Persevering in Godward Joy

Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in BC & Yukon Convention

The following is a lightly edited transcript.

My desire is to ask the question, How? because in the messages up until now I’ve said God has great delight in God. God has great passion for God, and that’s the ground of our delight in God and our passion for God, and that we should pursue it with all of our might because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And therefore, we should pursue our joy with all our might for his glory and our joy.

And I said last night that we should pursue love because love, in its essence, is a delighting in other people’s delight in God. So our delight in God expands and grows and increases, as it embraces others and draws them in to it, so that as others begin to enjoy God, know God, delight in God, and rest in God, our heart reach out in love.

Grace comes down, joy builds up, and you meet a low-pressure zone of need, and the pressure bulges out to draw the other in, and as they are filled with that same grace, your delight in God expands through their delight in God. And there’s this great Christian Hedonist growth of joy as love expands to more and more people.

Now the question is: How do you become this kind of person and stay this way? It really boils down, doesn’t it, to that because probably most of you here this morning, whether you embrace all the categories I’ve tried to unfold for you, would say, “Yeah, the Christian life should look something like that, and that’s about a thousand miles from where I am.”

Twelve Strategies for Fighting for Joy

So what’s the strategy for becoming like that and staying like that? Because we’re not supposed to just do this hit and miss; we’re supposed to be this way all the time. I have twelve strategies I want to share with you.

1. Fight for joy in God daily.

Realize that there is a fight to be fought and a work to be done for the rest of your life in order to maintain joy. Joy is a fight. Joy is a fight and a work to be pursued. Now once you have it, it doesn’t feel like a fight and a work. It’s release, it’s rest, it’s joy. But given our fallen human nature, we are prone to delight in everything but God, and therefore, must make war on those alternative idols. Now, let me give you a couple of texts where I get this.

Worker for Joy

In 2 Corinthians 1:24, Paul says,

Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.

Pastors, if you ever needed a charter for your life, wouldn’t that be it? Shouldn’t we all stand up in front of our congregations and say, “Not that I lord it over your faith, but I am a worker with you for your joy.” That’s the mandate for every pastor. But notice the word worker. I must work for my joy. I must work for your joy. Joy is not natural — that is, joy in God is not natural to fallen human beings.

Joy of Faith

Here’s another text: Philippians 1:25 says,

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.

He’s wrestling with whether he’ll die and go to be with Christ, or whether he’ll stay. So as he contemplates, “Lord, shall I go home, which is gain to me, or shall I stay, which is a benefit to the people?” he concludes, “I will probably stay,” and the essence of the reason for his staying is the advancement and joy of faith. That’s the definition of the apostolic ministry in Philippians 1:25, and it’s the definition of the apostolic ministry in 2 Corinthians 1:24. “I am a worker with you for your joy; I will stay behind on earth for the advancement and joy of your faith.” Pastors, the joy of our people is our great business in life.

Satisfy Your Soul

And the joy of our own souls is our first business in life. People would ask George Müller in the middle of the day, How do you maintain a heart when you have so many burdens with the orphanages and with the churches and with fundraising and everything? And he said, “I rolled sixty things onto the Lord this morning.” He said, “I will not dare to come out and meet my family or people until I have gotten my heart happy in God.”

You’re of no use at the breakfast table until you’ve met God; I’m not anyway. I must meet God. I must become a Christian in the morning. I wake up an unbeliever — almost. Carnal, fearful, anxious, guilty. I’m wired this way. I’ve got to get saved every morning — that is, I have to meet God, I have to see God, I have to know God, I have to taste God afresh, so that my heart becomes alive to God. Something happens to me during the night, and then I can go to the breakfast table and minister to my family. Don’t put the newspaper before God. Don’t put anything before God. It’s a fight.

Narrow Gate

Now I know I’ve gotten into trouble at my own church with this emphasis. So let me back off here and ask this question to you. You might ask, “I thought you were a Christian Hedonist? And now the last word you’re going to dump on is fight and work? What about Matthew 11:28?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That doesn’t sound like work, does it? But I always have to put that over against Matthew 7:13–14:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Now I said to you yesterday that theologians are born by people who see those two verses and get uncomfortable. Well, which is it, Jesus? Is your yoke easy and light and restful, or is the way hard and narrow? Which is it? This is Jesus talking in both texts in the same Gospel. And the answer is something like this: It’s hard for fallen people to rest in God. It is a fight to relax in God. In other words: What’s hard is faith. What’s hard is rest. What’s hard is ease in God.

