In his bestselling book Good to Great, Jim Collins shares several key characteristics of companies that were capable of making the shift from being just good companies to becoming great, lasting companies.
The book, drawn from copious amounts of business research, extends far beyond the boundaries of business. People who didn’t manage companies, and who weren’t aspiring titans of industry, have sought Collins’s wisdom, giving evidence that people want to know how to move from good to great in more areas of life.
What Collins articulated for business, we should leverage in our love for God and the gospel. Instead of good to great, though, we need to learn how to move from good to glad.
From the first time we hear and believe the gospel, the good news should give us more and more joy. The gospel doesn’t affect many of us like it should. We receive it as news for later, but not now. It’s news about what will happen one day, not news about something that is already taking place.
How does forgiveness and hope travel from our minds into our hearts, affecting the deepest parts of who we are and producing real, durable joy?
Collins famously gave seven characteristics of great companies. Here are three characteristics of a glad heart — or three ways to make way for deeper happiness in the news of the crucified and risen Savior.
Have Mercy on Me
First, the gospel brings us to conviction over our sin, and then through conviction to new peace and hope. The Bible repeatedly paints pictures of the greatness of God and the humble, sinful lowliness of man (e.g. Psalm 8:3–4; Romans 3:21–25). But there is a major difference between stating the fallenness of mankind and confessing our own.
Easier, perhaps, to say, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Much harder to say with David, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. . . . For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:1, 3).
When we look through the lens of the gospel, we get a front-row seat to see the beauty of God’s grandeur and the sinfulness of our souls. We echo the cry of the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” We know our faults. We know our failures. But be careful: this isn’t a call to walk around in depression and despair. On the contrary, it’s a call to have greater joy by knowing the height, width, and breadth of God’s rescue.
Greater Than a Golden Ticket
The gospel is more than a golden ticket into heaven, more than a long ride into the eternal sunset arm-in-arm with Jesus. The word that comes down from the cross is a cosmic pardon. God, in his Son, has offered a certificate of release, written in sinless blood. God has stepped in and pardoned those in Christ, even though they’re guilty (Romans 5:6–8). And now, because of this pardon, we live freely in grace and mercy.
At times, you may fall prey to insecurity regarding how you came to faith in Christ. You might not have the rescued-from-drug-addiction story or the I-woke-up-in-a-hospital story. Maybe what you have is that you came to faith in Christ through the faithful teaching of your childhood student pastor or children’s pastor.
However God brought you into his family, his rescue is always equally as dramatic and undeserved. The storyline of all that are in Christ begins with the same awful death and ends in the same miraculous new life.
That is news that shakes the foundation of our existence and awakens the deepest joy in the world. God, through the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, charged into the cosmic courtroom while we were still in our chains of sin and sentenced to death eternally, and he hammered eternal release papers onto the stand, forever fixed by the immovable nails from the cross.
That is glad news.
The Joy of the Redeemed
When we come to know the gracious nature of Christ and what he has saved us from, he becomes more than the Savior; he becomes our Savior. This is the song of the ransomed sinner who is now a glad saint, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1–2). David goes on to write that he will not close his mouth regarding the glad news of deliverance he has found in God (Psalm 40:9–10).
The movie Sully recounts the story of pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who famously managed to perform an emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the middle of the Hudson River, saving 155 lives. For those who heard the news then, as well as for those who will watch the film now, our appreciation for Sullenberger pales in comparison to the affection and gratitude held by those actually on Flight 1549. Knowing about someone saving 155 people from a plane crash is very different from being 1 of the 155 that walked away unharmed.
For the watching world, the news of the Hudson landing was (very) good news. For the passengers of Flight 1549, though, there was a deeper joy and gladness in the miracle landing. The news affected them in a unique and profound way. It was an event that rescued them from imminent death into fresh life and hope.
This is what happens when we personally experience Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and Treasure. We know him because he has saved us. When the plane was going down and we were headed for destruction, Christ stepped in, saved us, and landed us safely into eternal life through his gracious substitution. This news makes any Christian forever grateful and forever glad.
May we be people that echo the cries of Psalm 126:3, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.” We’re more than good. We’re glad.