Typically, we think being “easy to please” is always a good thing – but is it? In this devotional, we’ll study what God says about both earthly and heavenly forms of pleasure.
What does everyone ELSE say about pleasure?
To prep for a devotional like this one, I often read the targeted verses in a few different translations to get some ideas. Now, for most of us, we each have our own personal favorite when it comes to a Bible translation, whether it be NIV, KJV, NKJV, or the Message! But, I would like to challenge you all to read a few verses in a different translation than your go-to Bible.
Personally, my go-to Bible is an NIV translation. But, I am pretty loose about reading others because, as a Latin student, I’ve seen how there’s not really one tranlation that is the best. Translation really depends on each translator’s opinion! This time around, I decided to try reading the NLT – or New Living Translation. And, a few verses really popped out!
Paul bridges from a section on arguments and justice (which we talked about last time), to a very potent discussion on the pros and cons of pleasure. He begins by quoting a few popular sayings during his time (but don’t they seem pretty familiar now-a-days, too??):
You say, “I am allowed to to anything” – but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything”, I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food”. (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.)
-1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (NLT)
Do any of these sayings sound familiar?? Here’s a closer look at a few popular phrases concerning pleasure.
“I can do anything I want!”
This is actually a major contradiction. People who say this refuse to acknowledge that there is a force higher than themselves. They don’t want to be responsible to anyone, let alone a god. But, when they refuse to recognize the ultimate power of God’s judgment, they also refuse the ultimate grace and comfort of Him as well. You see, by claiming “there is no higher power than myself”, they are ensuring that they will be a slave to anything and everything because they don’t even believe that there is a God who can set them free.
Paul identifies that this “slavery” is the final result from a mindset like this, by writing:
…but I will not be mastered by anything.
If you want freedom, you must realize that there is a God who will judge and free you from your slavery to pleasure.
“Life was made for pleasure”
When Paul quotes the phrase, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”, he is essentially writing the ancient equivalent of the saying “life was made for pleasure!”. My answer to this?
It is, and it isn’t.
You see, it all depends on your perspective. This phrase is essentially true if you specify by saying that Heaven, which is the ultimate pleasure, is our goal. God did make our lives to end in pleasure if we choose to accept His gift. But, to say that our lives here on earth were made for complete and unrestrained pleasure, that would be very false.
Here’s a quote from famous French author Victor Hugo:
Thoughtful minds make little use of this expression: the happy and the unhappy. In this world, clearly the vestibule of another, no one is happy.
Wow, that’s a pretty strong statement, isn’t it? But, he really does have a point. If you are truly seeking pure happiness or pleasure, you won’t be able to find it here on earth. Think about a time when you were disappointed. Wasn’t it because you were expecting an event to be a lot more pleasureful than it really was? Unfortunately, pleasure and happiness here on earth are very relative and often disappointing.
But, there is a very important purpose of pleasure here on earth…
I think that one of the main jobs of earthly pleasure is to give us a slight taste of what something good might feel like. It encourages us to keep searching for more until we realize from the Bible that the “more” we’ve been looking for is fulfilled through Christ. What if this pleasure we have been longing for is only realized in Heaven?
Sometimes, when I think about it, our life on earth reminds me of a mystery novel.
Humans are born onto earth with no remembrance of where they came from. But, throughout life, there are clues: nature, other humans, history, etc. It is up to YOU to follow those clues if you want to really discover the reason behind your existence! One of the reasons why we “detectives” get off track is because we mistake the clues for the real treasure. We think pleasure or “happiness” is the ultimate goal.
But in reality, the temporary happiness here is just a clue to how wonderful that happiness with God will be! So, please don’t mistake the clue for the real thing!
How should we handle pleasure?
I think there’s a lot of confusion out there about happiness and pleasure. Some philosophies worship it, some despise it. But, let’s go back to the scriptures, shall we? Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom in life won’t come if we decide to emulate pleasure as the ultimate goal. But, on the other hand, God invented pleasure for our benefit!
Let pleasure by a by-product of whatever you are doing in life. And remember, pleasure isn’t always the shortest way to pleasure. Sometimes (or very often!), to really achieve happiness you must have discipline. I like to think of it like this: in ballet, we have a lot of difficult flexibility moves. Often, I try to take shortcuts to achieve that split or high kick. But, it just doesn’t work! Stretching daily, working out, practicing – that is the only way that I can ever achieve the pleasure of full flexibility.
Don’t be satisfied (too easily)
Are you too easily pleased with this life? I think one of the most important lessons about pleasure is knowing that we won’t find it here. Frankly, this isn’t our home! We expect comfortable, fun, happy lives- but the reality is that we will never be entirely pleased with earthly pleasures. Our spirits long for their Heavenly Father and will only be satisfied in Heaven.
Consider this quote by C.S. Lewis:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Are you content building mud pies, or do you daily long for the peace, comfort, and pleasure offered by Christ? Don’t take your eyes off of the prize. Don’t let your heart be distracted by “fumbling” with the half-rate happiness of this earth. Remember your true identity!
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I love the verse above because it really sums up everything we have said about pleasure. Another phrase that I hear quite often is, “It’s MY body, I can do what I want to with it!!”. But, to answer them, it really isn’t! This puts a whole new perspective on treating it well and indulging it occasionally. When you approach a pleasure, ask yourself, “am I honoring God with my body?”.
Also, don’t despair when you aren’t as pleased as you had hoped for. Often, our expectations far exceed earthly reality – but not heavenly reality! Everything you hope for – and much more – will be fulfilled with Christ in heaven. So, don’t be too easy to please with the watered-down happiness offered to you by the world. Remember Christ’s promises and keep your true identity!
Can you think of a time when you were very disappointed in a pleasure that was hyped up by yourself or everyone else?