Where Is Your Pleasure Found?

“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2.

American culture, and all of western culture it seems, is caught up with the grand goal of enjoying life and pleasing oneself. For example, a recent magazine article discussing vacation homes as investments led with the caption: “The No. 1 reason to build a vacation home is to enjoy yourself.” Today more than ever society is caught up in concern for health and personal well-being. Many churches today sometimes try to attract people to their services by advertising that what goes on at church will be enjoyable to them. Some churches advertise that contemporary music and coffee will be served throughout the service; not just after the service, but again, throughout. One can even enjoy breakfast beforehand at a church cafeteria or be entertained by “sitcom-like” plays. Some of these things may not be bad in themselves, but the impression is that of the church attempting to attract people by dangling before them the kinds of pleasures that they can find outside the church. If a church does this as part of its programing and on a consistent basis then what it may have to offer may be no different, in essence than what the world offers.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves however, and think that things were radically different in the first century. In my studying I found that in Turkey (old Asia Minor) some of the ancient sites of the towns where the seven churches of Revelation were located showed some similarities to today’s modern churches. At Pergamum there are ruins of an ancient Roman health spa, where, among other things, people would go to be rejuvenated emotionally because of depression. There were even rooms where a patient could rest; in the ceiling were little holes through which the priestly attendants of the spa would whisper encouraging things to help the victims recuperate psychologically.

So it should be no surprise that the Apostle Paul is writing in his day, what seems to be very practical in this day and age. Whether in the ancient world or today, the chief end of humanity seems to have often been to take pleasure however it could be found in this life. However, Paul begins the passage by affirming exactly the opposite: humanity’s chief goal ought to be to take pleasure in pleasing God. Such passages in Scripture as this fueled the great confession, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Yes, it’s possible for Christians to enjoy the material pleasures of this life, but only as a gift from the gracious God whom they serve. Paul wrote this in his letter to Timothy:

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:4.

pd pleasing God

He wrote it in the context of believers being able to enjoy what the Lord has provided as long as it is in faith and with thanksgiving. But remember, this world is not an end in itself just to bask in pleasure.

On the basis that God has begun to work in the believers and that they are beginning to live in order “to please God,” Paul appeals to them to excel in this: “we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more.” The main point of 4:1 is that the ultimate purpose of living as a Christian is not to please ourselves alone, but to increasingly please God (see Romans 8:8; 15:1–6). Earlier in Paul’s letter, in chapter 2, he speaks about pleasing God (2:4) and also walking worthily for the goal of achieving God’s glory for which we have all been called (2:12).

The Greek text of 4:1 reads “just as you received from us how it is necessary for you to walk so as to please God.” Most other translations attempt to express it, typically by “you must walk” or “you ought to walk.” Some believers who read this may understand this to mean that Christians should live in the way Paul had instructed, and if they do not they will not experience the full blessing that would be available to them otherwise, and they wouldn’t be far wrong. Paul’s urging of them to excel, suggests that there is a necessity that believers should live this lifestyle and that such living is not an option for those choosing the Christian lifestyle through Christ Jesus. Indeed, this necessity is heightened by the fact that such a lifestyle is a divine commandment, as he writes and that God has called believers to this conduct (4:7), that God has given true believers the power to fulfill this commandment (3:12–13) and that to reject living in this manner is equivalent to or virtually the same as rejecting God (4:8). Paul expresses the extreme seriousness in writing thus. Consequently, it is also then necessary” that God’s true people live this way if they want to avoid the inevitable last judgment (4:6) of whom Paul calls the Lord, “the avenger”.

Paul says the basis for his appeal that they please God is grounded in the authority of the Lord Jesus himself (literally, “through the Lord Jesus”). This reiterates and emphasizes the statement in 4:1 that his appeal was in the Lord Jesus. This appeal is none other than a renewed encouragement for them to obey the commandments given earlier by Paul. The main point of 4:1–2 therefore lies with Paul’s exhortation to please God, which should be heeded because the plea and request really comes with the authority of Christ himself.

I can’t write anything about pleasing God without also reiterating one of my favorite Scriptures from Hebrews that talks directly and specifically about our ability to please God:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6.

Without faith, we cannot hope to please God, but, with faith it is possible to please our God and Creator!

pd without faith

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture links provided by Biblia.com

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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2 Responses to Where Is Your Pleasure Found?

  1. Nancy Ruegg says:

    The abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10) surely includes many blessings, but they are not solely for personal consumption. He would have us share with others, care for others, and communicate his love, joy, peace, etc. However, those endeavors turn out to be blessings too, as we discover another truth he taught: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

    Liked by 1 person

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