Our Pursuit of Joy in God

Church Resource Ministries | Tucacas, Venezuela

Let me try to recap where we were yesterday so that you can see how this fits in the flow. Everything flows here. This is just a wonderful set of banners, a set of glorious goals you’ve set for yourself here. It was not hard for me to fit into this. It’s my heart. So, let’s try to review a moment and then move to banner number two, calling.

Created and Redeemed for the Glory of God

Yesterday’s point was that our passion for God and our passion for Christ will be what it ought to be when we see it as the in-working of God’s passion for God and Christ’s exaltation of Christ. I gave you four or five reasons for why that is the case. Let me underline the fact that God is God-centered by pointing to two verses. You’re created for God’s glory, and you’re redeemed for God’s glory. Therefore, God, in designing your creation and designing your redemption, is really pursuing his own glory, and you need to feel good about that.

The first text is Isaiah 43:6–7, which says:

Bring my sons from afar
     and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
     whom I created for my glory,
     whom I formed and made.

So, God created you in order to reflect and display how great he is. He created you to make much of him.

And the second text regarding redemption is Romans 15:8–9, which says:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised (that means he became a Jew) to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs . . .

That’s reason number one. His coming says, “God is true. God’s a promise keeper, and Christ came to prove that.” And here’s the second half of the verse:

And in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

We get the mercy and he gets the glory. That’s a good deal. It’s a God-glorifying deal and a heart-satisfying deal. It’s right at the essence of my theology that I get the help and he gets the glory. What a deal. I like God’s way of designing redemption. He lays his Son on the cross so that I might get joy and he might get glory, and I don’t ever want to reverse that and try to get the glory for me. And you don’t want to either.

God is very God-centered, and he has a passion for that glory that he has. And he puts that passion for his glory inside of me so that I’ll become a God-centered person because he’s a God-centered person. Where we spent most of our time was trying to prove that this is a loving thing for God to do, using John 17:1–5 and John 17:24–25.

A Passion for God’s Supremacy

Let me illustrate that point with an anecdote. We have a mission statement at our church that goes like this:

We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

We exist to spread a passion for God. Well, now we worked that through for about a year and a half in a big group of 23 people. We wrote a 13-page booklet to unpack it. I preached eight messages on it. Somebody came up to me and they said, “Hm, don’t you think we should say something about love in our mission statement?” I said, “Yes, I do.” And my answer was, “This mission statement is my definition of love.”

Now, if you got yesterday, that’ll make sense to you. If you didn’t get yesterday, that won’t make sense to you. So, you can test whether you were on beam yesterday. I exist, and I hope this mission exists, to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. That’s what it means to love people. You are in the business of drawing people into a passion for God so that he gets glory and they get joy. That’s the meaning of love.

The God-Centeredness of Love

There are so many that try to define love in non-God-centered ways. My whole point yesterday was to define love in a God-centered way so that he’s always being honored and you are always being satisfied in honoring him. In fact, I said something like this. Do you feel more loved when you’re made much of or when you’re given the ability to enjoy making much of God forever? And I mentioned that C.S. Lewis was one who really stumbled over the God-centeredness of God when he read the Psalm, saying it sounded like an old woman wanting compliments — “Praise me, praise me, praise me.”

Somebody mentioned to me afterwards that one or two of you had wondered, “Did he ever get beyond that hangup? Was Lewis, all of his Christian life, disapproving of that?” So, here is my bridge to today’s topic. If you want to read Lewis’s thoughts about it, go to the book called Reflections on the Psalms and it’s on pages 92 and 93. I remember them, though I read them 25 years ago, because they were probably in the top five pages of my life.

Books don’t change people, pages change people. Paragraphs change people. You don’t remember books. You remember paragraphs or maybe sentences. Well, this was one of those pages, 92 and 93, in the Harper Brace edition of Reflections on the Psalms, in which he said that he broke free of his disapproval of God’s constantly wanting praise when he realized that praise is the consummation of the joy that you have in anything.