Work to Rest

I was sitting in my chair looking out over the bay this morning, meditating on these things, and I saw a blackbird. It went up, it came down, landed, and I thought of Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I was looking at this bird poking his beak around in the stones out there, and I thought to myself, “I wonder who taught that bird not to eat stones, but to eat shells. How does that bird know what’s poison and what’s not poison? How does that bird know when to eat and when not to? How does that bird know how to fly? How does this bird figure things out?”

And the text says, “Your Father feeds it; don’t be anxious.” It’s hard not to be anxious. I mean, if you don’t have the funds to pay the rent, and somebody says to you, “Fear not; be like the birds.” Is that easy? That’s not easy. And yet the fight is to relax. So these are not competing texts. Yes, the way is hard. Yes, it’s narrow. But the fight is not to prove yourself sufficient, or to prove yourself worthy, or to create any great performances for God to be impressed by. The fight is: rest in me, trust me, relax in me. Delight in me. I’ll take care of you; rejoice in me. That’s what’s hard, and that’s the fight. And I call you to fight it. And realize it’s a fight every day, so that if you find some success in it tonight going home, and then two weeks from now you seem to be back where you were, consider it normal, and fight again.

2. Fight for faith with gutsy guilt.

Learn the secret of fighting like a justified sinner, with what I call gutsy guilt. Fight the fight as a justified sinner with gutsy guilt. If you don’t learn to fight the fight of faith with gutsy guilt as a justified sinner, I don’t think you’ll win the battle. Because you are a sinner; you will stay a sinner until the day you die, and if you don’t learn how to fight as a justified, accepted, loved sinner then you will be defeated over and over again.

Where in the world do I get this idea of a gutsy guilt? Let me read for you Micah 7:8–9. Now picture yourself as having stumbled this afternoon. You stumble into some sin or you stumble into some depressed frame that you cannot explain at all. You’re just plain gloomy and you look around and say, “Where did that come from?” Blank — no feelings, just hardly want to do anything.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
     when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
     the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
     because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
     and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
     I shall look upon his vindication.

That’s gutsy guilt. This man has sinned: He has sinned, and there is darkness upon him. A cloud has come over his life. The Lord is indignant with him. And he’s a believer, and he’s gutsy because he’s justified. How does he talk? I’m going to read it again. Just listen. This is amazing. Can you live this way? There are so many people who, when they sin, they believe God is frowning upon them with some disciplinary action, some bad feeling or awful circumstance, and they simply cave in: they get mad at God, or say he doesn’t care about them, or throw away their faith; they just cave in because they’ve never gotten the fiber of theology that is justification by faith alone apart from works in there and become gutsy Christians. So listen:

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; . . .

You’ve got this enemy just kind of poking at him, and assaulting him, and saying all kinds of mean things.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
     when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
     the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
     because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
     and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
     I shall look upon his vindication.

Romans 3:28: “We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” You must learn to fight as a justified sinner. The only sin that you can triumph over is a forgiven sin. How does Wesley’s hymn go? “He breaks the power of” what kind of sin? Canceled sin. That’s the only kind he breaks the power of. The only sin that you can get victory over, in practice, is a forgiven sin. If you try to war against your sin so that it will be forgiven, you will fail totally and become a legalist, hell bound. That’s the meaning of justification by faith apart from works of the law. There is a fight to be fought, but you fight it as victor through Christ, who has paid and canceled sin. You have become attached to him through faith.

3. Fight to see God.

Let your fight be mainly a fight to see God, mainly. I won’t say only, but mainly. Let your fight be mainly a fight to see God. The main battle in the Christian life is the battle to see. The main battle is the battle to see God. Why do I say that? Because Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” There is a spiritual tasting, there is a spiritual seeing with the eyes of the heart, not the eyes of the head.

Remember the prayer in Ephesians 1:18: “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know [see] what is the hope to which he has called you.” The reason we are as glum and as murmuring and as unhappy as we are is because our hearts’ eyes do not see our hope like they ought to. They are blind. They are blank. And the desperate cry of our heart should be, “Oh God, let me see you. Let me see the cross. Let me see the resurrection. Let me see the ascension. Let me see the intersession. Let me see the mighty power. Let me see the sovereignty. Let me see the second coming. Let me see the Holy Spirit. Let me see the gifts. Let me see the work and the glory and the beauty and the wonder that you are. Because according to 2 Corinthians 3:18, beholding is becoming.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

How are we changed from one degree of glory to the next? Seeing. First John 3:2:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Do you see the connection? There is an eschatological consummation of this connection and there is a present experience of this connection. The eschatological consummation is: when we see him as he is, in the twinkling of an eye, we’ll be like him. There’s a connection between a perfect seeing and a perfect being.

