Mentally preparing to soon begin training for another marathon (my poor training means in actuality it will be a half-marathon), I often think of the Eric Liddell quote “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” As soon as that thought bubble dissipates, the next one to appear is my own quote, “On this issue, Eric Liddell was an idiot.”
I enjoy running. But I don’t think I have ever described it as “pleasure.” I wish I had the perspective of Eric Liddell. I would even settle for the perspective of my dog Fledge, who usually has a “HEY LOOK! I’M RUNNING!!! WHEEEEEEEEE!!!” expression on his face.
I do admire Eric’s enjoyment of running. It is a commentary on my own character, and not his, that I do not share his thoughts. But he was exactly right. Not just about running either. He was right about God’s pleasure. This may not have been what he intended, but he was still very much correct. From the above quote, replace the word “run.”
-When I pray, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I give, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I sing praises to Him, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I show love to others, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I’m doing a good deed, I feel God’s pleasure.
Not too difficult to figure out how God’s pleasure is at work in those instances. What about these?
-When I fail, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I get frustrated, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I am imperfect, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I feel like I should do more, I feel God’s pleasure.
-When I sin, I feel God’s pleasure.
We’re fairly confident in affirming the first list. The second list makes us uncomfortable. The second list makes us uncomfortable because of the unpleasant items. We fix our attention on those items, rather than on the One consistent across both lists. Far too many believers miss out on the truth that God is pleased with them. He is pleased with us. He will continue to be pleased with us. The natural side of us generates a calculus that if we do good things, God is pleased with us; if we do bad things, God is displeased with us. The tool of the enemy is to convince us that God is mere moments away from smiting us, to wrestle away our assurance, to goad us into being dubious of God’s good intent for us.
Certainly, God is not always pleased with what we do. We do some mind bogglingly stupid things. A lot. Accordingly, as a good, loving Father, He disciplines us. For followers of Christ, God is always pleased with us. The pleasure He has for us, the pleasure He takes in us, is not because of us or because of what we do, but because of His Son and what His Son has done.
Throughout the New Testament, those who have yielded to Christ are described as being “in Christ” (Romans 8:1, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 2:13, to name a few). It is this union with Christ that makes permanent God’s pleasure with us. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that at Jesus’ baptism, God spoke from heaven and said Jesus was His Son “with whom I am well pleased.”
God is well pleased with Jesus. Followers of Christ are said to be “in Christ”. The pleasure God has towards His Son, He directs to us. Our identification with Christ seals God’s pleasure for us. Even when we sin, God is pleased with us – again, not because of us, but because of His Son, because Christ’s righteousness covers us. God has been and will always be pleased with His Son, Jesus Christ. If by faith you are in Christ, God will always be pleased with you. Rest in His pleasure. Recognize that not only is God pleased with you, but that there is nothing you can do to add to His pleasure. Don’t let the enemy rob you of your joy. Remind yourself that if you are in Christ, there is no condemnation for you. None. Restrain yourself from cataloging your successes and failures as a means of keeping track of whether God is pleased with you. Be assured of your standing with Him through Christ. Remember that it is not about you and your performance – it is about Christ and His.