If you like a worship song, you talk about it. If you like the sun shining in the sky, you praise it. If you like a sunrise, you get somebody and say, “Look at that.” If you like a little baby smiling in the crib because it’s your baby, you tell people, “Isn’t that cute?” We are always turning our joys into praises. It doesn’t matter whether it’s wine, women, or song, whether it’s pagan or Christian, everybody does that. He recognized that praise is the consummation of joy, that the joy is just kind of spilling over, and that the joy is not complete until it is expressed. He uses this sentence, “Lovers do not go on telling each other how beautiful they are out of a sense of duty. They do it because the joy is not complete until it is expressed.”

Spontaneous Praise

And you all know that from your own experience. If you are having a really good time in something, you look around for somebody to say, “Look at this. Isn’t this good? Isn’t this a good movie? Isn’t this a good song? Isn’t this a beautiful picture? Isn’t that great art?” Because if you’re left alone in your little, teeny, isolated world with joy, the joy is not as complete as when it spills over and gets shared in praise. That was Lewis’s solution because — I wonder if you could give the conclusion — if praise is the consummation of joy, then it is a loving thing for God to try to get praise from you because he wants your joy to be complete.

God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. You may not copy him in this. You absolutely may not copy him. The devil said to Eve, “Copy him in this,” and she did it. And Adam followed, and we’ve all been trying to get the glory for ourselves ever since because we think that joy lies in our getting praise instead of joy lying in our giving praise to God. It’s a lie, and the world has bought it hook, line, and sinker. We’re being killed by it. All the nations are perishing by it, and your business is to get out there and spread a passion for God, not to make people unhappy, but to bring them the fullness of joy that they were designed to have in the first place.

So, Lewis did not get hung up. He broke through his initial misgiving, and you will encounter lots of misgivings on the God-centeredness of God, because it seems to make out of him a very unloving, self-preoccupied person. But the solution lies in the fact that our joy is in him, and he gets most glory from us when we get most satisfaction in him.

God’s Glory, Our Joy

Now, there’s the sentence that leads into today: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That’s the banner that flies over my ministry, my life, and my heart. God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him, which means my calling, 24-7, 365 days a year, in the most horrible and the most wonderful times, is to pursue my joy in him. Because if it’s true that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him, especially in the hardest times, I have to pursue it. That’s my calling. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth. Serve the Lord,” with what? Gladness. That’s a command:

     Serve the Lord with gladness!
     Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
     It is he who made us, and we are his;
     we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
     and his courts with praise!
     Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
     his steadfast love endures forever,
     and his faithfulness to all generations.

That’s not an easy command. It’s not an easy command to obey. To serve the Lord with gladness in the hard places of the world is not easy. It’s easy to be glad when everything’s going your way and there are no problems, nobody’s father is dying, and no kids are rebellious. That’s easy. When the kids are rebellious, your father is dying, you have a disease, and the ministry doesn’t seem to bear fruit, then can you serve the Lord with gladness?

That’s the test. The test is whether you’re getting your strokes from your father, your kids, your ministry, or from God. Is he the satisfaction of your soul? He never changes. People die. People rebel. Ministries fail. God never changes, and therefore, our calling is not first to have obedient children, and not first to have living fathers, and not first to have successful ministries; our calling is to know him, love him, rejoice in him, delight in him, be satisfied by him.

Pursuing Our Joy in the Glory of Christ

Now, I’m going to take you to a text to put some exegetical basis under this. If you have your Bible, let’s go to Philippians 1. Here’s what I want to do with two verses, maybe three, in this chapter of Philippians. I want to show you just one biblical place where you could argue this sentence: God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him, especially in the hardest times.

Let’s jump in at Philippians 1:19. Paul says he’s imprisoned in Rome. That’s not an easy place to be. He will die there. Nero will kill him.

For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:19–20).

The Greek word for “honored” is megalynō. It has the word mega in it. He’s saying that Christ will be made much of, Christ will be made big. That’s what he wants — for Christ to be made big, made honored in his body whether by life or by death.

So, let’s just stop there before we read Philippians 1:21 and make sure you get this clear. I hope all of you can say this. If you can’t, ask the Lord while I’m talking to do it in you. May you be able to say, “It is my heart’s desire, my fond and deep and lasting expectation that in my body, this physical existence with which I have these lips and I have these hands, I want Christ to be made much of. I want Christ to look good on me. I want to so live that I make Christ look really good.”

That’s what he’s saying, isn’t it, in Philippians 1:20? And then he says, “Whether I live or whether I die, I want him to look really good in the way I die and look really good in the way I live. I want Christ to be all to me.”

To Die Is Gain

Then he adds Philippians 1:21, which gives the explanation of how Christ can be glorified in my living or dying. And let’s just take the dying. You know the verse. I spoke at an Alive Conference in Ohio a week or so ago, and a guy had a big tattoo across his arm that said “Philippians 1:21”. I walked up to him and he said, “I like that verse. That’s a very dangerous verse.”

Philippians 1:21 says:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Now, let’s notice the parallelisms between Philippians 1:20 and Philippians 1:21. In verse 20 he says, “Oh, Christ, it is my desire that you be made much of, that you be magnified, honored in my body, whether by life or death.” Now, you have that pair of “life and death” in verse 20, and you have the same pair in Philippians 1:21. “For me to live is Christ” corresponds with life, and “for me to die is gain” corresponds with death. Now, let’s just split off the life pair and take the death pair and read it straight through, because this is what’s going to open up the statement God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him, especially in the hardest times.

He says this in Philippians 1:20, “My expectation is that in my body, Christ will be honored if I die . . . for to me to die is gain.” Now, think about that connection. He is saying, “Christ is going to look really good as I die if for me to die is gain.” Do you get it? Do you see it? How do you make Christ look good in the hard times, like the dying times? Answer: count him gain. That is, be satisfied with him. When death takes everything life offers and you say, “Gain!” What a way to die. Why is this so magnificent a way to die? Answer: it makes Christ look good.

Full and Abiding Joy

What if the young man, Paul, whose dad is in a coma, walked into his dad’s hospital room and there was something left of consciousness, and he leaned over and started praying, not knowing if his dad is alive or dead, saying, “Oh, God, hold fast to him. Keep him believing. Hold on to him. Get him through the river.” And what if his dad, in his last breath, whispered, “Christ is gain”?

Wow! Everybody within the hearing of that would say, “Jesus is awesome! He is the treasure of a man who’s losing everything on earth.” He’s losing everything. His family is gone. His health is gone. His ministry is gone. Everything is gone. One thing remains: Christ. And he says, “Gain.”

Now, here’s my point. I want to be a happy person forever. I want Psalm 16:11 to come true for me:

You make known to me the path of life;
     in your presence there is fullness of joy;
     at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I say, “All right, all right, I know where it’s found now — you. In you there are pleasures forevermore and there is fullness of joy. I’m coming home. I want that.” I’m a Christian Hedonist through and through, and I have one other desire in my life. I want Christ to be magnified. Oh, how I want Christ to be magnified in my life. And you know what? If this were a universe in which I had to choose between those two, I would eat, drink, be merry, and go to hell, if there would be a hell. I am so thankful that this is a universe in which God has not made any human choose between ultimate joy and glorifying God to the fullest. In fact, he has demanded that you not choose between those two by putting them together and saying, “I am most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in me.”

Your calling is, first, foremost, and always, to be satisfied in God, because when you are most satisfied in him, he will be most glorified in you.

Biblical Foundations for Christian Hedonism

Now, I could stop right here, but I have 20 more minutes to give eight biblical reasons for believing this, so let’s go. I want you to believe this, not because it sounded clever out of Piper’s mouth, but that you see it in the Bible over and over and over again because I didn’t come to this thought easily. This has been 25 or 30 years in the making. The seeds were sown in 1968 in Pasadena, California, and they’ve been growing. And I’ve been struggling to find whether this is biblical because I want to be biblical before I’m anything. It won’t do any good to be systematic or logical or impressive. If you can’t see it in the Bible, don’t believe it.

1. Commanded to Pursue Joy in God

All right, here we go. Argument number one: you are commanded over and over again in the Bible to pursue your joy in God.

I’ve already given you Psalm 100, which says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord. Serve the Lord with gladness.” That’s a command.

Philippians 4:4 says:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Psalm 37:4 says:

Delight yourself in the Lord . . .

That’s a command. Delight yourself in the Lord. Psalm 32:11 says:

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
     and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

If you believe “thou shall not commit adultery” is something you should do because God commanded it, or “flee fornication” is something you should do because God commanded it, or “don’t covet” is something you should do because God commanded it, then “delight yourself in the Lord” is something you should do because God commanded it. It’s not icing on the cake. It’s not the caboose at the end of the train. It is not optional. You are commanded to be glad in God. This is a duty.

