The Paradox of Pleasure

If one were to inquire of another, “What do you think of pleasure?” The responses would vary. Pleasure can be misguided and misplaced. The paradox is found in God. God is good, and with Him are pleasures, forever (Ps 16:11). In other words, God takes pleasure in some things, but not others. Being made in the image of God, we take pleasure in some things, but not others. Because God is perfect, He takes pleasure in that which is good. Because man is sinful, our pursuit of pleasure is naturally twisted.

God takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation (Ps 149:4). The paradox here is that God will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon (Is 48:14). The pleasure of God is observed in His deliverance and in His judgment.

God promises to accomplish His good pleasure (Ps 46:10). This, of course, is found in His decree of everything from beginning to end. It would not be a pleasure for God not to do His will; therefore, His will be done. It is futile for men to speak of chance, luck, or odds. Has God not ordered all things? People grumble and murmur about their various plights in the world, but God is accomplishing His good pleasure. We would be wise to remember this truth of God, intended to humble us.

It was God’s good pleasure for all the fullness of deity to dwell in Jesus Christ (Col 1:19). The incarnation of the eternal Son of God (Jn 1:14), in order to become the Son of man, was God’s kind intention for His redeemed people. It was God’s way of reconciling the world to Himself (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:19). The Father said of His only begotten, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mt 3:17).” God’s good pleasure was personified in Jesus. It was also seen in Christ’s incarnational purpose (Eph 1:9). He was born to die for His people (Mt 1:21). For the joy set before Him, He endured the Cross (Heb 12:2). First, there is passion, and then there is glory.

Yahweh was pleased to crush His own Son (Is 53:10). Some have written on the divine child abuse of God. It is unthinkable for men without understanding to ponder the ways of God. Why would God put His Son to grief? For Jesus, the eternal Son, to become a man and offer Himself as a guilt offering for sin, the reward would be the liberation of His people from bondage to sin. God would allow Him to see His offspring, who number as the sand of the seashore, and prolong His days through resurrection and glorification into eternity. This was God’s good pleasure, to prosper His perfectly obedient Son. He learned obedience by what He suffered (Heb 5:8). Now, He reigns forever, and His kingdom has no end (Lk 1:33).

It is also God’s good pleasure to give His children the kingdom (Lk 12:32). The manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth, today, is found in the Holy Spirit. It is witnessed in righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom 14:17). The gift of the Holy Spirit, to the children of God, is the pledge of greater fullness, coming at the second advent of Christ and our resurrection to life everlasting (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Jn 5:29).

The Holy Spirit is at work within each child of God to will and to do God’s good pleasure (Phil 2:13). The kind intention of His will is our adoption into His family (Eph 1:5). God intends to work all things together for good, for His beloved ones (Rom 8:28). The will of God for His children is sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). This means we are subject to the course He has prepared, in order to purify us into holiness.

Jesus showed us the course, and we are to follow in His steps (1 Pet 2:21), by pursuing peace and righteousness, faith and love, gentleness, and perseverance (1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22; Heb 12:14). There is also fear and trembling and diverse tribulations, as we offer up our lives as living sacrifices unto our God (Rom 12:1).

John Piper has written on the pleasures of God, “Our obedience is God’s pleasure when it proves that God is our treasure. This is good news, because it means very simply that the command to obey is the command to be happy in God. The commandments of God are only as hard to obey as the promises of God are hard to believe. The Word of God is only as hard to obey as the beauty of God is hard to cherish.” If God cuts you down, He has other purposes for you. In suffering loss, the apostle Paul found that He gained more of God.

Simply stated, those who pursue God will have Him as their pleasure, in good times and in troubles. Pursuing God, for better or worse, will be our satisfaction because it is our sanctification.

The temptation of man is put forth to seduce him into believing there is good pleasure in something or someone else other than God. This is why the Bible is filled with warnings about pleasures in this world.

When people do not believe the truth of God, and pursue wicked pleasures, only judgment can follow (2 Thess 2:12). She who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead already (1 Tim 5:6). Reprobation grows worse and worse, until bad behavior is reveled in publicly (2 Pet 2:13). God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezek 18:23, 32), not even the wicked (Ezek 33:11). Without the grace of repentance, those who pursue the pleasures of this world are doomed.

As lovers of pleasure (2 Tim 3:4), instead of lovers of God, life becomes sour (Tit 3:3). It becomes a war against flesh and blood (Jam 4:1), and even prayers are tainted (Jas 4:3). God takes no pleasure in unbelievers (Heb 10:38), nor in the sacrifices of the religious (Heb 10:6, 8). The life of a wanton pleasure seeker is like the fattening of an animal prepared for slaughter (Jam 5:5). It is far better to be cut down into pieces, than to rise up into the heavens in pride.

Worldly pleasure seekers become poor (Prv 21:17). What are the addictions common to people, but the pursuit of pleasure apart from God. Solomon was maddened by his pursuit of pleasure in this world (Eccl 2:2). His did it with the purpose of finding the wisdom in it. How much worse is it for those who pursue it without wisdom (Eccl 7:4)! Still, he found as much futility in asceticism, as in wanton pleasure seeking (Eccl 4:8). His conclusion in these matters is worth noting: Fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl 12:13). It is our ambition to please God (2 Cor 5:9), and obedience proves our love for Him (Jn 14:15). Not surprising, the obedience of love is pure pleasure (1 Jn 5:3).

If God holds pleasure in His right hand, and it is His kind intention to extend His good pleasures, then who is wise? If the world holds out its alternative pleasures, and these only lead to sour addictions, then who is wise? Truly, the God of the Bible, Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the God of good pleasures. He disciplines His children, and we learn to take pleasure in His discipline. He leaves the reprobate to enjoy life in this world. The paradox is that children of God hate their lives in this world (Jn 12:25). The reason for this dichotomy is the pleasures of God waiting for His children in the world to come.

Do you take pleasure in the hope of better things? If you do, then you are a child of God, an heir of God, being made ready to receive all of the pleasures of His eternal kingdom. These are called, “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). These present sufferings in this world are not to be compared to the glories to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18). So be encouraged and learn the paradox of pleasure.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

April 15, 2021

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher