Grace and Pleasure: Place of Pleasure in Life

Grace and Pleasure

A. Seeking Pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)
B. Fearing Pleasure (I Timothy 4:1-6)
C. Enjoying Pleasure (Psalm 16:11)

  • Design of Pleasure
  • Acceptance of Pleasure
  • Purpose of Pleasure
Pleasure is part of God's grace, an outflow of His goodness. God put pleasure into the world so that we could share His joy in our relationship with Him. He has largely used our physical senses to bring that pleasure. Far from condemning pleasure, God designed it to enrich our lives and increase our sense of celebration. Learn God's perspective of pleasure so that one can avoid the extremes of rejecting, despising or being ruled by pleasure.

A. Seeking Pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)

When a person seeks fulfillment in life through pleasure, he is frustrated because these things were never designed to bring that sense of meaning in life. Pleasures were designed as a side dish, so to speak, to bring extra glory to good things. They were built to increase our joy and thankfulness to God.

When pleasure becomes a motivation of a person's life then at some point people are willing to break marriages, neglect studies, take risks, etc. in order to secure their pleasures. The costs pile up quickly. They pretend to control their lives, but they are controlled by their passions. We have tried to capture what happens in the Pleasure Seeker's Cycle below.

Pleasure Seeker's Cycle

I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?" I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives. I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself, and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men--many concubines. Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

A much longer discussion on this passage is found in The Bible Teacher's Commentary on Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. The above chart is discussed more on page 3.

B. Fearing Pleasure (I Timothy 4:1-6)

Avoidance of pleasure has become a significant motivation of many lives. They avoid pleasure for different reasons. In 1 Timothy 4 the apostle confronts a group of people that attempted through the absence of pleasure, known as ascetism, to bring them closer to God. Paul explained how this kind of teaching greatly limits the growth of relationships with others including God Himself. Although such self-control might sound impressive, it enslaves people by false teaching. In the following you will see the scriptural perspective on these things.

For Those who Fear Pleasure
1 Timothy 4:1-6

"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods."

(1 Timothy 4:1-3a).

Observations on those fearing pleasure
  • In the later times
  • Falling away from faith
  • Listening to deceitful spirits
  • Believing false doctrine
  • Abstaining from marriage
  • Abstain from foods (meats)
3... Foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude;
5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
(1 Timothy 4:3-5).
Solutions to those fearing pleasure
  • God created these pleasures
  • We are to be grateful for them
  • All is to be accepted
  • Pleasures are sanctified by God's word and prayer
"In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following." (1 Timothy 4:6)

C. Enjoying Pleasure (Psalm 16:11)

God put pleasure into the world so that we could share His joy in our relationship with Him and others. Far from condemning pleasure, He brings it into our lives to enrich life and deepen our celebration of what is good.

  • Design of Pleasure

The biblical viewpoint of pleasure without hesitation states that God has created pleasure.

1) God made the sensory parts capable of receiving pleasure and said that it was good.

2) God made the things that satiates those senses. He did not give us pleasure to tempt us or cause frustration. He gave us an appetite but also the food to happily fill that appetite.

3) God gave us the desires for those appetites to be satiated. God coordinated in our minds the need and the provision. He did this mostly through pleasant senses which stimulate our bodies. This delight then further encourages us to repeat those activities that introduced it. God gave us the memory to remember with some delight past pleasures.

4) Most importantly, through His Word God told us how to protect and preserve these pleasures. For example, He instructed us how marriage is to be respected to protect and focus sexual desires.

  • Acceptance of Pleasure

If God designed pleasure, then it is logical that under normal circumstances people were built for pleasure and to enjoy life.

Psalm 37:4 says,
"Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart."

We are not to avoid pleasure, hate pleasure, fear pleasure no matter how it was wrongly used in the past. We need to reeducate ourselves to God's purpose and plan and not become extreme. We must understand that spiritual disciplines sometimes do call for fasting, abstaining, less sleep, etc., This is okay if it is reasonable and purposeful. However, if we think by doing such things we look spiritual, then there is absolutely no profit in such measures of self-control.

  • Purpose of Pleasure

God designed pleasure in such a way that we can more deeply celebrate His goodness with Him. God is responsible for our desire and capacity of pleasure. If we seek pleasure outside of Him, then we reject Him and the purpose of that pleasure.

1 Pleasure is the fruit of our right relationship with God and man. Pleasures must not drive our lives enhance right living.
2 Pleasure intensifies the meaning in life, but the pleasure of senses is not that meaning. Pleasure without God and righteous living is empty.
3 God put pleasure into the world so that we could share His joy in our relationship with Him. Far from condemning pleasure, He enriches our lives through it.

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life;
In Thy presence is fullness of joy;
In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.

Psalm 16:11

We again need to strengthen our confidence and faith in a such a good God who desires our highest joys and designed them in such a way that He would obtain them.

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