Enjoying God: Experience the Power and Love of God in Everyday LifeWritten by Tim Chester Reviewed By Ruth Schroeter
The Westminster shorter catechism tells us that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Enjoying God by Tim Chester sets out to show us that we can experience more enjoyment of God in the nitty gritty of life through our relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
He begins with the problem of trying to relate to God, asking, “How can finite people know the infinite? … We don’t have a relationship with ‘God’ in a general sense. We can’t know the essence of God—the ‘god-ness’ of God. His nature is beyond our comprehension.” “But,” he continues, “we can know the Persons of God” (p. 16, emphasis original). He suggests that while the concept of knowing God can seem beyond our grasp, a relationship with the three persons of God—the Father, Son, and Spirit—may seem more accessible.
Chester asks an interesting question to get readers thinking: “With which member of the Trinity do you have a strongest sense of a lived, experienced relationship?” (p. 14). Helpfully, in chapters 3 to 11, he spends three chapters on each of the Persons of the Trinity, drawing us in with enticing chapter headings:
- In every pleasure we can enjoy the Father’s generosity
- In every hardship we can enjoy the Fathers formation
- In every prayer we can enjoy the Father’s welcome
- In every failure we can enjoy the Son’s grace
- In every pain we can enjoy the Son’s presence
- In every supper we can enjoy the Son’s touch
- In every temptation we can enjoy the Spirit’s life
- In every groan we can enjoy the Spirits hope
- In every word we can enjoy the Spirit’s voice. (pp. 7–8)
But while each chapter brings to the fore the particular work of Father, Son or Spirit, the other two Persons are always right there. Indeed, one of the most helpful aspects of the book is the way in which Chester teases out how, as each divine Person relates to us, we are wonderfully caught up in their relating to each other.
Enjoying God is not only thought-provoking, it is also very practical. Each chapter ends with a “Putting into practice” section and suggests ways in which we can actively pursue our relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit. In one of the chapters in which we are encouraged to raise our expectations of the Spirit of God, the action point is to “take a risk for God this week. It might be inviting a neighbour to church, declaring your allegiance to Christ in the workplace, offering to pray with an unbeliever, being extravagantly generous with your time or money—something that makes you feel your dependence on the Spirit’s help” (p. 119). Each chapter also includes “Reflection Questions,” which thoughtfully apply the book’s insights to the believer’s relationship with the triune God.
Despite the books many strengths, a couple of areas raised questions for this reviewer.
First, in chapter 8, Chester speaks of the Son’s presence at communion. He rightly says that “Christ is present by the Holy Spirit” and not physically present, but then states that “the bread and wine are physical symbols of his spiritual presence” (p. 104). While the spiritual presence of Jesus with his gathered people should not be in doubt, the bread and wine are first and foremost symbols of the body and blood of Christ, given to prompt our remembrance of the saving benefits of his death. Christ is present in and with believers by his Spirit at all times; the elements of the Lord’s Supper, however, do not primarily signify that presence, but point to Christ’s death for our sins.
Second, in chapter 14, Chester returns to the point he makes at the beginning of the book: “we can’t relate to the nature of God because his nature is unknowable.” And yet, “we can know God because God is known in and through the Persons of God” (p. 170, emphasis original). This distinction needed to be further explored and better explained, as such language seems to posit a split between the divine being and the divine relations. Presumably, this is not Chester’s intention, but his language is, to my mind, problematic. God is a being-in-relation.
These questions notwithstanding, Enjoying God is an important book that reminds us that as we endeavour to glorify God, we also get to enjoy God! But it is not a self-indulgent, self-serving enjoyment. Rather, “if you want to find joy, you may need to stop looking for joy and instead start working for the joy of others. The strange fact is that you’ll never really be happy while you’re pursuing your own happiness” (p. 148).
I have personally appreciated this reminder that a relationship with God is a relationship to be enjoyed. In every situation we face we have the active engagement of Father, Son, and Spirit, working in us, though us and for us. Enjoying God is a book that deserves to be read slowly and thoughtfully. It would also be a valuable book to read and discuss with others.
St Andrew’s Cathedral
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Other Articles in this Issue
A Generous Reading of John Locke: Reevaluating His Philosophical Legacy in Light of His Christian Confessionby C. Ryan Fields
Locke is often presented as an eminent forerunner to the Enlightenment, a philosopher who hastened Europe’s departure from Christian orthodoxy and “turned the tide” toward a modern, secularist orientation...