When I was first born again, I often lived like a boy stranded between two great blessings. Life with Christ was first about gratitude for what God had done for me at the cross and second about hope for what God would one day do for me in heaven. The in-between was about appreciating the past, anticipating the future, and not sinning in the present.
Following Jesus, however, is not mainly about avoiding sin or escaping hell. If we simplify Christianity down to waiting and obeying until God brings us home, we surrender some of his sweetest graces and reject gifts we wouldn’t trade for anything else. We bury blessings made for us to enjoy long before heaven. Charles Spurgeon says, “He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed.” To fail to grow is to forfeit grace. To settle for where we are is to surrender more joy, more strength, more peace — more of God.
We don’t simply live between two great blessings in the Christian life. Calvary and eternity do hem us in, behind and before, but between now and forever, we sail on relentless waves of grace and dive in ever deeper seas of love. “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:6). The blessings of heaven stream back into each new day, as we lean into Christ and strive to know him more.
Curse of Shallow Happiness
To know him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ, knows nothing of him yet. Whoever has sipped this wine will thirst for more, for although Christ does satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction that the appetite is not choked, but whetted.
That insight about our joy in Christ will rescue us both from unnecessary guilt and shallow happiness. Spurgeon wants to rescue us from shallow happiness by inviting us to know Christ more and more. The temptation will be to not make time, to not make ourselves more vulnerable, to not put in the effort — as if we knew Jesus enough already. But there’s so much more to know, so much more to see, so much more to enjoy. We will never find the bottom of him, even after a hundred thousand years with him in heaven.
None of us is as happy as we could be yet, because we all can know Christ more than we do. When Peter commands us, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), he commands us to be blessed. The growth requires effort and sacrifice and time, and it rewards us a hundredfold in happiness.
Even Joy Awakens Guilt
Spurgeon also releases us from unnecessary guilt: “Christ does satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction that the appetite is not choked, but whetted.” Unsatisfied satisfaction. Once we learn that Christ not only saves sinners, but satisfies, our own lack of joy can hang like a dark cloud over us. The joy of others, instead of inspiring us to pursue Jesus more, quietly condemns our felt sense of deficit. We know we should be happier in him, and so we lose heart over how little joy we feel. Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:13–14). So why are we so thirsty?
Well, it might be because we’re finally drinking from the right well. Someone has now satisfied us like nothing else before, and we’ve realized just how much we’ve missed. We say with the psalmist, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalms 42:1–2). That is the longing of joy, not despair — to taste fullness of life, and want as much as we can possibly have. We’re desperate, but not deprived. When C.S. Lewis discovered joy in God, he wrote, “I was sick with desire; that sickness better than health” (Surprised by Joy, 119).
If you satisfy your soul with Jesus, you’ll never thirst again (John 4:13–14) — and you will begin to thirst like never before. If you know him and enjoy him, you don’t need to feel guilty about the joy you don’t have yet. Wherever you were yesterday, focus on drinking a little more of him today.
God Gives the Growth
What does “more” even mean? The how can be as paralyzing as guilt or fear. How do we know Christ more? It does begin with God’s word — hearing from him, about him, to increase our joy in him. But knowing Christ is anything but simple, just like knowing our neighbor or co-worker is not simple. The steps may be simple — make time, initiate conversation, listen well, ask questions — but each person is complex, dynamic, and deep. How much more the God-man?
If we want to grow, we put ourselves at his feet to listen and pray, and then we look for him everywhere we go. The apostle Paul asks God for the “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19). God wants us to know a love that surpasses knowledge — and we do. He wants us to search its unsearchable breadth and length and height and depth — and we can. But knowing begins with asking — in Ephesians 3 and in our own growth. It is God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6–7). When we want to know him more, we rely on him even more, by his Spirit who lives in us (Romans 8:9). We learn more of God with God.
Did you refuse to be blessed yesterday? If you have tasted the finer wine — “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8) — don’t ignore your thirst for more, and don’t neglect the well today. Yes, Jesus does satisfy, and with “such a satisfaction that the appetite is not choked, but whetted.” To know him more, even a little more, is to take another blessed step toward heaven.