Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God's Good Gifts

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9781601428523: Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God's Good Gifts

Is It Okay to Enjoy This Life?
 
Watching a gorgeous sunset. Sharing a laugh with a friend. Tasting a sun-ripened strawberry. Each day is full of opportunities for you to savor the countless gifts the Creator has given.
 
But do you feel free to delight in God’s abundant gifts, or is your joy sometimes distorted by guilt, fear of idolatry, or simply an overwhelming awareness of sin’s effects on this world?
 
Trillia Newbell explains how we often miss opportunities to participate in God’s divine delight because we’re discouraged, fixated on selfish fulfillment, or paralyzed by guilt.  Enjoy serves as an encouraging reminder of God’s gracious gifts and also challenges women to view all of these gifts—from relationships and careers to food and sex—as reasons to rejoice in the Lord and grow in our understanding and appreciation of who He is.  
 
This thought-provoking book invites you to explore the truth of God’s Word and discover how to nurture daily a spirit of gratitude and deep satisfaction.
 
Enjoy will open your eyes and your heart to the freedom of fully enjoying all God has given us!

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About the Author:

Trillia J. Newbell is the author of two previous books, Fear and Faith and United. Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel and Relevant Magazine, as well as on numerous websites, such as Desiring God, Christianity Today, and the Gospel Coalition. She is the director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Trillia lives near Nashville with her husband, Thern, and their children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

An Invitation to Enjoy
 

A few years ago I bought a bike. Not just any old bike, but a Specialized road bike, which is a style often used for racing or longer rides. After spending a couple of months mostly sitting to finish up several writing projects, I wanted a new and interesting outlet for fitness. A good friend is an avid cyclist, and hearing his delight in the sport made me that much more curious. So instead of testing the waters, I just jumped straight in. 

Let me tell you, I love cycling. For so many reasons. I’m never more aware of God’s beautiful creation than while riding through it on my bike. I’m drawn to worship and rejoice and thank God for his gifts, like oxygen, trees, and the horses I ride past on one of my routes. Not to mention how much I benefit from the exercise, which helps me focus with renewed energy when I return to the tasks of my day.
But here’s the thing: simply enjoying my time on the bike didn’t feel right to me. It seemed that my cycling needed to have a greater purpose, that the time invested needed to be legitimized by something with deeper meaning. So not long after I   bought the road bike, I began training for a triathlon. I connected with an organization I love and built a fundraiser out of my leisure activity. That felt right. The problem is, it wasn’t.
  
As I began to formalize my plans, I connected with a leader of the organization I wanted to fundraise for. Soon I realized that what he desired me to do and what I actually had the time for wasn’t possible. I couldn’t finish all the projects for the fundraising effort and train and still have time for the rest of my life activities related to work and family. It quickly became too much for me. In the end, a small wreck on my bike put me out of training for a few months. In terms of triathlon training, especially when new to the sport, that’s a long time. In the end, I missed my race. I was terribly sad but realized God was teaching me much through this situation.

I started to recognize the importance of knowing my limits and learning the discipline of saying no. But beyond that, I began to ask myself why I felt I couldn’t have a hobby solely for the pur- pose of enjoyment. Why did I wrestle with guilt over time spent riding my bike, feeling as if it were a waste of time unless I turned it into something greater? Could a leisure activity possibly be a way to glorify God?

In the months since, I’ve discovered the answer is a definite yes.

Have  you,  too,  struggled  with  whether  it’s  okay  to enjoy something in your life, such as maintaining a flower garden or sitting down to read or dancing with your husband? I imagine I’m not alone in feeling confused about the purpose and significance of leisure, as well as other pleasures in life, and I’d love to share with you some of what I’ve discovered. In this book, you and I will consider together why God gave us things like leisure, relationships, work, creation, and sex. And my prayer is that in learning to better enjoy, recognize, and appreciate these gifts, we’ll learn to more clearly see and more passionately worship the provider of all these good gifts. 
 
God’s Invitation to Enjoy

The world has its share of dark and difficult things. After all, life is not all rainbows and butterflies. I know this all too well, having experienced the deaths of dear loved ones, the pain of unfair criticism, and the agony of miscarriages. Yet the Bible specifically instructs us to rejoice in our sorrows, to delight and give thanks. Does this mean we’re supposed to walk around pretending every- thing is okay? I don’t think so.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, unpacked this apparent paradox. After describing the various sufferings he and his companions had endured, Paul wrote of being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). He didn’t pretend life was easy. He acknowledged the hardships he had endured, and yet he also recognized that he had a great Savior and, as a result, much reason for rejoicing.

Paul continued this theme in 1 Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (5:16–18). He also revealed that joy is a fruit of the Spirit—something that is devel- oped and nurtured within us by his presence in our lives and by his grace (see Galatians 5:22). So we can conclude that we need God in order to have true and lasting joy.

