One of the most challenging questions I’ve reflected upon lately has been, “Do you enjoy God?”
It says in Acts 2:43 that the early church was “filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.” And then later in Acts 3:10, in response to the lame beggar being healed by God, it says the onlookers were “filled with wonder and amazement.”
There is no doubt that they enjoyed God.
When was the last time you were in awe of someone or something?
I think about the first time I saw the Grand Canyon or when I was working my first internship with the Arizona Cardinals. I was up close witnessing these NFL players' incredible strength, size, and athleticism.
Now, when was the last time you were in awe of God or filled with wonder and amazement at what He has done?
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
An exercise I have found to be helpful when reflecting upon this question is to consider my faith through these 3 categories.
Know(ing) God means knowing the truth. Not our feelings, but to know what God has revealed in His Word.
Enjoy God means to delight in God. To be in awe of Him.
And then Glorify(ing) God being the more ‘action-oriented’ step for the sake of this exercise.
Please know that this is not intended to be some perfect framework for saving or growing as a Christian. Its primary intent is to highlight how challenging it can sometimes be to simply enjoy God. And the most challenging thing about this exercise is that it places “glorifying God” at the end.
If you’re like me, it is oftentimes much easier to understand what it means to glorify God. We can often connect glorifying God with activity for God. And we love to rush to the ‘doing.’
At USG, we come alongside hundreds of future leaders of the college and pro sports industry to help them grow spiritually and professionally. One of the ways we help individuals grow professionally is by walking them through Gallup Strengths Finder. Every time we do this, we see consistently time and time again that ‘Achiever’ is a top strength for the majority of our participants.
Achiever is one of my top strengths, and I’m guessing that even if achiever is not high on yours as well, you understand the drive to achieve. Achiever can, of course, be a great strength. It's a really good thing, but when it comes to our faith, it can sometimes make it easy for us to rush past knowing God and enjoying God.
I’d submit to you that it’s actually impossible to GLORIFY God without first KNOWING God and ENJOYING God. Our drive to “achieve” great things for God is in vain if it’s not rooted in knowledge of the truth and genuine delight in God.
I have heard it said that “transformation into God’s image is not born out of obligation, but is born out of fascination.”
While the primary question I have posed at the beginning is “Do you enjoy God?”, it is essential to remember that we should not rush past the first category I mentioned - “Know God."
Knowledge does not guarantee holiness, but growing in our faith and relationship with God does require knowledge.
In Acts 2:42, it’s made clear that the apostles were, first and foremost, devoted to the apostles' teaching. Their enjoyment of God was rooted in truth.
Paul has this to say about the Jews in Romans 10:2:
“ ... they have a zeal for God, but it does not accord with knowledge."
Our zeal and enjoyment of God must always be rooted in truth. John Piper has a well-known phrase explaining, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
So, how do we enjoy God?
Again, in Acts 2:43, it says that “everyone was filled with awe.” One Pastor described this as a joyful, trembling sense of awe that you don't mess with the God of the apostles.
All too often, though, this doesn’t seem to be how we view God. It’s much more common to see God as some tradition Who is no longer relevant or as just a slightly better version of ourselves. It can be uncommon to see God as the fearsome, all-powerful REALITY that He is.
John Piper explains, “The absence of this fear has a direct effect on the way we accumulate possessions for ourselves, the way we ignore the needy, the way we trivialize fellowship, and the way we play more than we pray.”
Here are just a few ways God has helped me grow in my awe and enjoyment of Him. Many Christians are already familiar with all of these things, but I pray that our familiarity doesn’t make us rush past being in awe.
1. Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies.
Prophecies are messages from God, oftentimes concerning what will happen in the future.
The passages below are some of many other passages in scripture explaining how Jesus fulfilled these prophecies.
"18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer."
"27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. … 44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies during His 33 short years on earth. Including how He would:
defeat Satan - Genesis 3:15
be rejected - Psalm 118:22-23
Be hated without a cause - Psalm 69:4
resurrect - Psalm 49:15
be born of a virgin - Isaiah 7:14
be born in Bethlehem - Micah 5:2
buried in a wealthy man’s tomb - Isaiah 53:9
resurrect from the dead - Psalm 16:8-11
Mathematics & Astronomy Professor Peter W. Stoner has made the statement that the chances of just 8 prophecies like these coming true by sheer chance is 1 in 1017 (100,000,000,000,000,000). That would be equivalent to covering the whole state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep and expecting a blindfolded man to walk across the state and, on the first try, find the ONE coin you marked.
A 2nd item that I think can help us grow in AWE of God and ENJOY God is:
2. His Grandness
A few specific attributes of God that can be helpful in understanding just how GRAND and BIG God is are his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
God has complete and total control over everything.
This includes the seemingly small things like the falling of a sparrow or the number of hairs that grow on your head (Matt 6:26-30, 10:29-30). And even the events that we think are random are really God at work (Prov 16:33).
And, of course, most significantly, He is able to save sinners (Eph 2:8-10).
He is the all-powerful One Who rescued us when we were dead in our trespasses and granted us eternal life.
God’s power is always used by Him perfectly because He is OMNISCIENT. This means God is ALL-KNOWING. Nothing ever catches God by surprise or happens without His awareness.
He is the One who knows all things and is the ultimate standard of what is true.
This knowledge includes the personal details of each one of us. Psalm 139 explains how God knew us when he formed us in our mother’s womb and knows every day of our lives before we are even born.
John Frame of the Gospel Coalition explains that:
God’s “omnipresence is a presence both in place and in time. Psalm 139 indicates that God is present in every place. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth, and so he is in every location. He is also the creator of time,2 the one without beginning or end. So he has been present in the world since its creation, and there will never be a time from which he is absent.”
The final item I’d like to challenge us to reflect upon to help us grow in our awe and enjoyment of God is:
3) His Goodness.
AW Tozer says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What are the very first words that come into your mind when you think about God?
One of our biggest and most important battles as Christians is to correct our negative and inaccurate thoughts about God. Our feelings and our experiences can so easily lead us astray in thinking unsoundly about God.
When we think about people with a lot of power, it’s easy to start seeing God as just another high-in-the-sky ruler who is waiting for us to screw up so He can strike us down.
In Exodus 34:6, God describes Himself for the very first time. What He says is incredible. The words He uses when he first talks about who He is are:
slow to anger
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Later in the New Testament, Matthew 11:28-30, the all-powerful Creator God describes Himself as “gentle and lowly.”
Is this how you think about God? If not, you actually have an inaccurate thought and understanding of who God truly is and His goodness.
Again, not based upon your experiences, feelings, or what others may have communicated to you, but in regards to what He has communicated throughout Scripture. And what He has revealed about Who He is through His word and His time here on earth 2,000 years ago.
And, of course, the biggest item that reveals God’s goodness is His desire and design for a relationship with us. Many Christians know this to be true, but many can mistakenly believe that God desires this relationship so that He can get something from us. God, however, doesn’t desire for us to live in debt to Him but to be indwelled by Him.
So many of us can get caught up in thinking that we were created just do good things for God. We think that we must do this in order to please God and to help Him. As if Jesus is just some business person who gave up His life to try and get something in return from us. Or as if the all-powerful God of Creation is in need of anything from us.
David Platt has summarized this well by sharing, “Jesus is not a businessman looking to do a business deal with you. Jesus died for a meaningful relationship with you, not a monotonous religious motion from you. This is not Christianity. But so many are settling for it like it is. It is not.”
Jesus’ final words on the cross recorded in John 19:30 are, “It is finished.” The single Greek word Jesus used here was also used on tax receipts to indicate “paid in full.”
There’s nothing additional for us to pay. Jesus saved us not to do great things for Him but to do great things with Him.
The final words in the Gospel of Mark are, “And they went out and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” (Mark 16:20, emphasis added).
Returning to our passage in Acts, it is made clear who is doing the work.
“And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” - Acts 2:47
We have the privilege of living on mission WITH the ONE who spoke this world into existence. He is with us. This alone should cause us to be in awe and to truly ENJOY God.
My prayer for all of us is that we truly enjoy God and never stop being in awe of the reality that He fulfilled over 300 prophecies, of how grand He is, and how good He is.
I am confident that if we can go forth “enjoying” God based on “knowing” Him in truth, we too can be part of the “glorifying” that is described in Acts 2:47.