Jesus Christ Is Lord

Partner Letter

Be blessed and subscribe now to receive your free monthly e-partner letter directly to your inbox!

Teaching - Pleasure and Priority

Copyright © Andrew J. Shreeve 2011

This article was written for the Singaporean publication "Eagles Vantage Point" and was published in Dec 2011.

 

The idea that humans are motivated by pleasure and uninspired by pain is a theory espoused by some modern, popular, motivational speakers. This article examines the conflicting priority a Christian may face between pleasure and his, or her, obedience to the Lord, if that obedience causes a reduction in pleasure. This article is not primarily addressing the Biblical injunctions to abstain from sinful pleasure, but rather is looking at the priority between permissible, non-sinful pleasure and walking with the Lord. We will also look at the question: in fulfilling Jesus' commandment to proclaim the gospel to all ethnic groups on the earth (Matthew 28:19), is there a denial of pleasure which Christians are to endure, in exchange for the higher and more noble pursuit of fulfilling the command of the King?

 

To illustrate this concept consider a noble soldier who is called to war. What motivates the soldier to endure hardship, pain and great danger? Pleasure is not the primary motivation of the soldier; it is rather a sense of duty, honour and the liberation of the oppressed. Of course, it could be argued that the successful defeat of the enemy and subsequent liberation of the oppressed would give the soldier great pleasure; and this anticipated pleasure is the source of the soldier's motivation. In this article, however, I will not discuss the causes of motivation, but rather the calling of God for us to prioritize our lives so that the noble cause of advancing the gospel to the lost and unlearned should be a higher priority than our personal pleasures.

 

Wealth provides the power to bring pleasure! It is much nicer to stay in a five star hotel than a budget guest house; ride in a late model sports car than an old clunker; wear designer clothes rather than those unfashionable bad imitations; and eat in the finest restaurants over the local hawker's market. Have you noticed how very wealthy older men often marry much younger beautiful women? Indeed wealth, and lots of it, increases our capacity to experience and enjoy all the pleasures this world has to offer.

 

An honest study of Scripture, however, reveals it is not wrong, evil or immoral for a Christian to be wealthy, own an expensive motor car, live in luxurious accommodation, eat the finest food, or marry a glamorous younger woman. In fact, the bible espouses these things as blessings which can come to an individual, or nation, as a result of walking with God (Psalm 112:3, Isaiah 1:19, Psalm 35:27, Psalm 66:12, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Isaiah 45:3, Proverbs 10:22, Proverbs 3:9-10, 8:21, 15:6). The real issue regarding wealth, pleasure, and our commitment to Christ, therefore, is not our outward experience but rather the priority of our hearts!

 

Priority of our hearts

Jesus addresses the issue of wealth (which is directly connected to pleasure) in Matthew 6:19-34. In His teaching, Jesus refers to mammon (money or avarice) and God as competing masters. Jesus said we need to choose who is to be our master, because when someone has two masters he will inevitably love one and hate the other (v24). Jesus was obviously well aware of the strong, seducing power of wealth and how it can easily captivate our hearts. Jesus clearly recommends we choose God as our master and not wealth. But what are the implications of choosing God over money or pleasure?

 

The implications of making God our master are far reaching, touching every aspect of our lives: including our time, finances, priorities, our moral and ethical decisions, and our pleasures. A true Christian is one who has surrendered his, or her, life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9). To be under someone's Lordship is to be under someone's authority, under their command. The priorities of the Lord become more important and urgent than the priorities of the person who is under authority. The Apostle Paul called himself a doulos (Romans 1:1). This Greek word, 'doulos', has the meaning of - being a slave or a bond servant (Strong's Dictionary). Paul willingly made himself a slave of Jesus Christ. A born again Christian is a person who has willingly made themselves the slave of Jesus Christ.

 

Obedience is a higher priority than pleasure

A slave is like a soldier who is under command. Both the slave and soldier must obey the commandments of their Lord or superior, even if it means discomfort and a lack of pleasure. The higher priority for a slave is obedience, not pleasure! A Christian is one who has decided that his or her personal pleasures are of a lower priority than the fulfilment of the commands and desires of his, or her, master - Jesus Christ.

 

Would God, however, instruct a Christian to fulfil a mission which may involve: the initial loss of the potential for gaining personal wealth, the expenditure of personal wealth, a decreased capacity for pleasure, and even personal discomfort? The answer is clearly yes!

 

Suffer for the gospel (Acts 9:16)

To explain the reason why God may lead a Christian into a possible loss of pleasure we need to look at the world through God's perspective. God's primary focus is the reconciliation of His human creation into His eternal family, or kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). The salvation of humans into His kingdom, so they will avoid an eternity in hell and the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), is of a far higher importance to God than our personal experience of worldly pleasures. It is not God's will that one person should perish and go to hell (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4). So our greater priority should be to yield to the Holy Spirit and to work in our area of gifting to assist the building of the Lord's kingdom.

 

The work of building God's kingdom undoubtedly requires at times, tiresome preaching and teaching; rejection and persecution, tiresome travel, mixing with dirty, smelly and sick people; and staying in some polluted and poor environments. In addition, the Lord may command some to leave their secular employment to work in His kingdom (thus giving up an opportunity to increase their wealth), and others to give of their wealth to support those who have given up their secular employment to advance His kingdom. These activities of increasing the Lord's kingdom impinge on our time and wealth and therefore our opportunity for increased pleasure. Just like a noble soldier will risk death and injury, endure discomfort, and forsake his family and home for the sake of a just war; so a Christian should be prepared to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, even if it means the possibility of a loss of wealth and pleasure, for the higher cause of advancing God's kingdom, which will result in the saving of people from eternity in the lake of fire.

 

Jesus is, however, aware of our physical needs and our desire for comfort or pleasure from the finer things life has to offer. There are certain promises and guarantees from God for the person who chooses to be the Lord's slave and place the Lord's priorities above their own - they will receive reward from God in this life. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus promises food and clothes, and Matthew 6:29-30 states they will be better clothed than King Solomon in all his glory. In Mark 10:29-30 Jesus promises that those who have forsaken house and lands for his sake and the gospel will receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses… and lands. A hundredfold of houses and lands certainly implies bountiful prosperity. Without going into teaching regarding the Lord's prosperity, it is evident that the Lord will bless His own with abundance (John 10:10), and a slave of the Lord could become more empowered with wealth to enjoy the honourable pleasures of this world than the person who has chosen to make mammon their master.

 

In this article we have reasoned that a true Christian is a person who has willingly placed themselves under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have therefore deferred the priority of their life-choices to God and are willing to forsake opportunities to make wealth, therefore possibly reducing their capacity for pleasure, as the Lord directs their energy and resources to the advancing of His kingdom. In fact, a Christian is prepared to experience tiresome work, persecution and rejection, and association with dirty, sick and smelly people in polluted or uncomfortable environments for the noble achievement of the building of the Lord's, eternal kingdom. Scripture, however, assures us that the Lord will reward with financial provision those who accurately seek first His kingdom. In fact, it may be the case that those who place their priorities in deference to the Lord may end up being more highly empowered to experience the noble pleasures of this world than those whose primary focus is the pursuit of wealth with its associated benefits of pleasure.

The Vision

Andrew Shreeve Ministries is led by the Holy Spirit, committed to the integrity of the Word of God, walking by faith and focused on preaching the gospel to all nations...

Read more...

Login