This week begins a new series for 4-minute devotions: occasional book reviews.
As soon as any of us walk into this territory, we are immediately on dodgy ground, we realise everything is entirely subjective and my opinion is… well… only my opinion. But, if we are honest, we all have a mental list of authors and speakers we trust and if 4-minute devotions have been a blessing to you, perhaps I can point you towards some books that have inspired me.
Enjoying God by Tim Chester
“…just like our union with God, communion with God is not something we achieve. It’s something we enjoy as a gift from God. Because it’s a two-way relationship, we can neglect that gift. Whether we fully enjoy it depends on our actions.” Enjoying God p176
I am not a quick reader. I wish I was. It takes me a while to get through a book and I don’t always finish the book I am reading. I have a pretty short attention span.
But when I came to the end of Tim Chester’s 2018 publication, an unusual thing happened to me: I went back and re-read large chunks of it. Such was the impact it had on me.
Set within the theological tradition of The Gospel Coalition and supported by a generous smattering of giants in the faith (from Packer to Owen to Motyer to Calvin – there’s a lot of Calvin in there!), Chester takes us on a journey to re-discover the three persons of the Trinity.
Perhaps surprisingly, this is not a book about Spiritual disciplines. It is not about trying to achieve something. As the author himself puts it, “It’s a book about grace, about how God in his kindness invites us to share in the delight of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father through the Holy Spirit” p33. And he achieves it – in very simple everyday ways.
For example, what makes you happy? What good things have you enjoyed this week? Chester reminds us that these are the Father’s gifts. He loves to pour them into our lives, and we can tell him How grateful we are.
But life isn’t always pleasant. What about the traffic jams, the conflicts, the sleepless nights, the chronic illnesses? Taking his text from Hebrews 12 (a “word of encouragement” v 5), hardship finds a new definition. It exists hand-in-hand with the Lord’s discipline and through it we can re-discover the Father’s love.
“Sometimes God the Father holds us tightly in His grip – so tight it hurts. But it’s a sign of His love. With great patience and persistence, He’s ridding us of the fever of our sin” p54. In every hardship, we can enjoy the Father’s formation.
In our thoughts and prayers, we can turn our attention to the Son. Jesus goes before us, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and, as head of the church, He is over us. He protects us and guides our mission and yet, there is a stillness too. He is seated, interceding for us by His very presence at the right hand of the Father.
Then, as we see Jesus, in our mind’s eye, in heaven, we can “give up our attempts to remove our guilt, establish our identity or prove ourselves. Instead, we rest on his finished work” (p 84). And in that rest, we can simply respond in love.
In other chapters, Chester shows us that we can enjoy the Spirit’s life in every temptation, and in the groans of a world that isn’t yet fully restored we can enjoy the Spirit’s hope. In every chapter, Tim Chester forms his conclusions from the Biblical text, giving ample space for the Scriptures to speak for themselves.
There is so much more in this short book. I, for one, will be reading this again. Perhaps next year. Perhaps again the year after that. A book that helps us to draw closer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through Holy Scripture is a book worth reading.