Enjoying God in everyday life: A book review

January 12, 2017

Enjoying God can seem like such a lofty, unattainable idea. Because God is not a tangible being, we can tend toward focusing more on study, prayer, theology and head knowledge. Those are things that we can understand and measure to some degree. However, there is another aspect of Christianity, namely, enjoying our great God who gives us incredible gifts. God desires for us to enjoy him and bask in the enjoyment of his good gifts.

We can tend to think of God’s gifts as tangible American-dream type things. Perhaps we think of money, children, vacations, high rank at work or a faithful spouse. While all of things are certainly gifts, God’s gifts can also be found in areas that we may easily overlook.

God’s gifts are all around us. From the aromatics of a garden-fresh dinner to the delicate strokes of a painter’s brush, we’re invited to delight in simple pleasures from our Creator. Thankfully, he has not designed us free of emotion. Have you ever gotten so overwhelmed with the stars and the planets that you can do nothing but praise God? Have you ever been in such awe of an actor that you forgot you were watching a play? Or have you ever simply delighted in the deeply sweet taste of a peach so much that time seemed to stop? He designed us with the ability to be completely taken over with joy that points us back to him both in massive and simple ways.

Trillia Newbell brings the lofty idea of enjoying God down to earth for us in her newest book, Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God's Good Gifts. She reminds us to simply enjoy God’s creation in other people, intimacy, work, rest, possessions, food (both physical and spiritual), creation and art. She provides basic biblical teaching in each area and intertwines it with a vast picture of God. The reader is left desiring to enjoy God not out of guilt, but out of awe for who he is. She closes with how to delight in the giver, looking ahead to everlasting enjoyment in heaven.

Newbell keeps this statement in the forefront throughout the book, “. . . true and right enjoyment focuses on God, on delighting and enjoying him forever,” (pg 9, Enjoy). Some could mistake the topic to be a prosperity-driven endeavor. Newbell, however, helps the reader keep the awesome gift-Giver in mind. She warns that we are not to enjoy the gift without praising him who gave the gift.

For those who live their lives simply “getting by” day after day, this book is a challenging breath of fresh air. Newbell invites her readers to look for and enjoy God’s gifts in everyday life. To live any other way is to miss the delight that God intends for his people as we live our short lives on earth.

Newbell takes the time to encourage those who overthink delighting in God or who tend toward guilt. Perhaps we feel guilty for spending money for a getaway with our spouse or a family vacation. God’s good gifts can be found in these material things, and he desires for us to enjoy them. Of course, this can be taken too far, but Newbell presents a healthy and balanced view. Enjoying God is an intentional choice to turn away from consumerism and toward the Giver of all good things.

Enjoy is not written from a naïve or callow perspective. Instead, Newbell shares stories of tragic loss and pain from her own life experience. Many will be able to relate because of her openness. How is one to enjoy God’s good gifts when going through a time of misery? First, those who are going through a difficult time can rest because Jesus has done the greatest work for us: peace with God! Newbell also encourages the downtrodden to rely on their future hope that is to come in heaven, where there are no tears. God’s gifts are very much current and are also to come. This is the wonderful idea of “already but not yet” by George Eldon Ladd.

The aspect that makes this book stand apart from others like it is The Enjoy Project. Each chapter ends with a reflection and heart-changing project in which the reader is asked to evaluate her own heart and mind regarding the topic at hand. This book would thrive in a small group setting. However, don’t miss out if you aren’t involved in a small group. You can do the project alone or with a faithful friend.

What does “enjoying God” mean in real life? How does this lofty idea become grounded in our hearts and minds? Enjoy helps us grab ahold of this and take the time to delight in God through his gifts that surround us daily. The Enjoy Project will gently press you to identify ways that you are missing out on enjoying God and his gifts guilt-free. I joyfully recommend this book for both individual and private study. Newbell recommends that you read one chapter per week, but I found it hard to put down as my heart was renewed and challenged to live out Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

Nikki Daniel

Nikki Daniel is a pastor’s wife from Augusta, Georgia. She has two sons and a daughter. She enjoys homeschooling, writing, and playing intense games of Settlers of Catan. Nikki graduated with a BA in advertising from the University of Houston and a MATS degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24