Friday, January 15, 2016

Get Started on Experiencing Your Greatest Joy Forever

I'm addicted to sugar. I eat or drink way too much sugar every day. This is not a good thing, but my appetite still craves it. When I'm tired, or just want to take a break to relax, or when I'm looking at the menu, my body is telling me that sugar is an essential element for being satisfied.
What does this have to do with the image at the right? It's a bit of a testimony. Although my mind and body are convinced that sugar is necessary for me to enjoy my day, they're deceived. It's just not true. What's more, the things that really would make my body feel better and more energetic don't usually appeal to my appetite. My body isn't just mistaken about sugar; it's got the whole order of what's good for it and not so good flipped backwards.
I still remember the point in life where I discovered I was doing the same thing with my relationship with God. I had been worshiping God and learning the Bible and a lot about Christian faith and doctrine for years, but there was a point where I realized I was trying to be Christian but still find my satisfaction in the typical things most people think make for a good life: having a good marriage, enjoying time with friends, doing productive things, and hoping that the coming days of your life will be more and more successful and filled with fulfilling achievements as they go along. And like most people, I often felt empty and unsatisfied, and I would gravitate to things that promised immediate satisfaction. All of this got turned upside down when I read through John Piper's book Desiring God. For the first time, the central truth that being Christian meant treasuring God Himself as your greatest joy and pleasure was demonstrated for me.
Piper convinced me from the Bible and from quoting the experiences of dozens of Christians over the centuries like C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, Blaise Pascal, Augustine, George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, and dozens of other missionaries, teachers, authors, and philosophers that the point of Christianity is to enjoy God and treasure Him above everything else. Just as important, he convinced me that this works. That may sound silly, but I know it is all too common for people to hear and be persuaded that we are supposed to love and enjoy God, but to have no idea how to do it and to find the effort disappointing. It isn't enough to be told you need to be satisfied by the experience of God Himself. We have to be shown that this really will satisfy us, so that we don't get discouraged and quit before we experience it. We also have to discover what it is about God that brings us joy.
This is primarily because, just like my sugar cravings, we are very used to finding comfort and satisfaction in small things that provide some immediate pleasure. We become dependent on that habit and cycle, so dependent that changing our habits to seek our satisfaction in something else at first feels like self-denial and a loss of pleasure. It has taken me a long time to find satisfaction in eating real fruit instead of sugary foods and drinks. I had to stick with it in order to change my tastes and appetite and to convince my body that this really was more satisfying. In the same way, it took time and patience in sitting and reading the Word of God alone and praying for God to make my soul delight in Him before I really began to experience it. I had to establish a new diet, and I had to feed myself by reading the Scriptures just for enjoyment and closeness to God, as well as praying just in order to be near God more often than praying to get needs met. The more I practiced this and consistently sought God Himself rather than turning to something lesser to get comfort, the more I received satisfaction and comfort from God. 
"One of our obstacles to enjoying God is that we don't really have a good idea of what that means."
I have shared much more about this journey on this blog under the tag Finding Joy. You can find a lot more detail there if you're interested. The main purpose of this post today is to illustrate that one of our obstacles to enjoying God is that we don't really have a good idea of what that means. This is where the book shown above may be a blessing. The Scriptures tell us over and over that what we will enjoy for all eternity is God's glory. Glory is often referred to as the reward in heaven, both beholding the glory of God and receiving glory ourselves. Yet we tend to have a very vague idea of what that means, and so we don't have a real vision of how that will satisfy us. We understand it must be good, but it is hard to have your appetite whetted for something you haven't tasted. God's Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life (David VanDrunen) is a book that promises to give us not just a taste, but a feast of glory. If you want to truly enjoy God, learn as much about His glory as you can. The more you train yourself to desire and look forward to that which will bring you your greatest possible joy, the more you will enjoy it now. I hope this book helps many Christians discover the depth and potency of being satisfied in God.
There is an excellent and detailed review of the book up at The Gospel Coalition. It sounds like some people may find more immediate application in the book if they start with the second section first. Read on and see for yourself! "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8

No comments: