One of the popular musicals from some years back has an often-repeated line which goes as follows: If you have leisure, follow pleasure; Let not an hour of joy pass by. This was the advice given in the musical to the young man of the world. The language of today puts this philosophy more briefly and more provocatively in the form of the bumper sticker – “If it feels good, do it!” Studies have been made and many novels written on the so-called pleasure seekers of the day. The wartime uncertainties of the past and the present fear of nuclear extinction, along with the economic uncertainty of today, once again brings the age old saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” back to us today.
Even though the Holy Scriptures tell us, “from such turn away,” all of us, whether we will admit it or not, are caught up in this mad pursuit of pleasure and carnal joy. The delight of the roaring “396” and the screaming tires become the most important thing in the life of many of our young men. In fact, many a youth will give up all to buy those wide tires and racing cams. Covenant young people wear the “Love” T-shirts and bracelets along with the pleasure seekers of today. The Cedar Points and Elitches attract many of us – we find great joy and pleasure in whirling around upside down on a machine, or riding screaming on a roller coaster. Some of us get our joy from the fellowship around four or five six packs of beer, and the subsequent “joke” sessions which invariably follow. Then, of course, there are those who find “joy” with their date by holding hands at the X-rated movie or by attending the weekend rock concerts. And, probably the most tragic example is how young men and young women of the church seek pleasure with the wicked, worldly young people who are completely caught up in and committed to this pleasure craze.
Don’t misunderstand me, young people. Most of our parents have their televisions, stereo sound systems, and expensive sports equipment. We of the “older generation” are also caught up in the fun of the world. The question we must ask is how our joy and pleasure relates to the Biblical concept of joy – that of giving worthy praise to God in thankfulness for all His benefits to us. The earthly joy of which we have been speaking is that joy of which Job speaks in chapter 20:4-7: “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens…yet shall he perish like his own dung.”
Joy, according to Scripture, is not that carnal pleasure in which we violate every law of God, but on the contrary, it has its source in God Himself. Ecclesiastes 2:26 tells us that God gives to those whom he loves wisdom, knowledge, and joy. We also learn from Scripture that joy is an expression of thankfulness by the child of God with other children of God. See II Chronicles 15:25, 29:17, and Ezra 3 and 6 in this connection. Isaiah 52:9 states, “Break forth into joy…for the Lord hath comforted His people.” And in Isaiah 12:1-3 we find a similar passage: And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise Thee; though Thou ast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me. Behold God is my salvation…Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. Sanctified joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which will find its ultimate expression in perfection in the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 teaches this when the Psalmist confesses, “Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy, at Thy right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Paul in I Thessalonians 2:19 expresses this same truth when he says, “For what is our joy, our crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
Is there perhaps a period in our lives – say from age 14-21 – when we have the right and must be allowed to seek our own brand of pleasure and joy, when we can for a time live a life of joy apart from God? Is there a time when we leave the sphere of the covenant home and church, and seek our “growth” away from God? Our experience has shown that the words of that song. “To live apart from God is death” is only too true in this respect! Youth is transient. We soon become adults and live the rest of our lives with the memories and sometimes horrible consequences of the sins of our youth. The words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 10 are graphically clear regarding this. Read what he tells us here: Rejoice, O young man in thy youth; And let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore, remove sorrow from thine heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. You all know Ecclesiastes 12:1 which immediately follows the above words. Here we are told, “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.” This is an urgent command of Jehovah God! Solomon then closes the book with these powerful words: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Covenant young people, there are many of God’s people, both young and old, who do not seek the “joy” of the world, who live and die happily in the knowledge that they belong to Jesus Christ. The joy in our hearts too, must be that joy which is expressed as praise and thanksgiving to God. Our lives must be a joyful, living sacrifice to God our Creator and Sustainer. Every moment in our work and our play we are to live through Him, and unto Him. Let our song not be the songs of earthly pleasure, but let us instead sing these beautiful words:
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits to me?
How shall my soul by grace restored
Give worthy thanks, O Lord, to Thee.
Whithin His house, the house of prayer,
I dedicate myself to God.
Let all His saints His grace declare
And join to sound His praise abroad.