Loving God for Who He Is: A Pastor’s Perspective

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

One of the most important discoveries I have ever made is this truth: God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him. This is the motor that drives my ministry as a pastor. It affects everything I do.

Whether I eat or drink or preach or counsel or whatever I do, my aim is to glorify God by the way I do it (1 Cor. 10:31). Which means my aim is to do it in way that shows how the glory of God has satisfied the longings of my heart. If my preaching betrayed that God had not even met my own needs, it would be a fraud. If Christ is not the satisfaction of my heart, would people really believe me when I herald his words, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35)?

The glory of bread is that it satisfies. The glory of living water is that it quenches thirst. We do not honor the refreshing, self-replenishing, pure water of a mountain spring by lugging buckets of water up the path to make our contributions from the ponds below. We honor the spring by feeling thirsty, and getting down on our knees, and drinking with joy. Then we say, "Ahhhh!" (that's worship!); and we go on our journey in the strength of the fountain (that's service). The mountain spring is glorified most when we are most satisfied with its water.

Our Duty: Delight

Tragically most of us have been taught that duty, not delight, is the way to glorify God. But we have not been taught that delight in God is our duty! Being satisfied in God is not an optional add-on to the real stuff of Christian duty. It is the most basic demand of all. "Delight yourself in the Lord" (Psalm 37:4) is not a suggestion but a command. So are: "Serve the Lord with gladness" (Psalm 100:2); and: "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4).

The burden of my ministry is to make plain to others that "The steadfast love [of the Lord] is better than life" (Psalm 63:3). And if it is better than life, it is better than all that life in this world offers. This means that what satisfies is not the gifts of God, but the glory of God--the glory of his love, the glory of his power, the glory of his wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

This is why the Psalmist, Asaph, cried out, "Whom I have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever" (Psalm 73:25-26). Nothing on the earth--none of God's good gifts of creation--could satisfy Asaph's heart. Only God could. This is what David meant when he said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you " (Psalm 16:2).

David and Asaph teach us by their own God-centered longings that God's gifts of health, wealth and prosperity do not satisfy. Only God does. It would be presumptuous not to thank him for his gifts ("Forget not all his benefits," Psalm 103:2); but it would be idolatry to call the gladness we get from them, love for God. When David said to the Lord: "In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore," (Psalm 16:11), he meant that nearness to God himself is the only all-satisfying experience of the universe.

It is not for God's gifts that David yearns like a heartsick lover. "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:1-2). What David wants to experience is a revelation of the power and the glory of God: "O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where no water is. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory" (Psalm 63:1-2). Only God will satisfy a heart like David's. And David was a man after God's own heart. That's the way we were created to be.

Loving God Means Enjoying God

This is the essence of what it means to love God—to be satisfied in him. In him! Loving God will include obeying all his commands; it will include believing all his word; it will include thanking him for all his gifts; but the essence of loving God is enjoying all he is. And it is this enjoyment of God that glorifies his worth most fully.

We all know this intuitively as well as from Scripture. Do we feel most honored by the love of those who serve us from the constraints of duty, or from the delights of fellowship? My wife is most honored when I say, "It makes me happy to spend time with you." My happiness is the echo of her excellence. And so it is with God. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

None of us has arrived at perfect satisfaction in God. I grieve often over the murmuring of my heart at the loss of worldly comforts. But I have tasted that the Lord is good. By God's grace I now know the fountain of everlasting joy. And so I love to spend my days luring people into joy until they say with me, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm 27:4).