Can You Give Joy to God?
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
In several of last week's reflections, we considered how our words might grieve the Holy Spirit. When we speak in ways that are contrary to the person we will be on the day when God redeems all things, the Spirit grieves. When our words hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ and injure the body of Christ, the Spirit grieves. The idea that we can actually grieve the Holy Spirit surely will motivate us to avoid "unwholesome talk."
But, before we leave Ephesians 4:30, I want to ask a question that isn't addressed directly in the verse: If our speech can grieve the Holy Spirit, is it also possible for what we say to give joy to God? If our hurtful words can sadden God's Spirit, can our edifying words give delight to the Lord?
In order to answer this question, we need first to consider a broader question: Can we give joy to God? Or, to put it another way, can our words, deeds, thoughts, and choices give God pleasure?
I think many Christians would answer this question negatively. We know we can grieve the Lord. We're quite convinced that our sin can make God angry. But God rejoicing in us? That seems like wishful thinking, like the kind of pop theology that shows up on corny religious posters but has nothing to do with reality. God, for many of us, is a stern, demanding, imperious King who, if we're really good and really lucky, will not be angry with us or grieved over us. The best we can hope for is that God will feel neutral about us.
This perception of God can be fueled by our experience of our own parents. My father, for example, loved me deeply and dearly. In most ways he was a great dad. But he had difficulty expressing his positive feelings for me. He was not physically expressive. He rarely told me in words that he loved me. And, never in my life, did my dad ever say, "I'm proud of you." When he was close to death, I gathered all of my courage and asked him if he was proud of me. Even then, he just couldn't say it, though I could tell he wanted to say "Yes!" Thanks be to God, I heard from my mom a thousand times that she and my dad were proud of me. But, though I knew in my head that my dad delighted in me, I rarely experienced this in a way that touched my heart.
So, as you might expect, I easily project upon my Heavenly Father that which I experienced from my earthly father. I know God loves me. I believe God will always be there for me. I know God would do anything for me (and, in fact, he has). But do I give God joy? Can I give delight to my Heavenly Father? This is hard for me to acknowledge and even harder for me to feel deep in my yearning soul.
In tomorrow's reflection, I'll examine what Scripture says about our potential to give joy to God. (If you're impatient, you might check out Psalm 149:4.) For now, I'd encourage you to reflect upon your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The following questions might be helpful to you.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you believe that you can give joy to God? If so, does this belief reside in your heart as well as your head? If not, why not? How has your experience with your parents affected your relationship with your Heavenly Father? If you really believed that you could give joy to God, how might this make a difference in your life?
PRAYER: Gracious Heavenly Father, I do not want to grieve your Spirit. I do not want to sadden you or anger you. What I really want is to honor you in all that I do and say, to please you, perhaps even to give you joy. Yet, Lord, I don't want to make up feel-good religious slogans that are not grounded in your Word. So, help me, I pray, to know what is true about you and the way you relate to me. Where my mind is off track, please correct it. Where my heart is wounded, please heal it. Help me to know you truly, deeply, and as fully as is possible for me this side of Heaven. Amen.
Moving Beyond Mediocrity
This article is part of our series, Moving Beyond Mediocrity. How often in your daily life do you think, “I wish I could do better”? It’s the feeling you get when you realize you aren’t really trying. Your job, your family, even your hobbies: they are worth working harder. But what does it take to move beyond mediocrity? How do you quit using your education, your upbringing, your circumstances, even your faith, as an excuse to keep you from doing your best? Join us as we discuss giving it our all in our workplaces and our homes, in our communities and our churches, for the common good and for the glory of God. Also, consider inviting others to join you by sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or networks you are part of.