The reality is that you and I live in a fallen world, yet at the same time, God has given us abundantly more than we could ask for or imagine. You and I have been given gifts upon gifts from God, gifts he intends for our enjoyment. In the pages to come, we are going to think on these things and even experiment with how we can move beyond recognition of these wonderful gifts to practical delight in them.
  
So what does it look like to truly enjoy? I think God lays it out for us in 1 Thessalonians, in the verse we just looked at. Our enjoyment is all about him. He gives good gifts, and we in turn thank him. But we not only thank God—we experience the fullness of enjoyment as we let those gifts point us to truths about him.

Think about your favorite dish. My mouth begins to water as I imagine taking a bite of a strawberry dipped in Nutella. Eating a strawberry can seem so trivial until we begin to reflect on the Giver of the gift. Knowing who is behind the gift brings significance to that food and prompts an attitude of thanksgiving. We can enjoy every single bite to the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).

The reality, however, is that nothing in this world can be truly fulfilling. The whole earth groans for the new heaven and earth (see Romans 8:22). We long for something better. It’s a longing that won’t be fulfilled here—not now, not on this earth. The president of Desiring God ministries, Jon Bloom, summed up this sentiment well:
 
Right now even the best things are not what they should be. And so much goes so very wrong. In this partial age, our bodies, our loved ones, our careers, our creations, our investments, and our plans are all subject to the forces of futility (Romans 8:20). This age is marked more by suffering (8:18), longing (8:19), groaning (8:23), and hope (8:24) than by fulfillment.
 
I think the Preacher in Ecclesiastes would have given Bloom a hearty “Amen!” When I read the first few sentences of Ecclesiastes, it makes me want to throw in the towel and head straight to heaven! “All is vanity,” he proclaims. Why bother with toil, or anything else for that matter? Yet if you keep reading, you see redemption. You see why we participate in the everyday activities of life: it’s all vanity, sure, but it’s all a gift from our heavenly Father! Consider these biblical contrasts:
Toil is exhausting (2:22–23); rejoice in God’s good gift of work  (5:19).

The toil to eat and drink is vain (Psalm 127:2); eating, drink- ing, and work are God’s gift to man (Ecclesiastes 3:12–13).

There’s much to lament about, but we can and should enjoy, delight, and rejoice. Zack Eswine, pastor of Riverside Church in St. Louis, Missouri, puts it like this: “[The Preacher in Ecclesiastes] maintains that God exists and is knowable. Therefore purpose can be recovered, not beneath the sun, but in the One who created the sun.”

Purpose. There must be purpose in order for us to make sense of the world. That purpose isn’t found in the world; it’s found only in God. If, as The Westminster Catechism declares, the chief end (or purpose) of man is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever,” then part of enjoying God now is learning to enjoy what he has done, what he has given, and what he has created.

Let’s start our adventure into more fully enjoying God by looking at one of the first things he revealed about himself in the Bible. 

God Delights

In Genesis 1 God created the heavens and the earth, and what did he say? Not “I did an okay job.” No, he delighted in all he created. He said it was good and then very good! This wasn’t a half-hearted proclamation. He announced “It is good” with the same power as when he said, “Let there be light.”

Notice also as you read through the creation story that each time God created something, he paused and said it was good.4 He didn’t wait until the end of all his work and then declare it good. All along the way, every detail was thoughtfully created—and it was good. The light, sea, animals, and plants—he saw that they were all good.

I’m not especially creative when it comes to art, but I do love to cook. As I think about God creating the whole earth, it re- minds me of what it’s like to cook a meal, though this example certainly will fall short! When I roast fresh vegetables, for exam- ple, I need to gather the ingredients—sweet potatoes, red onions, Yukon potatoes, carrots, turnips, leeks, garlic, and maybe a little cauliflower—and then slice and dice. It’s not uncommon for me to pause and take a picture of the raw vegetables because, to me, there’s unique beauty and goodness in the sliced vegetables. I usu- ally delight in the aroma of one of the spices I decide to toss in along with the olive oil. Even now, writing this, I had to take a brief moment to close my eyes and imagine the smell! After forty minutes of roasting in the oven and occasional tossing to mix the flavors, I pull the vegetables out. Again, I’m reminded that it’s good. And that’s only the sight and fragrance! When I taste the explosion of flavors, the goodness of these foods is evident to me. 
 
Now, let’s go back to Genesis 1. Can you imagine the delight God must have experienced when he created all things and they were perfect? I get such joy out of cooking a panful of vegeta- bles—surely when God said his creation was good, he meant it in the purest, most delightful way. What he made was very good. That our holy, awesome God would take pleasure in his creation and declare its goodness is truly amazing.

When I think about the creation story, it’s not hard for me to imagine how the Lord could make the sea and say it’s good, or plants and animals and say they are good. But think about how the Lord knew that one day man would sin against him and that this sin would affect every aspect of his beautiful creation, yet he still created us and said man was good. It is unbelievably remark- able to me. The author of Psalm 8 captures my thoughts well:
 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of  him, and the son of man that you care for him?
 
