The two men looked quite sleepy and were chatting as they waited for the train. One of them was probably six foot, four inches and had a hardened look. I struck up a conversation with them, asking where they were going. They were headed a very short distance on the train and would be hiking to the top of the cliffs that were near us. Then they would run, jump off the cliff, and free-fall. The maximum time they would wait to open their parachutes was nine seconds. They said it was the greatest thrill on earth. The tall guy had traveled a long distance to go there and plummet off the cliff. It would take them close to an hour to make the full circuit and arrive back on top for the next fall.
Another group of guys I met also were cliff-jumping and said they would jump four or five times before heading for the bars. Then they would have a few beers and brag to the girls about how brave they were. They were living out their dreams. When I told a friend with military jump experience about this, he asked how high the cliff was and, after a quick mental calculation, said those guys were crazy. They were not allowing enough time to adequately slow down before they hit the ground.
Reflecting back on my discussion with those guys, I remember how they reacted to my incredulity. It gave them great satisfaction that I thought it was a bit dangerous and not the best idea. I’m still amazed that they would spend a great deal of money and risk their lives, all for the pleasure of a nine-second thrill.
In June I spoke to a good-looking man in his mid-thirties at the homeless mission. He spoke well and had a bright smile. I could not figure out why this Christian man was living at the homeless shelter. I sat down to talk with him and soon knew why. He had a professional practice that had been doing well until he ran into a personal crisis in his life. To help him through his sadness, a “friend” encouraged him to try some crack. He was instantly hooked. He said crack was the most pleasurable experience imaginable. For the sake of pleasure, he traded problems of one sort for tribulations far worse.
The Bible talks about men like this in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
The men described in that passage won’t have all of those characteristics, but we will see these in general in the society. It is not a flattering list, and clearly we see these traits now. Most Christians are wary of evil things because even a shallow understanding of life in Christ warns that we stay away from bad things. I wonder how many of us would see pleasure as something to treat with great caution?
Now, not all men at the shelter are there because of addictions or substance abuse; however, it does seem to be a common thread in most with whom we speak. Think about this. They are in bondage to something that gives them pleasure. Legal or illegal, whether they have the money for it or not, they are bound by their pleasure. Those I’ve spoken with about it say they want to be free, yet they are bound—pleasure can be addicting and shipwreck a man’s life.
We don’t have statistics, but we do have the general impression that a majority of the men we talk to at the homeless shelter come from Christian homes. It never ceases to amaze us as we hear a tragic tale of a man’s life and how it began in a Christian home. Frequently, it will come up that their parents would like them to come to their church and are praying for them. We would be wise to consider how easy it is to lose our children.
Our country and, yes, maybe even so many as call themselves Christians, are in hot pursuit of pleasure. If it is fun, thrilling entertainment, we want it, but where are we told in the Bible to seek it? Scripture says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Our time is the most valuable thing we have. It would be a good exercise to write down how we have spent the last two weeks. How many hours did we sleep, work, read the Bible, pray, lead our family in devotions, spend time with our children, with our wives, on hobbies, on sports, on recreation, in front of the TV, etc.? How does the time spent on pleasure compare to the time we spent with the Lord? Might we be described as being lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God? If so, may we repent before God and make different choices, as we can be sure we are heavily influencing our children.
It would be risky to believe that we can live a life seeking pleasure, and it won’t affect our children. In John 8:38 Jesus said, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” He was speaking to Jews that had “believed” on Him (verse 31). Jesus is saying that our children will do what they see us doing. They are going to follow after what we pursue.
I’m grieved as I have observed many Christians pursuing pleasure with the same gusto that the world does. Christians may seek somewhat different things, but it is all for the sake of pleasure. May we not deceive ourselves and think that just because we go to church, our children will live for the Lord. May we evaluate the message we are sending our children. May we live for the Lord Jesus with all of our hearts.
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:25).