Being Satisfied in Jesus when He Doesn’t Feel Satisfying, Worshipping Emotionalism v. Worshipping Jesus
One of my favorite authors, Larry Crabb, wrote an article several years ago that I read on a consistent basis. One of the reasons that I read it so often is because I need to continually be reminded of the truth it contains. Namely, that following Jesus may or may not be accompanied with feelings of satisfaction or fullness at all times.
One of my biggest concerns, particularly for college students in 21st century America, is that the cravings for emotionalism and felt-satisfaction trump genuine worship of Jesus and obedience to Him.
We (Christians), particularly young Christians, have made an idol out of how we feel. Far too often we have an obsession with emotionalism, not with Jesus.
Is Jesus satisfying? Yes. Does He always feel satisfying? Not always. Is following Jesus going to always be accompanied with a great sense of felt satisfaction in Him? Sometimes, yes…but sometimes, no.
In other words, if we only obey and glorify Christ when we feel near to Him, then the reality is that there will be seasons in our life when we won’t obey and glorify Him very often; because our emotions and what we feel are inconsistent at best.
On that note, here are 4 dangers to consider in wrestling with this issue…
1) The danger of letting felt pleasure motivate our obedience and worship…
If felt pleasure is our motivation for obedience, then sin will often be irresistible. Crabb says it like this:
“The old hymn says “There is joy in serving Jesus”. And there is. But if we are counting on an experience of soul satisfaction to reliably accompany obedience and if we expect that our felt pleasure in doing good will exceed the pleasure we could enjoy by indulging our favorite sin, then it won’t take long till sin will seem irresistible.”
So then, what should motivate our obedience/worship of God?
Our minds/what we know to be true regardless of what we feel: (see Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:8, Colossians 3:2)
2) The danger of satisfaction-centered worship rather than Christ-centered worship…
Is Jesus the object of your worship? Or is how you feel when you worship Jesus the object of your worship? Again, Crabb says it like this:
“If we live for an experience of joy, if we elevate desire to central status and live for nothing higher than its felt satisfaction, then we no longer are living by faith. We are idolaters worshipping desire. We are no longer living for God.”
Which one of these statements do you resonate with as being most true of your worship experience?
- Feeling satisfied is the point of my worship and my obedience is designed to bring me pleasure.
- God is the point of my worship and my obedience is designed to bring Him pleasure.
3) The danger of living for satisfaction NOW.
We will certainly have many times in our Christian journey when we will feel satisfied in Christ, but our satisfaction in following Jesus won’t fully come until heaven (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10). On this topic, Crabb says this:
“But that fullness of joy comes later, in heaven. In this life, it’s more about hope than about joy… In this life, now, it’s by faith that we live, by faith that joy is in Jesus, even when following him yields suffering. Of course there are seasons of great joy, and there is an abiding sense that we belong to the most wonderful Person in the universe, that the privilege of knowing him really does exceed all other blessings whether we feel it or not, and that living for him is what we most want to do. But if we’re living for the maximum sense of pleasurable satisfaction now, we will obey God only if he provides blessings that obedience allows us to continue enjoying. Take away the blessings and live life to gain satisfaction of even the noblest human desires and eventually you’ll find yourself moving away from God.”
4) The danger of living by feelings rather than by faith.
“The real battle in the human soul that knows Jesus is not to find a way to feel now what we long to feel in our inmost being, whether it’s love, meaning, or the satisfaction of living an other-centered life in the service of a cause greater than oneself. The real battle is to continue on in faithfulness even when faithfulness brings no immediate experience of joy, even when it brings no prospect of felt joy until heaven. That’s what it means to live by faith. That’s the message of Hebrews 11. That’s the cornerstone of the gospel, first declared by Habakkuk when he quoted God saying, “The just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4), then established by Paul as the core of the spiritual journey.”
For more on this topic, go to this link and read under the section “Do not Depend on Feelings” http://www.campuscrusade.com/fourlawseng2.htm
Lastly, it’s important to clarify that our emotions and affections for Christ are important. In no way am I, or Larry Crabb, suggesting that the Christian life be an emotionless endeavor. The problem arises when we long for an emotional experience/felt satisfaction more than we long for Jesus Himself. Jonathan Edwards rightly concluded that true worship is when the affections of our heart and the intellect of our minds collide to worship God. Both are important! But let’s be faithful to not elevate one over the other, but rather let’s elevate Jesus and let Him direct our emotions as He desires.
**If you would like a copy of the entire article by Larry Crabb, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org