C.S. Lewis said to Malcolm in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, “As you know, it is the Christian’s duty to be as happy as he can be all the time in God, in Christ.” That’s argument number one. It’s commanded all over the Bible.

2. Threats Against Joyless Service

Number two: God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy. Now, I heard that quote from Jeremy Taylor, who lived about 350 years ago, a long time ago. In fact, it was Lewis who quoted it. God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy. And I thought, “That’s clever. I wonder if that’s true. I wonder if it’s biblical. I wonder if it’s in the Bible.”

So, let me read you one verse from which he may have gotten it and from which I do get it. Deuteronomy chapter 28:47–48 says:

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart . . . therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you . . .

That’s a threat, a very dangerous threat. It says, “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with gladness and joyful heart, you will serve your enemies.” Wow! That’s why I began my book Desiring God by saying this is a serious book about being happy in God. I am not playing games with this issue of joy. I’m not trying to tweak something and make it sound clever and hopefully win over a few people. You will die and go to hell if you are not happy in God. If you choose your happiness from another God, you’re an idolator. If you choose it from sex or money or success or family or ministry, you’re an idolator, and idolaters perish. Our idols are the things we rejoice in. This is serious. What we are happy in and satisfied by determines our destiny.

3. The Nature of Faith

Number three: the nature of faith teaches us to pursue satisfaction in God. I’m going to give you two verses to support that. The first one is Hebrews 11:6, and it goes like this:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

What is faith that pleases God? Without faith, you can’t please God, and then he defines faith in two directions. First, you must believe that he is — so you have to believe that God exists. And secondly, you must believe that he is the rewarder of those who seek him. Think about that. That’s heavy. You can’t please God unless you come to him for the reward that he is. If you try to come to God dutifully to improve him, to help him, to meet his needs, to show some great moral character of yours, you perish because you don’t please him. God is pleased when people come to get, not when they come to give.

It shows him to be rich and us to be poor. He’s full, we are empty. He’s the bread, we’re dying of hunger. He’s the fountain, we are thirsty. I don’t want to meet God’s needs. I want to show he’s the ultimate need-meeter. I go with empty hands. I go with defiled lips. Faith is coming to God to get God, not to give.

Here’s another verse in that direction. John 6:35 says:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Now, notice the parallelism. Jesus talks this way in the Gospel of John a lot. He says, “I am the bread of life,” and we have two statements. First, “He who comes to me will never hunger,” and then the parallel, “he who believes in me will never thirst.” He says coming and believing are parallel, and that is what believing is described as in John’s gospel. He says, “Whoever comes to me will have life,” because coming is believing in John’s gospel.

Believing is the non-physical movement of the heart Godward. For what? Bread and water, and we will never thirst. So, here’s my definition of faith according to John’s gospel: faith is a coming to Christ so as to be so satisfied in him that my soul never thirsts again for anything but him.

Whom 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 forever.

Jon Bloom, who’s here with me, wrote a great song on that text. God is our portion. Maybe we can sing it together before we’re done if somebody wants to get the idea and go grab Jon and make him teach it to us.

4. The Nature of Evil

Number four: the nature of evil teaches us to pursue satisfaction in God. What is evil? May I ask you, what would be your definition of evil? There are a lot of ways to define evil. There are a lot of things that are evil, but what is Jeremiah’s definition of evil, or God speaking through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2:12–13? Here’s what he says. He’s looking up at the stars and he says:

Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
     be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
     they have forsaken me,
     the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
     broken cisterns that can hold no water.

What an amazing definition of evil. Evil is to stop drinking the all-satisfying water of the fountain of life and to go and put your mouth in the dirt and claw at dry dirt, sucking to try to get some refreshment out of the world, which is what everybody’s doing. We dress to do it. We eat to do it. We work hard to do it, thinking, “Oh, give me some satisfaction, world. I’ve got to be satisfied because my heart is just a big desire factory, and I can’t get no satisfaction.” I am a baby boomer.