Now in this life, it’s not perfect and it’s not complete; it’s from one degree of glory to the next as you behold the glory of the Lord. So if you want, tomorrow, to be one degree closer to glory in your character, in your joy, in your holiness, plead with God, that he would grant you to see another degree of his glory. Seeing is being. Beholding is becoming. This is the biblical dynamic. The main battle in your life is to see God. Because either you will be changed by it or killed by it — to see God.

4. Soak in the Scriptures.

Meditate on the word of God day and night. This is simple. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know, and it’s just good to hear it again. Meditate on the word of God day and night. Our goal is joy — joy that overflows in worship and love. Psalm 23:3 says, “He [the Lord] restores my soul.” How does he do it? Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving [restoring] the soul.” There’s no doubt about where it comes from: the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. Every morning, my soul must be restored. Every morning my soul must be restored to joy. It is a fight.

Sword of the Spirit

So what is the sword of the Spirit? It’s the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8). If you’re going to be like Paul and fight the fight of faith — the good fight — to the end, you’re going to fight mainly with the word of God. And so you get up in the morning and you meditate on the law of the Lord.

Psalm 19:8 says, The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” Do you want joy? I have people come into my office, they make appointments with me, and they say, “I don’t know. I’ve lost all the joy.” I have a series of questions that I ask them. I’ll mention one of them here and some of them later. Tell me about your Bible reading habits recently. “Oh, it just kind of slipped.” I say, “OK, we don’t need to talk long here. You take a week now, and read your Bible an hour a day, and then we’ll see how you’re doing next week.” I usually say a few more things than that, but I’m not real patient with people who have God offer them an instrument of joy, lay it aside, and then complain to God that they are not happy. I do not have much patience with them. God says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.

Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name.” The words of God are the joy of the prophet. John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” “I have spoken. I have spoken that your joy may be full. If you turn away from me to the television, don’t complain to me that you don’t have joy. If in the car you have an hour to work or a half an hour to work, and you turn on junk talk radio, just crap talk radio, instead of putting in Bible tapes, don’t come home and blame God that you were crabby at work. This is crabby radio. We are being taught to be crabby, feisty, ugly, mean-spirited, fleshly, carnal, sexy, in your face, by the radio. And then we get to work and wonder why we are that way. Put 1 Corinthians 13 in the deck and listen to it eight times on the way to work and see what happens. You can buy the Bible on tape. There are simple strategies to take: just saturate your mind with the precepts of the Lord, which are the rejoicing of your life.

Blessed is the man
     who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
     nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2)

His delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on it day and night. And so he becomes

like a tree
     planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
     and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

And you could add, when the winds blow and the drought comes, like Jeremiah says, he doesn’t blow over. Do you want to be that way? Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night.

Store God’s Word in Your Heart

Now how do you do that? There is only one way. You’ve got to memorize it. This is Sunday School, folks. I’m teaching Sunday School here. Do you regularly memorize the word of God? If you don’t, you will lead a second-rate Christian life. I know of no mighty woman or man of God who does not memorize Scripture — none. I don’t think there ever has been one because if you only got a snatch-up in the morning, even a twenty- or thirty- or forty-minute snatch-up, and then you leave it, and it’s gone, how will it have an effect?

God is not a god of magic. God is a god of word. He’s a person: he affects you not with wand-waving magic. At 11:00 o’clock, when the crisis is at work, or the baby’s crying, and the soup is overflowing, and you stand up and thump your head on the cabinet, and you sit on the floor and cry, he doesn’t wave a wand over you right there, he brings to your mind promises. Many of the afflictions of a mom and the Lord delivers her out of all of them. If the mom doesn’t remember that word, if it’s not stuffed away in her brain somewhere so that the Holy Spirit can call it up, she’s just going to stay on the floor and cry.

God is not a god of magic. He is a person who has revealed his word. He means for his word to be known and meditated on and appropriated by promises moment by moment by moment through the day. I plead with you: memorize the scripture. And I know, there’s a lot of older people in this room who are saying in your mind right now, “It used to be easier than it is now.” I’m 53, and I know it used to be easier than it is now. I work ten times as hard to memorize today as I did when I was twenty, but I work like crazy at it. I really work at it. For one simple reason: I am a Christian Hedonist through and through, and I can’t survive without it. I’m a pastor. My people come to put their torch in my fire every Sunday. If my fire goes out, I’m a dead man, and my congregation will soon die. I don’t have the luxury of not memorizing Scripture. I must have the kindling in my heart, moment by moment by moment, both for ministry purposes and for my own soul.

And if you say, “I just can’t; it’s too hard,” I’ll give you a little wager here, or at least I’ll just ask you a very indicting question: If I were to pull out of my wallet here a $1,000 bill, and I said, now come back to me in 24 hours and I will give you $1,000 for every verse you have memorized that you didn’t know before, how many do you think you’d memorize? Well let me tell you something, the payoff spiritually is a lot more than $1,000 a verse. The reason you don’t memorize them is you don’t believe that. You don’t. You don’t believe that. You don’t believe that the payoff is high enough to be worth the effort. It shows how little confidence you have in the Bible, and how little you believe words like “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” That’s a great indictment to us and you need to, right now, repent and set your face for 1999, the rest of it, to do some memorizing.

Fight with Verses

We have a program at our church called the fighter verses. We ship it out all over the country. It’s little ring books. It’s for children and adults, and there is a verse for every week of the year in these little burgundy folders. You can get them in cards. We’ve chosen the verses according to our sense of priorities. And the priority I put on this is: every Sunday morning before the service starts I stand right here, and there are about eight or nine hundred people sitting there in both services, and I say, “The fighter verse today is 1 John 3:1–2. Let’s see if somebody over here will stand up and recite it for us.” Up there a little five-year old child will stand up. Over here a seventy-year old woman will stand up, and we begin every service with the recitation of our verse. That’s how important Bible memory is for us.

Because frankly, there’s no way, men, you’re going to defeat sex on the internet without the Bible — no way. We have guys dropping like flies to this thing. It is deadly. I just exhort you, men. I don’t know how it is with the women. I’m not a woman, and I don’t know what kind of appeal there might be there. I suppose there are some who wrestle with that, but for men to have immediate one-click access to the most varied kinds of sexual stuff is an unbelievable temptation. Teenagers are just getting killed by this thing right and left. Every house is going to have a computer in ten years. Half the households have them now. Most households will have two and two phone lines within a few years because we have to have access to the Internet. And I believe in it. I have one and my boys have access to it. We make covenants with one another.

But it’s the Bible that’s going to win this thing. You memorize scripture and you memorize, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). You develop a love for God and seeing God, and you know that as soon as you hit that blue click here, you will be so contaminated and so deviled that your seeing of God will be wiped out for days or weeks or maybe eternity, you’ll fight differently. You will fight differently. Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night.

5. Pray earnestly.

Pray earnestly and without ceasing for joy, and all that leads to joy. Let me give you some examples of what I mean. I have lots of notes here, but here’s what’s most immediate on my front burner. I said this to some of the guys I had lunch with the other day. Right now, in my life, the prayers that are uppermost in my fight for joy are three or four. They go like this. I’ll see if I can remember them all because I’ve memorized them because I want to pray Scripture.

‘Incline my heart, O Lord.’

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
     and not to selfish gain! (Psalm 119:36)

Is your heart disinclined to read the Bible? Mine is many times. Isn’t that awful? I’m a preacher. I’m a pastor. I’m a leader. And there are many times a new computer program is so captivating to me — I want to see how this thing works. And the Bible is kind of low down on the totem pole. Or you get up in the morning and you just want to get to the newspaper, you just want to get to work. And you can go to work — even Bible work — and not meditate on the Scriptures. So what do you do when you have that frame of mind? You cry out, “O God, incline my heart to your testimonies and not to getting gain.” Do you believe God has the right to incline your heart?

This is taking us back to some theological issues here. Theology is important in prayer, big time. Does God have the right to take your tick-tock heart — the metronome heart that goes tick, world; tock, God; tick, world; tock, God; and make your heart stay on God? Does God have a right to do that? I’ll tell you, if he doesn’t, I’m going to hell, because my metronome is all weighted for the world, if he leaves me. I cried to him, “O God, O God, incline my heart. If you leave me to myself this morning, if you don’t create a desire, if you don’t put the want to in me, where will I be?” That’s the first prayer.

‘Open my eyes, God.’

I have a little place that I built in my study with a prayer bench, and everything is built to seclude me back in this little corner where I get with my Bible, and get down on my knees, and I get an elbow on either of my Bible and I built this little wooden bench — it’s the perfect height for my elbows and perfect distance for my eyes with my trifocals, and I have my Bible there. My next prayer is,

Open my eyes, that I may behold
     wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

Because if he doesn’t answer that, you know what I see? Black marks on a page. Interesting historical facts. Doctrinal connections enough to move me. No wonder, no magnificence, no glory, no joy. That’s a work of God; therefore, we’ve got to ask for it: O God, open my eyes, open my eyes. It’s what Paul prayed for in Ephesians 1:18: that I might behold wonders, wonders — not just doctrinal connections, not just historical facts, but wonders. This is what the psalmist saw over and over again. He pled for God to open his eyes to see.

‘Satisfy me with your love.’

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
     that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

If you don’t have satisfaction, ask for it. Ask for it and don’t let him go, like Jacob, until he gives it to you. Break your hip to get it. Wrestle for it. Don’t assume that you can’t have it. The Bible teaches us to ask for it. “Satisfy my heart with your steadfast love in the morning, that I may rejoice and be glad in you all my days.” Pray that way.

So that’s my fifth suggestion: pray.

6. Preach to yourself.

Learn to preach to yourself. And here I’ll send you to Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s book Spiritual Depression. I don’t have the quote here, but it’s an exposition of Psalm 42:5–6, which goes like this:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
     my salvation
and my God.

Who are you talking to? Who was I talking to? You didn’t hear it? “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” Who am I talking to? I’m talking to myself. I’m talking to my soul. I’m preaching to the mirror. If you don’t learn how to preach to yourself, you lose one of the great means of grace that are given to you in the Bible. Preach to yourself. Soul, why are you downcast? So, why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God because — and then you give some biblical reasons to your soul and press them home on your soul. Don’t just languish and say, “Oh, what am I going to do? I feel so bad.” Preach; preach. Of course, if you’re going to preach, you’ve got to have some Bible in your head.

7. Seek accountability.

Get in some kind of fellowship: small group, one on one, one on three,

lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12–13)

Do you hear that text? How do you maintain faith and joy? Exhort one another. If you isolate yourself from other believers, don’t go bellyaching to God that your joy is languishing or that your faith is weak. God has told us things that we can do to keep it strong, and one of them is getting some kind of relationship. For me, by and large, it’s our staff. They are in my face with the word of God. I fill out accountability reports every Monday about what I’ve done with my eyes in relation to women, and what I’ve done with my money, and what I’ve done with my devotional life, and so on. We are in each other’s face; nobody coasts at Bethlehem Baptist Church. We exhort one another every day as long as it is called today, lest there creep into John Piper’s heart an evil heart of unbelief, leading me to fall away from the living God.

And I’m out of time so I’m going to just list the last few. Here they are.

8. Be patient in the night.

Be patient in the dark night because it will come when the joy vanishes. Be patient like Psalm 40:1–3:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
     he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
     out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
     making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
     a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
     and put their trust in the Lord.

Now that’s a beautiful sequence: from the pit, to successful evangelism. But be patient because how long he was left in the mire, we’re not told.

9. Get proper rest and exercise.

Get the rest and exercise your body needs. That’s the second question I ask when people come into my office discouraged. I say, “How much sleep are you getting?” I don’t sleep well. “Well, how much?” Five or six hours. “Won’t work. Why is that?” I don’t get to bed.

You’ve got to change that. You’ve got to get exercise and you’ve got to get sleep, or you’re going to get discouraged. We are whole people. Our minds often take their queues from our bodies. If you never get any exercise and you don’t get enough sleep, you’re going to get discouraged and sad and gloomy, and you’re going think it’s a spiritual problem, which it is, because you don’t have the obedience to get to bed on time. You don’t have the humility to let God work for you, and you stay up too late to work for yourself, and you don’t trust him to get it done. Why? Read Psalm 127.

10. Enjoy natural revelation.

Make a proper use of the revelation of God in nature. Now you’re from British Columbia. You shouldn’t have too hard a time at this. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). It’s seeing the glory of God that will change us.

So don’t walk outside and murmur about the nick on your car door. Be thankful you’ve got a car and eyes, and fingers that can feel the nick — fingers with no leprosy. Be thankful and look up and say, “What a glory; what a God” — even when it’s cloudy. The trees are budding, and that’s all God.

11. Read books about God.

Read great books about God. I could talk an hour about that. Find your Jonathan Edwards and whoever it is for you that is distilled Bible.

12. Read Christian biography.

Read great Christian biography. Just because this issue of one-another life — “exhort one another every day,” and be models for each other — that’s rooted in Hebrews 13:7. “Remember your leaders,” it says in Hebrews 13:7. Follow them. Well, don’t be a chronological snob and think that the only leader you ever have is your pastor or someone like Charles Swindoll. Don’t think those are the only ones that have anything to contribute to your life.

It’s dead people that have the most to contribute to your life, because there is more of them. And because they lived in generations that weren’t as dense with man-centeredness as our generation is, and so find your great old pastors from the Puritans, or from Luther, or from Calvin, or from Augustine, or from Anselm, or Aquinas, or Whitfield, or Spurgeon, or Wesley — yes, I will even mention Wesley because he has great things to say. Find your heroes and live in their lives in Christian biography, and you will find your heart set on fire again and again.