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heav- enly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, 
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
 
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (verses 3–9)
 
I look to Genesis 1, and I see God’s amazing handiwork and marvel that he delights in man. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that God rejoices over us. This is true even after the Fall. What amazing grace! And we know that God so loved the world that he gave his Son for us. It’s astonishing and humbling. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.

So how  does  all this relate  to  our  delight  in God’s gifts? What’s the opportunity for you and me?

As God’s image bearers, you and I have the capacity to reflect certain aspects of our heavenly Father. And there is no doubt he has given us the same capacity to declare over his creation that it is good. We can rejoice and delight and find joy in what he has given us. But as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we must also contend with those things that tempt us not to enjoy.
 
Distorted by the Fall

Of all creation, we know that man was unique. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and given dominion over every- thing else. After creating mankind, God finished his work and declared that it was very good. And then he rested. (So rest must be a good thing, right?) 
 
So here we are. God has created Eden and placed earth’s first people in the garden to work it. Work was part of his original design, even in paradise! God gave them everything they would need—I imagine it was actually far beyond what they could ever need. There was only one rule: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From our vantage point, it doesn’t seem like a tough request. Hey— you’ve got all you  need.  Surely you can abstain from eating from  this  one  tree,  right?  But  we know how this ended, and it wasn’t pretty. Eve fell into Satan’s trap, the couple ate the apple, their eyes were opened to good and evil, they tried to clothe themselves, and finally they hid from God. The world was forever changed as a result of their disobedi- ence. What was once beautiful had now been marred by sin.

It would be easy for me to self-righteously declare that, in their place, I wouldn’t have eaten that fruit. I’d like to think I would have self-control, that I wouldn’t covet, that I wouldn’t fall for the lies of the devil and question God’s goodness for me and commands for living. God had given them so much to enjoy, yet they decided it wasn’t enough. The truth is that the same lies we see in Genesis 3 often hinder us today from enjoying what God has given to us.

As I noted earlier, true and right enjoyment focuses on God, on delighting and enjoying him forever. But because of the Fall, our approach toward enjoyment seems to fall into two different categories: either you and I are fully engaged in hedonistically pursuing our joy and fulfillment in the things of this earth, or we fear that anything we take joy in is ultimately sinful and selfish. We live either as if the world were our playground and everything is ultimately about us and our fulfillment or as if we were wasting precious time if not engaged in serious pursuits. 
 
Some may suggest the solution is simply to live a little and enjoy what God has made as long as you’re careful to thank him as you delight. As I’ve thought and studied, I don’t think this is how one truly enjoys. It’s not that we find something we enjoy and then try to cram God into it. We enjoy because we know that the gift is given by God for our enjoyment. The gift starts with God as the Giver. If we believe this and see all things as his gifts to us, we are free to abandon our man-made rules and self-imposed guilt and simply enjoy.
 
Discontentment 

But fixing our eyes on the Giver is ...

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Book Description Multnomah Press, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Is It Okay to Enjoy This Life? Watching a gorgeous sunset. Sharing a laugh with a friend. Tasting a sun-ripened strawberry. Each day is full of opportunities for you to savor the countless gifts the Creator has given. But do you feel free to delight in God s abundant gifts, or is your joy sometimes distorted by guilt, fear of idolatry, or simply an overwhelming awareness of sin s effects on this world? Trillia Newbell explains how we often miss opportunities to participate in God s divine delight because we re discouraged, fixated on selfish fulfillment, or paralyzed by guilt. Enjoy serves as an encouraging reminder of God s gracious gifts and also challenges women to view all of these gifts--from relationships and careers to food and sex--as reasons to rejoice in the Lord and grow in our understanding and appreciation of who He is. This thought-provoking book invites you to explore the truth of God s Word and discover how to nurture daily a spirit of gratitude and deep satisfaction. Enjoy will open your eyes and your heart to the freedom of fully enjoying all God has given us!. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9781601428523

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Book Description Multnomah Press, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Is It Okay to Enjoy This Life? Watching a gorgeous sunset. Sharing a laugh with a friend. Tasting a sun-ripened strawberry. Each day is full of opportunities for you to savor the countless gifts the Creator has given. But do you feel free to delight in God s abundant gifts, or is your joy sometimes distorted by guilt, fear of idolatry, or simply an overwhelming awareness of sin s effects on this world? Trillia Newbell explains how we often miss opportunities to participate in God s divine delight because we re discouraged, fixated on selfish fulfillment, or paralyzed by guilt. Enjoy serves as an encouraging reminder of God s gracious gifts and also challenges women to view all of these gifts--from relationships and careers to food and sex--as reasons to rejoice in the Lord and grow in our understanding and appreciation of who He is. This thought-provoking book invites you to explore the truth of God s Word and discover how to nurture daily a spirit of gratitude and deep satisfaction. Enjoy will open your eyes and your heart to the freedom of fully enjoying all God has given us!. Bookseller Inventory # AAJ9781601428523

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