has to begin with the negative before the positive.
This is my second posting in Alabamenagerie's blog carnival on Finding Delight in God's Word.
I've got a friend who is seeking Christian community, the type of fellowship where sharing what God is doing in your lives is not cliche but warmly welcomed. Where words like "authenticity" and "vulnerability" truthfully describe the interchanges rather than tagline the time together. However, the peer group currently within her grasp is not open to such spiritual growth exploration and has responded with phrases as "I don't want any homework," "I only want fellowship," and "I can't commit to anything else right now." They want a bunko group without the cards but with all the actual "bunko."
She's frustrated. I'm frustrated with her and for her. Talking with her about the issue brought to mind this week's study of Acts 17:16-34. Paul has gone to Athens. He is alone and walking through the city where he is "greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols." Athens features two intellectual groups. The Epicureans (whose greatest ambition was to avoid pain and seek pleasure) and the Stoics (whose highest ideals were virtue, personal responsibility, and providence). Verse 21 describes the climate, "All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas." As far as they were concerned, Paul was merely the latest talking head.
There is an idol to an "unknown" god. And it is on that point that Paul gives a great apologetic discourse of how, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else....God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us...He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed." (Verses 24, 27, 31)
As Paul goes on to speak of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, the formerly polite attitude of listening to him turns to mocking and sneering. Doesn't seem like there could be any finding of delight in this scenario, does it?
Read verse 34, "A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others."
That's where I chose to see delight--in the truth that God's people are found by Him even when the climate is utterly hostile to Him and His truth. He has prepared hearts that will always respond to Him. The numbers may be few, but He knows His sheep and they hear His voice and follow Him.
For my friend who seems surrounded by Epicureans and Stoics, I was able to point her to this passage and encourage her that a Damaris then can be a Damaris now. Start small, but start. Seek Him, and trust that the God who has determined the very places and times for men (and women) to live, knows exactly with whom she will have genuine Christian community.
Because isn't that the essence of delight? To delight in His Word and its sanctifying, refining, beautifying influence in the lives of those who will call Him Lord.