As we near the end of 2013, we look back on God’s grace on Desiring God. It’s been wonderful grace. There’s a lot going on at Desiring God now — lots of plans for the future. Pastor John, when you think of the ministry of Desiring God — what happened in 2013, and what’s to come in 2014 — what excites you?
Tony, it is strange, perhaps, but the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the blessings to Desiring God and through Desiring God is the impact on the life of suffering people. One of the favorite texts at our ministry is “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Help Through Tragedy
Everybody who knows us knows that we stand for Christian Hedonism. We are the people who say that joy is essential, that God is glorified in us when we are satisfied in him. Yet the most consistent testimony to the benefit of the website in my ears, anyway, as I travel is people saying, “Thank you for help in getting through a tragedy.” So I am thankful for the theology of suffering that pervades the website.
“Through many tribulations [Christians] must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). I am just back from the Middle East and from Africa, and everywhere I went I dealt with people from dozens of countries who tell me that they have been affected — and the people around there have been affected — by the prosperity gospel. And they thank me that Desiring God gives a perspective on suffering that is a corrective to the over-realization of future blessing that prosperity preachers push into this life with a minimization of a proper understanding of the role of sorrow, pain, and affliction in the Christian life.
So I am deeply thankful that we are all on one page here. For many of us, in fact, at this moment, God seems to be ordaining that some of our brothers are walking through really deep waters. I think the people that listen to us and come up find a sweet sense of empathy when they are walking through hard times. So that is the first thing. “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” is all over this ministry, and I think thousands of people find that very, very helpful.
The second thing that comes to my mind, especially after travels, is the global impact. The internet is simply an amazing instrument in God’s hands that people from Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, UAE, Ethiopia, and Nigeria come up to me after these sessions where I am speaking to groups of seventy nations, and one after another of every different color and shade and ethnicity — they are thanking me for Desiring God.
I just would have never dreamed that, you know, I would go 6,000 miles away and have the same stories told to me that I hear when I do conferences here. Praise God for the global impact of this ministry.
The next thing that comes to my mind is the app development. I just love the fact that we are working on these special-focus kind of ministries: the one we are doing right now, “Ask Pastor John”, and that your involved in it; and the Solid Joys app.
We are working on a brand new one that I won’t give the title away yet, but it is a new app that will be a new way of teaching the Bible and the content of the Bible, how to read the Bible [Update: Look at the Book]. And we don’t know of anybody else that is doing it quite this way. So, we are really excited about that new app.
I am also excited about new leadership. We just made a new hire in web project development and I am excited about that. I am sure we’ll hear more about that soon. So, I am really thankful that the leadership of Desiring God is thinking strategically about the future — the kind of expertise that will be needed to maximize the impact of the web.
Another one that comes to mind is I love Desiring God’s way of thinking about money and marketing. We believe in a wartime lifestyle, which is a little different than a simple lifestyle, although it implies measures of simplicity. We don’t like to be opulent. We want to be simple, but wartime means you think through your expenditures in personal living and in ministry living with a view to maximizing impact, not to maximizing comfort.
So all the royalties and honorariums that I make go right back into ministry. I don’t take any of them for myself. We give away for free everything online, almost 10,000 resources they tell me now, not just 5,000. We don’t sell them. We don’t require any registration for them, because we want to remove every possible obstacle. I just love lavishly throwing glorious things out there for anybody, anywhere, anytime in the world to have them with the fewest impediments possible.
We always have had this whatever you can afford policy, so that if somebody wants a book or wants one of those crates of books we try to sell to encourage people to give them away, if they say, “I can’t afford what you are charging,” we will say, “Well, what can you afford?” And we send it to them. We have done that for ten years, and God has never, never let us down so that nobody has to be without a book that they need and cherish for the building of their souls if they can’t afford it.
We don’t advertise on the website. I could give all kinds of reasons for why I am glad about that, but there is no big bar of advertising over on the right-hand side, which is a big way of making money that we don’t do for various reasons. We just believe that focusing on the sovereign grace of God, the glories of Christ, and the truth of the Bible creates joyful givers, because I think three million of our four-million-dollar budget comes through the participants who love us and give us gifts. So I am just thrilled.
Joy in God
The last thing that I would say is that I am excited, mainly — I left it for last, because mainly the center of our message — God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That is who we are.
We are a people who have discovered that there is no need to choose between living for the glory of God and living in the fullness of joy, because even in the midst of suffering, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That is the essence of our message, and that is why I love Desiring God.