In previous posts I looked at loving Jesus and loving people. Nothing terribly surprising there. But loving life? what does that mean? And why does it matter?
Stuart hates sport. He despises it. I know he does because he never misses an opportunity to tell me. We’ll be in the pub watching a game and he’ll go on about how ridiculous it is for grown men to chase a ball over a patch of grass. He spoils the occasion for everyone. Pleasure is infectious. Joy is one of those strange things that grows the more it is shared. Not surprising Stuart has problems making connections with people.
In contrast to Stuart, Pete loves sport. Pete loves nothing but sport. Sooner of later his conversation turns to sport. Other topics don’t really interest him. Pete has no problem making connections, but only with a certain group of people - other blokes who like sport. To be fair, in England that’s a lot of people. But it’s not everyone.
Karen has always felt under huge pressure to evangelise people. She feels every relationship ought to be an opportunity to share the gospel. She feels she ought to be looking for a chance to get deep and meaningful in every conversation. She, too, struggles to make connections. She can’t be herself with people because she’s always trying to be an ‘evangelist’. There’s much that’s good about this gospel intentionality. But it’s led to a negative view of creation ( a mere conduit for evangelism) that ironically is getting in the way of effective evangelism.
We don’t commend our Creator when we’re bored by his creation.
Christians should be the world’s natural enthusiasts. We see the world as a theatre for God’s glory. We know it is marred by sin and scarred by suffering. But we also see in many good things from God. We know that, ’since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks’ (1 Timothy 4:4). Sport, gardening, technology, literature, DIY, work, cars, fashion - all these things are good. All of them (albeit often also corrupted by sin) are gifts by God given for our enjoyment. Our job is to have fun to the glory of God! Gardening may never become a major leisure activity for you, but when you meet a keen gardener you should be interested, enthusiastic, excited by this persons joy in God’s good world . . .
Consider what this means for Stuart. Sport may never be a big deal for him. But he let other people’s enthusiasm be infectious. He doesn’t have to buy a season ticket (he can’t pretend to enjoy something he doesn’t enjoy), but he can take an interest. The same is true of Pete. When he talks with people he’ll ask about the things they’re interested in. He’ll show curiosity - the curiosity of a child, the curiosity of worshipper finding fresh delight in the work of his Creator.
Consider what this means for Karen. She needs to love life. She needs to be encouraged to be herself, enjoy what she enjoys, get excited about what excites her. And then her passion for Jesus bubble out. Then people will want to connect with Karen. Then people will want to connect with her Creator and her Saviour.
This is good counsel. If you want to be an effective evangelist, read it all.
alThis is so rich! How wonderful a Creator we do have. To allow us, even as fallen creatures, to seek those things within His creation that we enjoy. Alas, the worldview is to seek after pleasure only for self and not to use activities we enjoy as a conduit to enrich our lives and for a ministry to others. Those around me have often described me as a something of a Polly Anna, because I try to see the positives and the blessings in the daily living of life. Mind you I get down, but choose not to stay there! The world, the flesh and the devil may send some mighty challenges and temptations, but our loving Father is much bigger than any of these as He filters these trials through His loving hands. Incorporating much prayer, the living word, and fellowship with believers within our lives, provides a powerful method to remain steadfastly anchored to Christ. Often it is simply about perspective. The ability to enjoy life and the sweetness of it, even after having sour life experiences is a learned behavior. Human nature wants to recoil after encountering a bitter experience. The natural reaction is to put up walls and guard one's self from emotional or physical discomforts after experiencing them. Retreat is the human nature's cry! The ability to remain focused on the end of the race instead of the more present circumstances may seem overwhelming in the heat of the battle. If we use Chester's advice and really stop to focus on the simple enjoyments from the Lord in the midst of life's many trials, we may end up receiving the richer blessing as we share these plasures with those around us. Being in sweet communion with the Savior is a necessary component to remaining joyful. The riches and depths of knowing him, walking with him, basking in his love and sacrifice for us is a portal to deeper joy than the world offers. In addition, taking eyes off of self during a particular time of trouble, and ministering to others worse off than ourselves (i.e. lost and headed for hell), often can't help but bring a true realization of how blessed one is in the beloved, no matter your immediate circumstances! Another avenue to rekindle the joy in our lives may be to spend time in the presence of little children! This can be an inspiring experience. Watching them marvel at the simplest aspects of life is great! The first snowfall, the littlest bug on the sidewalk, the way a doorbell works, are all new discoveries to take pleasure in. As adults we often deceive ourselves into believing we don't have time to stop and enjoy the simple things of life. Our Creator made such vast variety of entertaining pursuits in the world for us to enjoy. He lay down his life that we may have eternity with Him as well! Let these words encourage you...from the Message, Therefore be imitators of God <[>copy Him and follow His example<]> as well-beloved children <[>imitate their father<]>. And walk in love, <[>esteeming and delighting in one another<]> as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and a sacrifice to God <[>for you, so that it became<]> a sweet fragrance. Eph. 5:1-2
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