Sin is leaving the fountain. It says, “My people have committed two great evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water.” Fools we are. Fools we are. Just read the book of Proverbs. A fool is the person who goes in to have a banquet in the grave, and her name is “the adulteress”. A Banquet in the Grave, Ed Welch’s book title on addictions, just came out last year. It’s entitled A Banquet in the Grave. The thought is, “Come on in here, all you fools. Come on in here and eat yourself dead.” That’s sin. Sin is the failure to be a hedonist.

The world is full of people who think they’re hedonists because they live for sex and they live for houses or lands or sports. They think they’re hedonists. They’re stupid. They’re not hedonists. They’re suicidal. They’ve forsaken hedonism and started drinking poison, thinking, “Whoa! This tastes good. Whoa! This is cool.” And then, “Boom!” Our job in missions is to wake people up from the suicidal failure to be hedonists. He says, “My people have committed two great evils: they have forsaken me, the all-satisfying fountain of life, and have hewn out for themselves broken cisterns. They hold no water.” That’s argument number four, the nature of evil.

5. The Nature of Conversion

Argument number five: the nature of conversion calls you to pursue your joy all the time. I’ll take one verse. Matthew 13:44 is a one-verse parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.

Now, the next part is a little phrase that I remember seeing in the late 60s, and I just circled it and underlined it. The phrase is apo tēs charas in Greek. Again, he says:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Missionaries are people who leave everything. Why? From duty? From a morose sense of, “Oh, poor me. I have some sacrifices to make out in the hard place”? Not according to this parable. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who finds a treasure. He opens up this dirty, old, buccaneer-type thing, and it’s full of diamonds and rubies and pearls and jewels. And it must be worth a billion dollars. He covers it over, and he buries it. He knows the law. If you own the field, you can have whatever is in it. He goes out, thinking, “I have to buy this field. I have to have this field.”

Now, let’s just make sure the translation is coming through. This is Jesus. This is the king. This is a parable about the kingdom. I want to have Jesus as my king, my lover, my friend, and he’s there in the field. I want to have him. Everything that keeps me from him, I will get rid of. So, he sells his marriage ring, and he sells his grandfather’s clock that he inherited from his grandmother, and he sells his car, and he sells his latest computer games.

I see more missionaries waste their lives with computer games. Unbelievable. Most people think missionaries are heroes. I know differently. Missionaries are worldly people in a new place, struggling to be faithful to a call of God, to be satisfied in him, knowing that the homeland sends them all the R-rated videos to watch. They think they’re going to make them powerful in God by giving a little refreshment with the world. It’s not going to happen folks. It is not going to happen.

You have to sell everything to have Jesus. You have to have a mindset like Jesus says, “If you want to follow me, renounce everything you have and embrace me. I will be your treasure.” I don’t know what your competing treasure is. It’s different for most people. You know yours. You know how it is the innocent things that kill us. It is not adultery, by and large, that kills missions. It’s not drugs that kill missions. It’s not alcohol that kills missions. It’s innocent pleasures that destroy our passion for Jesus. So, let’s get converted by selling everything we have to have that field.

6. The Call for Self-Denial

Let’s see if I can fly through these last three. Number six: the call for self-denial teaches the pursuit of satisfaction. Well, that sounds strange, doesn’t it? I’ve had people over the years as I’ve tried to explain this, say, “Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Where in the world is the doctrine of self-denial in your theology, Piper? It sounds like you’re just calling everybody to be a hedonist, to seek their own satisfaction all the time. Where in the world do you give place to the teaching of Jesus Christ?” In Mark 8:34, he says:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

So people say, “Don’t you know what a cross is, Piper? It’s an electric chair. You’d die to follow Jesus.”

Sacrifice is tomorrow’s topic. This is not slipping up on me here, as if I thought, “Oops, I didn’t see that banner.” To that objection, I respond, read the rest of the verse. It says:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:34–35).

What’s he appealing to? Gain! If you say, “I want life, Jesus. If I follow you, will I find life?” And he says, “You bet you’ll find life.”

Denying Lesser Pleasures

Do you remember the time when Peter spoke to Jesus after the rich young ruler was sent away? Jesus had said, “It’s hard for rich people to enter the kingdom.” And the disciples were blown away. They thought, “Whoa! We thought riches were a blessing, so who then can be saved?” And he said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. But with God, all things are possible.” And then Peter piped up, “We’ve left everything and followed you. What about us?” Jesus did not like that attitude. It was self-pity.

