Duty is good, but delight is better. Picture me bringing a dozen roses home to my wife on our wedding anniversary. I hold them out to her at the door; she smiles and says, "Oh Johnny, they're beautiful, why did you?" Suppose I lift my hand in a self-effacing gesture and say, "It's my duty."
So what's wrong? Is duty a bad thing? No, it's not a bad thing. But it can only take you so far. If you want romance, duty won't reach. The right answer to my wife's question goes like this: "I couldn't help myself. My happiness just got out of hand. In fact, to make my day, I'd really enjoy taking you out tonight."
The amazing thing about this answer is that it does two things that many people think won't fit together. It expresses my happiness and makes her feel honored. A lot of people think that if I do something because it makes me happy, it can't honor another person. But it can! Why? Because delighting in someone is a very high compliment. If you enjoy someone, two amazing things happen: You get the joy; they get the glory. Pleasure is the measure of your treasure.
A Discovery That Changed My Life
This is a revolutionary insight in relation to God. Here's what it means: God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. This is a radically life-changing discovery. It means that the pursuit of God's glory and the pursuit of your joy are not at odds. They are, in fact, one.
The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever. Not by enjoying money and comfort and prestige and power and achievement, but by enjoying HIM, God! And every other good thing for God's sake. As Saint Augustine prayed, "He loves you too little who loves anything together with you, which he loves not for your sake." The biblical command, "Delight yourself in the Lord," (Psalm 37:4) is another way of saying, "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.
And the greatest passion of God's heart is to be glorified. He created us for his glory (Isaiah 43:7); he called Israel to be his people for his glory (Isaiah 49:3); Jesus lived (John 17:4) and died (John 12:27-28; Romans 3:25-26) and rose (Romans 6:4) and reigns (Philippians 2:11) for the glory of God; he chose us before the foundation of the world for his glory (Ephesians 1:4-6); he forgives us for his glory (Psalm 25:11; Isaiah 43:25); he works through us for his glory (1 Peter 4:11); he calls us to do all things for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31); and his aim is that the earth will be covered with the knowledge of his glory the way the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14), and in the age to come that the glory of the Lord alone will be the awesome light of the endless days (Revelation 21:23).
If the glory of God is the highest passion of his own heart, then it should be the highest passion of ours. And if God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, then we should spare nothing to maximize our joy in him. But where is this maximum joy to be found? Well, we have already said it: in God! Yes, but here we can make a very subtle and devastating mistake. Be careful.
How Does Joy Operate?
There is something about the nature of true joy that is restless. It is expansive by nature. It wants out. Imagine me at my son's soccer championship and someone saying to me, "You are permitted to have all the pleasure you want in your son's performance, but you may not express any of it verbally or physically." Would my joy be full? No. There is something about joy that comes to consummation when it gets out. Joy gets bigger by expanding. Joy increases by extending itself to others. My gladness gets bigger when it becomes your gladness.
This means that the human quest for joy leads straight to the missionary heart of God. You can see it already. But let me put it together: God is the fountain of joy because he is blindingly glorious, and infinitely worthy, and breathtakingly beautiful, and awesome in power, and inscrutable in wisdom, and limitless in knowledge, and tender in mercy, and terrible in wrath, and the source and foundation of all truth and goodness and beauty. When we see him for what he really is, and turn from all the broken cisterns of the world that cannot satisfy (Jeremiah 2:13), we find "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).
But this joy, like all joy, wants out. It wants to expand. If it doesn't extend itself and overflow, it begins to stagnate. There is something about God that cannot be hoarded. And to hoard joy in God is to lose joy in God. But to lose joy in God is to dishonor God—just like my wife would be dishonored if I said, "It's my duty," instead of, "It's my delight." God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
Therefore, our joy must get out—for God's sake and for our sake. God wills for his glory to be reflected in the joy of redeemed people from every tribe and tongue and nation (Revelation 7:9). He wills worldwide praise. Therefore, world evangelism is the pathway to maximum joy and maximum worship.
Missions and the Glory of God
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. The glory of God is the ultimate goal of the church—because it's the ultimate goal of God. The final goal of all things is that God might be worshiped with white-hot affection by a redeemed company of countless persons from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9; 7:9).
Missions exists because worship doesn't. When the kingdom finally comes in glory, missions will cease. Missions is penultimate; worship is ultimate. If we forget this and reverse their roles, the passion and the power for both diminish.
A Couple Closing Testimonies
J. Campbell White, the secretary of the Laymen's Missionary movement wrote in 1909,
Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ's purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ's undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.
This is the testimony of virtually all the great missionaries in the history of the church. Pouring out their lives brought their lives back to them. They proved again and again the words of the Lord, "He who loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:38). In other words, joy in God grows by expanding toward others. Jesus said to Peter, "There is no one who has left house or brother or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundred-fold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:28-30). You can't out-give God.
On December 4, 1857, David Livingstone, the great pioneer missionary to Africa, made a stirring appeal to the students of Cambridge University, showing what he had learned about these words of Jesus through the years:
For my part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa....Is that a sacrifice which brings its own best reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? It is, emphatically, no sacrifice. Say rather, it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.
And in saying that, Livingstone paid his God the highest tribute possible. It was not mere duty. It was a profound delight—beyond what anything in this world can give. God was glorified in him because he was satisfied in God. And his satisfaction came to consummation not with the comforts of a cozy life in England, but with the expansive vision of giving his life and his joy away on the frontiers.
That's it. That's the most profound, God-centered motivation. It makes my heart beat faster even as I think about it again. O, may God give us eyes to see where true satisfaction can be found—to the glory of God!