I was just thinking about how much our emotions and senses lie to us. They create desires in us that promise to fulfill us but really don’t.
Our culture tells us that if it feels good we should do it. You know what feels good? Sin feels good! Rebelling against God feels good. Being in control feels good. Doing anything we want feels good. Doing things our way feels good. Our fallen nature craves these things and we feel we are entitled to do them so long as it really doesn’t hurt someone else because it feels good.
As American Christians, too many of us believe that our faith is about comfort, provision, prosperity, and happiness. God wants us to feel good, right?
That’s not what I really see in scripture. God wants us to be faithful, holy, merciful, grace-filled, just, and righteous. And to be honest, none of those things really feel good.
If we are honest with ourselves, it really doesn’t feel good to:
- Forgive someone who continually transgresses against you
- Love your enemies who are plotting your demise
- Accept an offense by turning the other cheek
- Pray for those who attack you
- Withhold judgment against those with whom you disagree
- Humble yourself before others
- Give sacrificially to those who don’t work or earn their way in life
- Give 10 percent of everything to the church
- Surrender your will to God’s will
- Refrain from your personal desires (what I call sex, drugs and rock-n-roll)
- Love the unlovable
- Seek forgiveness from those against whom you’ve transgressed
- Hold your tongue
In fact, most of what I see in scripture wouldn’t count as “feel good” stuff. Jesus tells us that we must pick up our cross and bear it every day. That’s no fun! Jesus also tells us that we must die to ourselves and the world. Who really wants to do that? When you look at the lives of the apostles, not one of them was doing something that felt good. They all were arrested, beaten, tortured and eventually killed save for John who was exiled and died on an island. Christians throughout history have been persecuted for their faith starting with Rome’s Nero feeding them to lions for sport to today in Africa, China, and other parts of the world where they killed for their faith.
No, doing what feels good is not really part of our faith. It’s a lie from Satan that we are to fulfill our own desires and is the same lie he told Eve – the fruit is good for eating and will make you like God! It will make you feel good so do it!
Unfortunately, I see way too many of my Christian brothers and sisters falling for this lie. Whether they are hearing it from the pulpit or just believe it themselves, they see God as someone who is there to bless them spiritually, physically, emotionally, and materially for their faith. It’s as if God owes them something. They must have missed that part of the Bible where God crushed His own Son for our sins, or the book of Job, or the struggles of the apostles, or even the hardships of David, a man after God’s own heart.
No, God is not some cosmic vending machine where we toss our coins of faith and He rolls out the desires of our heart.
Here is how it really works: Our faith as shown through our submission and obedience to God’s will is rewarded with blessings that may look nothing like what we desire in our heart!
I know faithful people who have very difficult lives. My sister, Doreen, is a very faithful woman yet she struggles with a myriad of significant health issues. God’s blessing to her? It could be way worse – she could have MS like my mother did and be bedridden instead of just uncomfortable with pain yet still able to function. Another sister lost her husband after an unexpected health emergency. It’s tragic, yet her faith is carrying her through her grief and God has blessed her with three incredible daughters and sons-in-law who are holding her up during this painful time. She could be going through this alone as others have. I have a third sister who has been widowed twice! I can’t imagine the pain she feels from that, yet God blessed her with a heart to serve and even as I write this she is on a mission trip to the Amazon using her skills as a nurse to help others. Such a blessing!
I could go on and on and on. I know you could as well. When we look around the body of Christ we see emotional pain, physical hurt, financial difficulty, relational issues, and every other real-life struggle that everyone on this earth goes through. Those that seek the “feel-good” life are searching to heal those pains in the wrong way! Doing what feels good will buy you short-term happiness but not long-term joy. In fact, you will just need to do more feel-good stuff to get the same high as time goes on. Then there will come a time when all that feel-good stuff no longer makes you feel good at all. That was the point of Solomon’s book Ecclesiastes and you can see it played out every day in the lives of America’s celebrities who seemingly have it all but are miserable people play acting until their house of cards falls.
Scripture talks about the Spiritual Fruit we have when we do things God’s way instead of our own. There are nine things we get when we’re doing it right:
Funny thing about those nine, I don’t really see feeling good in them.
When I have peace, it means that I am content with what is happening around me, which probably is chaos of some sort. I can be peaceful in the storm. You don’t need peace when everything is great! You need peace when it’s all falling apart!
When I have love, I can love everyone not just those who love me, too. There are a lot of what I call “Extra Grace Required – EGR” people out there! But when I have the spiritual fruit of love, I can love these challenging people the same as I would a brother or sister.
When I have joy, I can rejoice in all circumstances as scripture says not just the ones that are good. The apostles sang hymns while in jail. Paul rejoiced in the beatings he took for Christ! Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t think he was worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus and rejoiced in giving his life for his Lord. Joy is not happiness. Joy is deeper and more fulfilling and can be had in the worst of circumstances.
