“I have food to eat that you do not know about…Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work…Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.’” (John 4:32,34,36)
Lately, I have been struck deeply by a part of God’s nature that it is literally transforming my life and walk, both in spiritual matters, and in “day-to-day” matters. It is the nature of God’s pleasure and in His delightfulness. There is a vast, and indeed infinite, amount of joy to be experienced in His wonderful, boundless love!
There is an idea that I harbored about God and pleasures, virtue and joy, love and delightfulness. Subtly, under the surface, I always imagined these things as opposing things. That if I was, indeed, pursuing God, then joy and delight was something that I had to give up. Much like the argument Piper raises in his book, Desiring God, I had believed that if I did something morally right, or at the benefit of another person, then ideally it needed to be absent of any reward to myself–that reward, especially, of the “feel-good” joy. I really wasn’t aware of how prominent this idea was in me until lately.
As I’ve been pondering this subject and reading some well-known, well-respected books on the topic, I’ve been trying to find a good analogy to use to help me process this idea. We can often find the nature of God within nature itself–within it different workings and laws. Then, I came across something Jesus said (the above passage in John 4:34-36).
In this passage, Jesus compared “doing the will of Him who sent me” as “food that you know not of.” There it struck me as a beautiful analogy, one that anyone can relate to…indeed the same analogy Jesus used–food.
We’ll compare worship (one aspect of doing the will of our Father) to eating and hopefully I’ll get the jist of my ideas down in the limited space that this blog affords…
Food, Joy, and God
When it comes to eating, there is a certain process involved. Like most things in creation, there’s a certain way that it works. Now, we eat because we have to! If we didn’t, we would die. It’s one of the three most vital things our bodies and brains need to survive. It isn’t a luxury or recreational.
First, we feel the hunger pang. That feeling in our gut, the grumbling emptiness from deep within. And I’ve noticed it’s more than just physical, somewhere deep within our psyche is involved too, to where even if we don’t feel the physical pang, we have a strong desire to consume food. Our bodies and minds are telling us that we need something that only food can satisfy. Then we do whatever is needed in the moment to acquire that food.
This part of the process could be likened to before we were saved. When we had that deep inner hunger and desire for something deeper and more real than what this world or its people have to offer. Or even after being saved, when we’ve began to “back-slide” and begin to feel that tug within our spirits…”to hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Next, we eat! This is the fun part. We take something that is vital to our survival and livelihood from outside ourselves and bring it into us. (A side note: something, whether plant or animal, must die, must sacrifice its life to nurture us. Much like how we must sacrifice many things to worship and “eat” Christ.)
Now here’s where the pleasure and delightfulness of food comes in and truly shows itself as a picture of God Himself. Somewhere between acquiring and consuming our sustenance, we begin to feel the joy and pleasure of the food. Our brains send a signal which kicks our dopamine levels up (the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain), telling us that what we’re doing is good and right and that we should keep doing it. On a strictly survivalist standpoint, this feel-good part of food consumption is not necessary. We could just as easily survive on a very slim diet of a few calories, proteins, etc. People do it all the time. But oh what a part of life we would be missing!
Think of all the foods you enjoy, the meals you’ve shared with family and friends, all the dishes and desserts, what goes good with what. Now imagine trying to live (maintain) on a very bland diet of say white bread, cold hot dogs, and water. It would take something very important from your life, wouldn’t it?
Also, biologists mostly agree that the reason humans have such higher mental capacities than all the other animals on the earth is mostly due to our diets. We spend less energy on hunting and gathering and digesting (because we cook our food, which takes most of the hard work of digestion from our digestive tracts). So without this pleasure and joy from food, we probably wouldn’t be refining higher culture like we do with music, literature, poetry, films, etc. Also, we’d be a lot smaller.
When we don’t regularly feed on God, we are stunted. We aren’t nearly what we were designed to be. So these aspects of “higher culture” are another way through which we bear the image of God. So without them, without a good diet, we bear less and less His image, and more and more of the animal kingdom’s image.
How to Enjoy God
Many, many Christians today are simply trying to survive on their diet of God by going to church, trying to force themselves to read Scripture, listening to some godly music, or the like. They aren’t finding their delight in God Himself. Now, it takes a transformed mind to even consider this (as in, being saved), but it is our birthright as God’s children.
One way to begin considering how to “eat or feed on Christ” is to maybe list what things you do naturally that please you–that bring you joy. Writing, reading, gardening, running, working on old cars, etc., etc., and realize that God is so personable, that He finds delight in the things that you delight in! Granted obviously, that they aren’t inherently sinful. Do those things…as an act of worship! Talk to Him about why you’re enjoying yourself during those times. Then, maybe after some practice, you can begin to talk to Him while doing things you don’t enjoy like going to work, mowing the grass, picking the kids up from school, etc., and perhaps He’ll make it to where you’ll enjoy being with Him in the things you don’t enjoy doing.
I have come nowhere near even scratching the surface of this topic, neither here on paper, nor in my own life. But I hope it helped you see God a little brighter than before you read it. But regardless, I found great pleasure and delight in writing it, because God was in it and because I enjoy writing and sharing my experience with people. This was an example of an act of worship for me.
“You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”