full (John 15:11).

Prayer begins to be a channel not just to ask God for things we would enjoy, but to enjoy him. In prayer, in response to what God says in his word, we commune with him, both asking for more of him and experiencing him in prayer as our greatest enjoyment. God himself is our exceeding joy (Psalm 43:4). We rejoice in him through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:11). In Christ, we come to God himself (1 Peter 3:18) and know him (John 17:3). We learn a day at a time that the heart of prayer is not getting things from God, but getting God.

Corporate worship, then, becomes the stunning opportunity to gather together, not just with fellow believers, but with fellow enjoyers of God. We lift our voices together and turn from “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25) to the superior pleasures to be had in him. And even in the fires of suffering, it is rejoicing — enjoying God — that carries us through (Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 1:6, 8; James 1:2).

One Who We Enjoy

Is enjoy a verb you’re learning to put with God? Is he the object of your love and enjoyment?

If he is, you will never come to the bottom of your joy, because he is not finite. He is inexhaustible. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). The greatest enjoyments in the world are who enjoyments, not whats. And the most interesting, enjoyable person you can imagine in this age cannot hold a candle to the shining sun of enjoyment found in God. Not only are the depths of his mercy and grace already shown to us past finding out, but he has only begun to show us his glory. What little bit we’ve seen so far is almost as nothing compared to all he will lavish on us “in the coming ages” when he shows us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

Our souls were made for great worth and excellence — the kind that comes only from having God himself as our greatest enjoyment.

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