Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labours. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all meaningless – like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (NLT) Ecclesiastes 2:9-11
Review part 1:The problem of pleasure - part 1
Susanna Wesley was the mother of Charles Wesley, the hymnist and John Wesley, the preacher. In one of their correspondences, John asked his mother to give him a definition of sin. Susanna gave probably the profoundest definition on sin: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short if anything increases the authority and the power of the flesh over the spirit, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself” (Letters of Susanna Wesley, June 8, 1725).
Having been helped by his mother to carve his mission statement, is it any wonder that John Wesley mounted on a horseback, moved from town to town, and country to country to preach the gospel? Even when he was senile and sickly, John would rather defy the advice of his doctor. For him to stay longer in bed and not preaching was an illegitimate pleasure.
Principle # 2: Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure
In 2 Samuel 23:8-17 (or 1 Chronicles 11:10-19), we read of David and three of his choicest warriors: Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah in the cave of Adullam, during the harvest, whilst their enemies, the Philistines had camped in the valley of Rephaim. “David remarked longingly to his men, ‘Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem” (v. 15, NLT). David probably said it in jest, but his three choicest warriors in a risky bid to fulfil the desire of their master went behind enemy lines, in a cloak and dagger operation to get their master the water he so much desired. David was about to fulfil his pleasure but he stopped momentarily and exclaimed: “The LORD forbid that I should drink this! This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it (v.17, NLT).
Now, just pause for a moment and think of how the old testament story of Israel would have been so different if David had applied the same principle when he set his eyes on Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:2). From 1000 BC onwards, the nation of Israel spiralled down because of the untamed passion of a gifted man, Solomon, a product of David’s philandering. This is the subtlest of all the principles. If you think you have not done what David did, think of all the pleasures you have enjoyed or continue to enjoy at the expense of others. Husbands, think of how you refuse to spend quality time with your spouse and kids, in the name of working hard. Wives, think of how you refuse to take care of your spouse and kids, in the name of career. Kids, think of the many times you bring the name of the family into disrepute, in the name of wanting to be free. We all in one way or the other, violate principle number two. It is only God who is big enough to cause a revival in our hearts.