In today’s entertainment-driven society, it’s easy to base our decisions on how happy something—or someone—will make us. Whether it be which restaurant we dine in, who we date or what car we purchase, we want to be happy, and we want to be happy as soon as possible.
To some extent, this quest for happiness can be sparked by good intentions. We want to enjoy the restaurant we choose when going out with friends. We want to choose a mate who will make us happy. And we want to ensure the car we will have for the next 10 years is one we like. But all of what the world views as paths to happiness are superficial, they just barely skim the surface of true happiness, appearing like the real thing but in reality are a sham.
Not everything in life will bring us happiness, nor should it. Just look at our world today and you will quickly discover how many things can cause us pain and how few can cause us happiness, especially lasting happiness.
That’s to be expected though. After all, we live in a dying, sin-infested world inhabited by every form of evil. As Romans 3:23 tells us, we all fall short of perfection, and therefore, we cause pain, sadness, frustration, confusion for ourselves and especially for others. Yet, rather than try to change our ways and turn to the One who can deliver us from our sinful ways, we grapple for the nearest distraction and try to entertain ourselves out of the discomfort.
We allow the world to tell us we should be happy all the time and it’s our prerogative to do whatever makes us happy. “You do you, boo.” However, what the world doesn’t tell us is that this type of happiness is temporary and is more of a drug medicating the problem than a lasting solution that will never disappoint us. The Word of God tells us this; in 1 John 2:15-17 we read:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
You see, friends, God doesn’t desire for us to be temporarily happy, He longs for us to be eternally joyful (John 15:11, Psalm 30:5). He knows the things of this world will never fill the holes in our hearts or satisfy our deepest needs and desires. He knows that whatever fad we use as comfort now will only leave us wanting. Entertainment may provide temporary relief, but it’s the constant renewing of our mind, refreshing of our soul and testing of our character that is guaranteed to be amazing for eternity, just look again at the verses in 1 John 2:15-17 (see also 1 Timothy 4:7-8 and James 1:2-4).
And that’s why choosing a church based on whether it entertains you will do more harm than good. If you choose a church because of a convenient location, an eloquent preacher or a good worship band, you will not only find yourself in a state worse than when you first became a Christian, you will have identified yourself as an open target for Satan and his fiery darts and even worse, the full judgment of God (James 4:1-4, 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
You see, friends, God doesn't desire for us to be temporarily happy, He longs for us to be eternally joyful (John 15:11, Psalm 30:5).
Just as Jesus came not to be served but to serve, we must view church as a vessel in which we can serve others (Matthew 20:26-28). It will look differently for each of us—some will greet others at the door, some will help in the nursery and others will lead a small group—but we are all called to serve (Romans 12:4-8).
Your church must also be a place where you can go to hear the Word. Your dose of Scripture should not come from the verse of the day, but by a thorough, personal study every day (Deut. 11:18-20, Psalm 119:15-16, Revelation 1:3). And this kind of study is learned and encouraged in a Bible-preaching church (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 4:11-16, Acts 17:11).
Now, you may be wondering, don’t all churches preach from the Bible? No, in fact, more churches are veering away from the Word of God altogether and the Bible tells us this will only continue as the day of Jesus’ return approaches (Matthew 24:24, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Acts 20:28-30). These churches deem the Bible as an outdated text that has no precedence in the 21st century. Others claim “discrepancies” within the text. Even worse, some view the Bible as mostly fictional and therefore not worth studying. There are other churches who selectively choose which sections to believe and which to abandon; their reason being they only want a text that supports their opinion rather than allowing the text to form their opinion.
No, we may not always understand what the Bible says, and honestly, we never will, not on this side of life. The Bible is the Word of God; it’s complex, all-encompassing and challenging, but it’s also simple, specific and digestible. We may glean one theme from one passage one day only to discover an entirely new theme in that exact passage the next day. We may read the same passage as our friend but have an entirely different takeaway.
But that’s not because the Bible is in any way incorrect or self-contradicting, but that it’s the living Word of God (Heb. 4:12). We could read the entire Bible all day, every day for our entire lives and still discover something new—and true—in every passage. How? By the working of the Holy Spirit within us, for those who have made God Lord of their life (1 Cor. 2:10-13). It is because of Him that we can understand different aspects of a passage at different times. It is because of Him that we can better interpret an illustration. It is because of Him that we can learn to apply what we are reading to our own lives (Isaiah 55:11). Without the Holy Spirit guiding us, we can easily fall into the trap of misunderstanding and misusing the Bible and as a result, insulting the One who spoke it into being.
Where does the church fit in with all of this? Well, the church supports the working of the Holy
Spirit within each of its members. God lays the foundation and builds the house, the church helps keep it tidy. When something is out of order but we don’t know how to fix it, the church can help point us in the right direction and encourage us along the way. When something needs to change but we don’t want to admit it, the church will lovingly point out our flaws and help us apply the restoring power of the Word to our lives. When a storm hits and leaves us battered, the church will comfort us and remind us of God’s love (James 5:13-20; 1 Thess. 5:11,14; Heb. 10:24-25).
The church, when abiding in the Word of God, will do this and much more for those who seek it. Yet, remember, friends, it’s not just about what the church can do for you. After all, you are part of the church, and it is part of your duty to extend those same blessings to your brothers and sisters in Christ when needed.
God lays the foundation and builds the house, the church helps keep it tidy.
This may mean you are the one teaching a Bible study rather than the one being taught. It could be you serving in the nursery rather than just dropping your kids off for someone else to look after. Or it could be you befriending and mentoring the newcomer rather than passing it off to the pastor to do.
However God chooses to use you in His church, the purpose of you being there is to serve, both your fellow Christians and ultimately God Himself (Galatians 6:10, 1 Cor. 10:31). So if you’re a new Christian searching for a new church, I pray you look beyond the entertainment value. Yes, the church down the street may have good coffee and an even better worship band, but are they a Bible-preaching, God-fearing, self-denying church?
And for those of you who have been a Christian for a while and have been going to church for years, I also pray you look to the Lord and seek His view on your church. If He were to sit next to you this next Sunday morning, would He be pleased with what He’s hearing? Would He be pleased with how this church is spurning within you a deeper love and devotion to Him?
When you go to church, is your first thought about you or about God? When you leave, do you think more about how much you enjoyed that one song or how much God enjoyed your worship of Him? When you go to work the next day, do you long to tell others about how God showed up in your church service or about the game you watched once you got home?
Yes, we need to be happy at church, but our happiness must be measured by God’s standards, not our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). If your church preaches the Word and exists to please God, you should be happy; if this is your church but you’re not happy, that is a sign you need to seek the Lord, ask Him to reveal any sins within you that prevent you from enjoying His presence and wholeheartedly seek to obey Him.
Church should not entertain you, it should first and foremost please God. Then, and only then, should it spurn you to want to know God more intimately, manifest His love to others, especially His children, and live more like Christ. That is Church as God intended it. We have strayed far from His ideal, particularly in America, but it is one we can return to if we seek God above all else. If we do that, God is sure to honor our wishes and revive our churches again (2 Chr. 7:14).
The only thing that remains is a question for you: Do you want a church that values entertainment or do you want a church valued by God?
English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.
This post originally appeared on County News Online.