Pastor John, what is this ministry we call Desiring God all about? What drives us? What’s at the center of what you — and us as a ministry at large — are seeking to tell the world?
God’s Glory, Our Satisfaction
One of the things Desiring God was started to spread and to communicate and to build into people’s lives was this truth: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That is probably as close to the center of what we are about as anything. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. Here is where it comes from. This is so crucial for people to see.
“God is radically God-centered in the Bible. God is radically God-exalting.”
God is radically God-centered in the Bible. God is radically God-exalting. And that is all over the Bible. He created us in his image. He put seven billion images of himself in the world. Why would a person put seven billion images of himself in a city? Well, he wants to get attention for himself. So God is radically self-exalting in creating us in his image. And he says in Isaiah 43:7, I have created you for my glory to display my character, my power, my wisdom, my justice, my truthfulness.
And so the question is always, “If God is that radically God-exalting, how is he not an egomaniac, or how is he not a megalomaniac? How is he not using us instead of loving us?” That is the key question. And that is where this slogan comes from — God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him — because the answer to the question of whether God is an egomaniac or not is whether his self-exaltation is at the same time a satisfaction of our souls. And that is, in fact, what the Bible says. The reason God is not an egomaniac in exalting himself is because he is exalting the very thing that satisfies my soul, namely his beauty, his glory, his character. And this is the most amazing part, and where I am going with the text in just a minute: he is exalted in my enjoying him, in my being satisfied in him.
God’s Soul-Satisfying Beauty
And I always tell the rose story, about bringing the roses to Noël and she says, “Oh, why did you?” And I say, “It is my duty.” And people laugh and say that is not the right answer for why you are bringing your wife roses on your anniversary. The right answer is, “I couldn’t help myself, Noël. I love doing things for you. Nothing makes me happier than for me to spend an evening with you.” And she doesn’t respond by saying, “You are so selfish, all you ever think about is yourself, because you said nothing ever makes you happier than to spend the evening with me.” She doesn’t respond like that, because she knows that when I enjoy her, she is honored. I could say at that moment: Noël is most honored by me when I am most satisfied in her this evening. And that is exactly the way it is with God. And I say it on Sunday morning: God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.
Now what I am always on the lookout for is texts that more or less make that explicit. And here is one I haven’t used before. I was reading this recently in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul has this thorn in the flesh, and he pleads three times for God to take it away, and Jesus says to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” — my power is glorified and magnified and beautified and made perfect in weakness. And then Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
For the Sake of Christ
Now doesn’t that say that if I can be glad in the midst of my thorn, in the midst of my weakness or my hardship, then Christ will be magnified in me? And that is exactly what I am trying to say in Christian hedonism and at Desiring God. We exist to proclaim that Christ is most magnified in me when I am most satisfied in him. And then Paul says it, I think, almost explicitly. He says in verse 10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
So content means satisfied and peaceful: I am so content and so satisfied in the grace that he says is sufficient for me that I am now displaying his glory for his sake. So I think the structure of Paul’s thought in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 is exactly what we are trying to say at Desiring God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And this is the key for how God can be so God-exalting and yet be a God of love, because he is as committed to my being satisfied in him as he is to his being glorified in me, which is simply amazing.