When I have patience, I can put up with things that irritate me, frustrate me, and honestly drive me crazy. Even the concept of patience means you are bearing with something that is not very bearable!
When I have kindness, I am able to shine the light of Christ in all places. And just like any light, it shines brightest in the dark! Kindness is okay when you’re around other kind people. Kindness is powerful when you are around dark people who don’t know the love of Jesus. It doesn’t always feel good to be kind, especially when you are around people who are not kind in return!
When I have goodness in my life, I exhibit Godly ways – holiness, righteousness and the rest. Trust me on this one, you will not always be accepted for doing so. When you and your friends go out for drinks after work and you stop at one or two while everyone else is getting blasted, chances are your friends will try to pressure you to drink more and make fun of you when you don’t because you know better than to “drink unto drunkenness.” Tim Tebow gets hammered in the media because as a Christian in his late 20s he’s still a virgin, yet he holds the line publicly about it. Goodness is awesome but it also comes with a price – following God’s ways will get you ridiculed in this culture.
When I am faithful, I stand by God’s word no matter what. Now, I’m the first to say that if I wrote the Bible it would read differently. There are things in it that I would do differently. However, I am not God and God’s ways are not my ways. So, when God says certain things are bad that I personally don’t want to be bad I have to be faithful and agree with God regardless of how I feel about it or how the culture feels about it. When you are faithful to God it won’t feel good in our culture – you will be hammered for your positions on social issues, life-style issues, and even just believing in God.
When I am gentle, it means I am doing so in the face of something aggressive. It’s easy to be gentle when everyone around you agrees. But get on Facebook and read a post that disagrees with your political opinion and see how gentle you feel! The spiritual fruit of gentleness is given so that we can be gentle with others in times when our natural reaction would be aggressiveness, anger, and divisiveness.
When I have self-control, it means that I am not doing the things that I would naturally do! I exhibit self-control when I turn my eyes from the attractive young woman jogging down the street wearing short shorts and a sports bra. I exhibit self-control when I don’t get angry with someone who cuts me off on the freeway nearly causing an accident. I have self-control when I don’t take the lucrative contract because ethically I don’t agree with the project. Certainly, giving in to all these things and more feels better! But self-control allows me to do things God’s way not mine.
You see, the spiritual fruit we get when we are aligned with God is not meant to make us feel good! It’s meant to give us something much deeper than that! Spiritual fruit cleanses the soul even if it doesn’t satisfy our physical or emotional desires.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, he tried to get Jesus to fall for feel-good stuff. “You’re hungry, turn these stones into bread so you can eat!” Sounds reasonable. “You’re the Son of God, throw yourself off this precipice and the angels will catch you!” Of course, they will! “Look at everything on the earth – it’s all yours if you want it!” All of it? How did Jesus respond? He quoted scripture to fight off the attacks, foregoing all the feel-good stuff and instead denying Himself those things for the greater reward!
And do you know what that reward was? Becoming sinless so He could be the perfect sacrifice for all of us who do sin.
In Christian circles, we talk about becoming “Christ-like” in our faith. Well, Jesus never did feel-good stuff. He didn’t have a place to lay His head. He was opposed by the religious leaders. Most of his followers left Him. He was betrayed by one of His inner circle. Another of His closest friends denied even knowing Him – three times! He was tortured and crucified for committing no crime. And the whole time He did not open His mouth to defend Himself; He did not call down legions of angels to protect Him; and He asked the Father to forgive those who mistreated Him – who killed Him – because they didn’t know what they were doing.
Being Christ-like is not seeking after feeling good. It’s doing the will of God and being blessed by God as He chooses to bless you, knowing full well that when your race here on this earth is done you will indeed feel good in heaven where there are no more tears and no more pain!
So, here’s my advice. If it feels good don’t do it! Stop with all the sex outside heterosexual marriage. Stop with drinking to get drunk. Stop with all the drugs which only have one purpose – to get you high. Stop with treating others the way they treat you. Stop with chasing after worldly things such as money, prestige, power, influence, reputation, comfort, prosperity, and happiness. Stop whining and complaining about your circumstances because you believe misery loves company. Stop indulging in things that serve you but not others. Stop being greedy and not sharing your time, talents and treasures sacrificially. Stop avoiding church because it doesn’t feel good to you. And stop trying to bend God’s word to your way of thinking instead of abandoning your way of thinking to embrace God’s word.
There is a lot in God’s world that will give you the kind of joy you are looking for in your life. Don’t believe the lie that you will find it anywhere else than in Jesus. Obviously, worldly pleasures will deliver for a time, but you know from your own experiences and from the experiences of others that it doesn’t last. And when those worldly pleasures disappear what are you left with? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Instead, follow God with all of our heart and all of your soul and all of your mind and all of your strength and you will find that what He gives in return is beyond anything you could get in this world.