Can Kingdom Work Make Me Happy? | Esther L. Jones

Esther Jones | Artist to Artist, Faith, Reflection & Growth | November 28, 2022

“Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” 
Romans 12:9

Frankly, I was a little embarrassed.

There had to be artists who were believers, right? They make the art for Christian bookstores—portraits of Jesus, crosses, and cute angels with pithy sayings or scriptures. And aren’t there artists who make really abstract art with spiritual intent?

Should a Christian Artist's Work Only Be "Christian"?

That is NOT what I was doing. I was a 55-year-old Kindergartener using all the crayons, all the colors, copying other artists—badly and without remorse—and generally just wallowing in the joy of creating.

But I feared that was a problem. I am a Christian, a believer, and I want to live my life to “impact the Kingdom.” Instead, I was spending this difficult time after my husband's death painting landscapes, flowers, and some pets. No Jesus and angels; no scriptures or crosses. The painting took me out of my grief for a moment. Way out of it. I was ecstatic, dogged, excited, and working very hard to learn. I told nobody.

"Orange Pekoe Tea," by Esther L. Jones

Is this Really God's Will?

God calls us, unambiguously, to “deny” ourselves. In sharp contrast, almost any social media page gives advice like, “do what makes you happy,” “you do you, boo,” or “look within yourself to find your true self.” The world has a lot to say about finding ourselves in order to be happy. Painting makes me happy. Very happy. Deliriously happy. The beginning of my art journey was such a delight.

I felt that it was God who was opening this new desire in my heart and mind, and that He had given me the determination and discipline to learn something new and challenging in midlife. Was I fooling myself?

I know for sure that God is good and often gives us the desire to do what He is calling us to do even before we realize it. Or was that just the way I justified my newfound secret obsession?

For years, I thought, “If I’m this happy, I must not be denying myself properly.” Even as it occupied more and more of my time, painting remained an indulgence, a guilty pleasure—delightful, fulfilling, and rich.

"Yellow Laughter," by Esther L. Jones

Listening to My Pastor

Long after my art journey had matured from a hobby to a minor income stream, my pastor started a conversation about these still burning questions in my heart. He posted a comment about selfish pursuits. Basically, he said we shouldn’t follow the world’s idea of doing “whatever makes us happy” because that is selfishness. I felt the burn of conscience and asked, “How do I know when I’m supposed to develop and use those abilities that bring me happiness, and when am I supposed to deny myself?”

His answer brought such relief! “Deny those areas of ‘you being you’ that aren’t like Christ. Those desires that serve self and do not glorify Him, or that you know are not yielded to the pursuit of His pleasure from obedience and love.” Of course! God delights in us following His call, doing His will, and in using His gifts. What a relief!

"Long Blue Serenity," by Esther L. Jones

God Provided What I Needed

God swaddled me in art during the most demanding period in my life. I was a widow with a very difficult job. I would paint in the wee hours of the morning before heading off to work, taking the calm of my canvas with me. During very dark times, it was painting that kept me putting one foot in front of the other. So of course, I kept at it. Making art made me a slightly better person, able to deal with the hard parts of my life.  I had no choice but to live the life God had dealt me.

Even if painting were merely a coping mechanism, God had provided it, too.I began to share my new hobby with a few trusted family members and friends. To my surprise, they were very encouraging! I assumed they were just being kind, but it spurred me to work harder, nonetheless. I began to ask the Lord to let me live longer so that I could continue painting and improving. I felt I had a purpose beyond my day job and my looming loneliness.

En Plein Air Pastels by Esther L. Jones

Paintbrushes, Piano, or Placards?

I still questioned the value of pursuing art. What use was it ultimately? Should I be investing money into the supplies? Investing the time to make and improve? Maybe I should be street witnessing instead?

In other areas of life, I remembered experiences that showed we all have unique gifts and callings, even in the secular world. Music is a good example. I started out learning piano and found it minimally enjoyable. Then I discovered flute. I liked it better and worked a little harder. It gave me a certain voice that matched me, somehow. The day my conductor handed me a saxophone, though, an amazing transformation took place. I realized quickly that I had things to say that could only come out through a saxophone!

Music was different than visual art, though. It translated to my work for the Kingdom because I could play my music for church, and therefore for the Lord. It was a useful, functional skill. But painting?

"Heartless Pledge," Esther's response to Luke 9:57-62—As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

My Dance with God

As my art continued to improve, one of my wisest friends said something profound: “If you knew you only had two weeks to live, but you could spend every moment painting to leave behind a blessing that hits people in the heart, I would say do wildflowers. It seems like that's where your sense of joy and life comes through most strongly. They practically move in the wind on the page. It's like that's your dance with God."

I was so humbled, and yet so encouraged! Could people really encounter God through and in my paintings of pretty flowers? Could this hobby really be building the Kingdom of God? Was it possible to serve God through my art, even though I loved doing it so much? Could God have deliberately planned my discovery of art, given me the ability and desire, and then used it to bless others?

"Nostalgia in Blue," by Esther L. Jones

The Answer, of Course, is YES

These days I no longer worry too much about whether I should be hating life in order to please God. I have enough to do denying those parts of me that aren’t like Christ! I paint, sculpt, make music, teach children, and serve my family in love and joy. Daily, I strive to embrace my Savior’s likeness and become more like Him.

Romans 12:9-12 is my scripture focus this year. Verse 9 includes these two sentences: “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Denying myself what I know to be evil is enough. I don’t have to be miserable in every area of my life to meet the standard of “denying myself.” Following His revealed calling and purpose can be so very joyful and happy. I cling to that. It is good.

"Spirit of Primrose," by Esther L Jones

Esther L. Jones is a music teacher, visual artist, ceramicist, entrepreneur, and treasured member of the Engage Art community. You can join Esther on her journey on Facebook at or visit her website at

Submit Your Artwork Today!

Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!