He was saying, “I have sacrificed so much to follow Jesus. I’m in CRM, and I could be a big successful businessman with a big mansion somewhere. Oh, poor me. Like me. Admire me. Stroke me.” Self-pity is inverted pride, and Jesus responded to Peter, “Peter, listen now. Nobody has left houses or lands or brothers or sisters or a mother or a father for my sake and the gospel’s who will not receive back 100 fold in this life, lands and houses and mothers and sisters and brothers, and in the age to come eternal life. Get off your self-pity kick. You’re following me, the king of kings. I own everything” (Matthew 19:16–29).

Is it self-denial? Yes, deny yourself tin so that you can have gold. Deny yourself brackish water so you can have the wine of heaven. Deny yourself the strokes and praises of peons who know nothing about true value and just dress cool in order that you might have the approval of God Almighty in Jesus Christ. I ask this to young people. I gave this message one time in North Carolina to about 100 Southern Baptist teenagers, and maybe I’ll close with this. I don’t know.

There was a dad. Missionaries love their kids, and kids don’t always love the missionary’s God or calling. There was a dad and his son was a 6’2”, blonde, teenage guy. He must have been 17 or so, and his dad said, “You’re going in there to hear John Piper.” That’s not the audience I need, but he arm-wrestled him in. I saw him sit at the back with his arms folded, hiding behind somebody. And as I walked through these eight reasons, first he leaned forward, then he moved his chair into the middle of the aisle so he could look right at me. I saw what was happening, and I preached the rest of the message right to him. He trusted Christ when it was over. He embraced this Savior, and it may be so for some of you.

7. The Glory of God

Where shall I end? Let’s just close with this one. Number seven: the glory of God. We’ll build a bridge back to passion for God. Is it an honor to God to be pursuing your joy in him all the time? You know my answer, but here’s the illustration that I love to use. I’ve used it 100 times. If you’ve read Desiring God, you’ve read it. But I’m going to tell it again because I like it. It seems to turn more lights on for people than almost any other illustration I use, so I end with this.

I’ve been married to Noël, who’s here, for almost 34 years, and we have five kids. I haven’t done this, but one of these days I’m going to get it videoed and do it. And then I’ll bring the video along and just show the video instead of telling the illustration.

Let’s say I ring the doorbell at my house in Minneapolis, which I never do, of course, because it’s my house. I just walk in, right? But let’s say I ring the doorbell. She comes to the door, looks at me funny, like, “Why in the world are you ringing the doorbell?” I pull out 34 long-stem, red roses. It costs a mint. And I say, “Happy anniversary, Noël. It’s December 21, remember?” And she says, “Whoa, they’re beautiful, Johnny. Why did you?” And I say, “It’s my duty. I read the book, and it says husbands are supposed to, if they love their wives, do this. So I’ve done it to prove to you. And I love you.”

That’s the wrong answer. So, we’ll replay it and give the right answer. Ding dong. I say, “Happy anniversary, Noël.” She says, “Oh, they’re beautiful, Johnny, why did you?” I say, “I couldn’t help myself. I love buying roses for you. It makes me happy. In fact, I have a babysitter for tonight. Why don’t you change clothes because we’re going out tonight, and there’s nothing I would rather do than spend the night with you.”

Not in a thousand years would she ever say, “All you are is a Christian hedonist. Nothing makes you happier than spending the night with me. Why don’t you think about me sometimes? Why don’t you think about what makes me happy?”

Now, why do audiences like this laugh at duty as though that’s an obviously stupid thing to say, “It’s my duty”? And why does my wife not get offended when I tell her that my motive to be with her is because it makes me happy? Why did she not get offended at that? I’ll tell you why. It honors her that I’m happy to be with her, and she knows it. You know it. You feel it. There’s nothing a wife wants to hear more than a husband say, “Spending an evening with you would make me happier than spending an evening with anybody else.” Never would a wife say, “That is so selfish.”

It’s because there is written on our hearts this deep insight that we glorify what we enjoy. Therefore, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And I conclude by just saying it again. Your calling, amid all the details of missions work, is deepest and most pervasively and eternally, a calling to be satisfied in God. If you get that right, everything else will fall into place.