It is patently obvious that it is impossible to enjoy God without faith, for Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” It is impossible to know God without faith. In Romans 14:23b Paul is even more clear about this, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” To imagine a relationship with God without faith is like Star Trek without space.
People who enjoy God go a bit further. Faith takes on a new meaning for them. It is not that this meaning is foreign to the normal usage of the term, it is just that others don’t think of it in this light. It is far more than just believing that He exists. An example will help.
When a person who enjoys God says that he believes in God, he means roughly the same thing as the person who says, “I believe in health food.”
Suppose someone says, “I believe in health food.” What does he mean by “believe?” And what if you caught him eating cholesterol-charged saturated fats with a healthy dosage of sugar: a donut. Let’s say you challenged him about his believing in health food and he said, “I don’t have to eat health food; I can eat what I want and still believe in health food.” Sure he can, but that is a wholly different, and unusual meaning of the word believe. Yet, when a person says he believes in God he may take it to mean that he believes God exists. This is not the Biblical definition of faith. This is the faith that James speaks of in 2:17 “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
When a person who enjoys God says that he believes in God, he means roughly the same thing as the person who says, “I believe in health food.” He means that he wholeheartedly endorses it and takes it for his own life and practice. Just as you would expect a person who believes in health food to be a lover of tofu and sprouts, so you expect a person who says he believes in God to be a lover of scripture and prayer. Certain things just go together.
If a person is not interested in getting as far away from sin as possible, God has nothing for him.
And if a person says, “Can I do this or that [shameful activity] and still be a Christian?” The person who enjoys God shakes his head and says, “that makes no sense whatsoever.” It would be like asking, “Can I be saved from my sin and still sin.” There is no right answer to a dumb question like that. If a person is not interested in getting as far away from sin as possible, God has nothing for him. God is nothing but righteousness and holiness and if that does not satisfy as no sin ever did, you are drinking at the wrong fountain. Some want to be saved from sin and keep sinning. That is like a person who wants to go swimming but not get wet.
People who enjoy God believe in God. They do not merely believe that He exists, they believe in Him, and live like it. They are enthusiasts about God and the Christian life. Just as hunters love guns and fighter pilots love airplanes and health food enthusiasts love health food, so people who enjoy God love God and all the things of God: the church, the Bible, and the songs of the faith. They are even sentimental about some of these things. Many of them have a favorite Bible that they have heavily marked with green, red, black, blue and yellow pens and markers over the years. The have marked the dates in the margin when God has spoken to them in certain ways. The value that they attach to these Bibles goes beyond any practical advantage that these notes carry. If you offered to give them a new Bible with these notes carefully and neatly copied they would turn you down flat. There is just something about this Bible.
Everyone in my family can remember my mother’s old, red King James Bible. There was hardly a page that was not heavily marked. The whole thing was ragged and falling a part. We all wondered why she did not get a new one. It was surely not the money; she could afford it. It was not the availability, as it would be for some of our brothers in some places in the world today. It was not until I came to enjoy God that I understood why she kept using that old Bible.
Ironically, it is this same familiarity that leaves others flat. Familiarity can be the great thief of faith. It was true in Jesus day.
We read in Matthew 13 of Jesus return to his hometown of Capernaum. Try to imagine how Jesus felt as he entered his hometown. Familiar. Comfortable. Welcome. At home.
Las Cruces sits in the Rio Grande Valley so that your eyes are entertained by a carpet of lights whenever you enter the city. It looks a little like the floor at Christmas time when you are laying out the lights to see if they work before you put them on the tree. The sight of Las Cruces always brings to me all kinds of emotions. Perhaps these are the emotions Jesus felt as he entered Jerusalem.
Jesus knew familiarity can be the enemy of faith.
He immediately began teaching, and the people were amazed. Soon, however, the emotion turned south. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” ( Matthew 13:55, 56). Jesus interpreted, rather than answering their questions, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” Jesus knew familiarity can be the enemy of faith.
We can become so familiar with the things of God: the church, the songs, the buildings, even the stories of the Bible, that we grow bored with them. Our boredom robs us of joy and of faith.
God, give us the enchantment with our spouses that we had when we first fell in love, the wonder with our children that we had when we first held them in our arms, and the thrill of the first love.
I remember my mother reading Bible stories to me as a child. “I have already heard that story,” I protested, “and that story and that story and that story.”
“I have heard these stories as well,” Mom wisely counseled, “many, many times. But I keep reading them again and again with great profit.” She had learned not to let the familiar rob her of faith and joy.
This cycle of boredom can push even further down. Jesus could not do many miracles in Capernaum, because the people there did not believe. It would be natural for them to think, then, that there was nothing so special about Jesus. He hadn’t done anything very spectacular lately. Their boredom with him contributed to his inability to work great wonders, which fed their boredom with them. People bored with God don’t see God do much; they don’t realize they are part of the problem.
People bored with God don’t see God do much; they don’t realize they are part of the problem.
This is why boring churches tend to stay boring and exciting churches tend to stay exciting. It explains why enthusiastic, joyful Christians tend to stay that way, and those who are bored never understand why. Faith breeds the working of God and the working of God feeds our faith.
This is what happens with people who enjoy God. They learn to let the familiarity feed their enjoyment, rather than making them bored. This is the difference between the person who takes up golf for a year or two, then lets his clubs rust in the garage, and the person who, year after year, in season and out, is thrilled by the new challenges of this old, familiar sport. He believes in golfing. In a way, it has the wonder that it did when he first took up the sport. In another way, it is far deeper than that. He has never the love he had at first for golf.
God, give us the enchantment with our spouses that we had when we first fell in love, the wonder with our children that we had when we first held them in our arms, and the thrill of the first love ( Revelation 2:4).
God, give us the enchantment with our spouses that we had when we first fell in love, the wonder with our children that we had when we first held them in our arms, and the thrill of the first love ( Revelation 2:4). How easy it is for the familiarity of the hometown to rob us of this.