What Is It Like to Enjoy God?

Passion 2018 | Atlanta


“If you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.”

These are the words of Eliphaz in Job 22:24–26, spoken to his friend Job. Job had lost all ten of his children in one night. All of his livestock was dead or stolen. His wife had turned against God. And he was covered with boils. His friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, had sat with him for seven days in silence (Job 2:13). But now they were speaking. “If you lay gold in the dust . . . the Almighty will be your gold. . . . Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.”

When Job’s trial was over we read this: “The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has’” (Job 42:7). And yet, what could be more right, or more beautiful, than to say to someone, “If you lay gold in the dust, the Almighty will be your gold, and you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God”?

Words Not Fitly Spoken

I regard that sentence as true and beautiful and right. Because you can find that truth all over the Scriptures. Compared to God and his infinite value and preciousness, all the gold in the world is like dust. That is true. And therefore, in him, you can have more delight, more enjoyment, more pleasure than you can find in all the gold at Fort Knox or in all that it can buy.

And yet when Eliphaz spoke these words to Job God was angry. Why? Because he used them as an indictment against Job. In the preceding verse Eliphaz said, “If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents . . .” (Job 22:23). Eliphaz and his friends could not conceive that Job was a man of justice and that he loved God more than he loved gold, because if he had been a man of justice and a man who loved God supremely, he would not be suffering this much.

And in that, they were dead wrong. And God was angry with them, because they took truth and turned it into a cruel indictment against a good man because they did not think that such suffering and such goodness could be in the same person. And they were wrong. And God was angry.

Beware of Half-Truths

The reason I am beginning here with these words of Eliphaz is that I want to talk about the truth that he spoke, and I want you to be aware that it is possible for me to speak about this truth in a way that would make God angry. I want to heighten your vigilance as you listen. I want you to realize that every time you hear someone speak, the true things they speak may be mingled with false things. True things may be spoken along with half-truths. True things may be spoken from a proud, unloving heart. True things may be spoken in cruel ways. True things may be spoken that are out of balance with other truths. It is possible for a Christian preacher to be like Eliphaz.

I have alerted myself, and I am alerting you: it is possible to speak truth about the preciousness of God and about delighting in God in ways that make God angry. I am putting your minds on high alert, lest you remove every biblical filter from your brain and become like a mere sponge to everything you hear.

When you lift your hands in passionate praise at this gathering, you are not being asked to turn off your brains. You are being summoned to think clearly about the truth of the lyrics you sing, and you are being summoned to feel deeply about the beauties of Jesus Christ. And that is true of this message as well. I want you to think carefully and feel deeply.

Kendra Harrell

Duty and Danger

So even though Eliphaz made God angry by the way he used his true words in Job 22:24–26, those are the very words I want to talk about, in the hopes, not of angering God, but of glorifying him and making you glad. “If you lay gold in the dust . . . the Almighty will be your gold. . . . Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.” I want to pose two questions with you, and try to answer them from the Scriptures.

  1. What is it like to delight in God?
  2. Is this delight your highest duty?

Or to ask them another way:

  1. What is the actual experience of enjoying God, finding pleasure in God, being satisfied in God?
  2. And, is that enjoyment — that pleasure, that satisfaction — your ultimate, God-given obligation?

Love the Gifts or the Giver?

“If you lay gold in the dust . . . the Almighty will be your gold. . . . Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.”

If God is your gold, he will be your gladness. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If God is your treasure, he will be your pleasure.

“If God is your gold, he will be your gladness. If God is your treasure, he will be your pleasure.”

We are not talking here about the enjoyment of God’s gifts, but of God himself. This was the great issue between God and Satan in the book of Job. Did Job love God only for his gifts, or did Job love God because of the value of God himself? Listen to Satan’s argument against Job in Job 1:9–11:

Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”

In other words, “Job only fears you and loves you because you have given him so many good things.” He was wrong about Job. When all his children were dead, and all his livestock was gone, here is what Job did:

Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20–21)

Better Than Health and Wealth

But Satan would not give up his argument. “No, God, Job only loves you because you have given him health.”

Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 2:4–5)

He was wrong again. But you see what is going on in this book. Is God Job’s gold? Is God himself, not his gifts, Job’s supreme treasure? Does Job say with the psalmist in Psalm 63:3, “Your steadfast love is better than life”? Better than life, and all that this life has to give? Does Job say with the prophet Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17–18)

When there is no food! “Yet will I rejoice in God!” Not food! God! Job’s responses to all this were not perfect. But he never cursed God. He had to be rebuked for some of his words. But there is no doubt what Satan aimed to destroy and what God aimed to exalt. Namely, that God is to be treasured and enjoyed above all his gifts, in prosperity and poverty, in health and disease, in life and death.

What Is It Like to Delight in God?

“If you lay gold in the dust . . . the Almighty will be your gold. . . . Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.”

So my first question is: What is it like to delight in God? What is the experience of enjoying God, finding pleasure in God, being satisfied in God?

Enjoy the Person

The first and most fundamental thing to say is that the enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of a Person. Not just the enjoyment of a thing, or an idea, or a pattern of actions.

God is a Person. I wonder if you have ever pondered that for all eternity past there has always been some reality. Because nothingness cannot do or create anything. By definition, it is not a doer or a creator. It is not. Period. That is the meaning of nothingness. From all eternity, there has been some reality, which is enough, in itself, to take our breath away. Something is absolutely there with no beginning!

And have you ever considered that there was no time before this reality, no set of circumstances, no conditions, no influences that could make this reality any more likely one thing than another thing? From the standpoint of prior probability, so to speak, the likelihood that ultimate reality would be a Person is just as great as the likelihood that it would be a gas, or energy, or anything else.

Therefore, when the Bible reveals ultimate reality to be a Person, it’s not affirming anything impossible or even improbable. God is a Person. Eternal, ultimate reality is a Person. And therefore eternal, ultimate joy is the joy of a Person — God’s joy. And the ultimate joy of his creatures is joy in a Person — joy in God.

But you don’t have to reason it out. We have a more sure word. Over and over again in God’s word, our great job is joy in the ultimate Person:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (Psalm 37:4)
  • Be glad in the Lord. (Psalm 32:11)
  • In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
  • The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. (Psalm 16:5)
  • As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1–2)
  • I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)
  • We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

Enjoy the Savior

This is why Jesus died! In our selves, we are sinners and have no hope of everlasting joy in God. We can’t even get near him without being incinerated by his holiness. But God is utterly committed to being enjoyed forever by a redeemed people.

Therefore, the apostle Peter says (1 Peter 3:18), “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” To God. To God! The Person. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they know you [Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). What makes eternal life desirable is not just that it lasts forever, but that it is knowing and enjoying an infinitely satisfying Person, and who is also a Person who died so that they could be known and enjoyed.

Enjoy His Gifts

I said a moment ago that the enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of a Person, not the enjoyment of a thing, or an idea, or a pattern of actions. And yet that is how we come to know the Person: his actions, his ideas revealed in his word — things that he has made as pointers and foretastes of himself.

“The heart is not the organ of performance. It is the organ of preference.”

Consider these Person-revealing actions. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). We know the love of the Person by the action of the Person. We know the power of the Person by the action of his creation of the universe (Romans 1:18–20). We know the wisdom of the Person by his purposeful providence in history (Romans 11:33–36). We know the justice and righteousness of the Person by the punishment of sin in the death of Jesus (Romans 3:24–26). We know the faithfulness of the Person by the keeping of his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). We know the compassion and patience of the Person because we know Jesus Christ who said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Experiences Point Us to God

And the same is true with things and human experiences. They are given to show us God. We know something of the sweetness of his friendship because we have tasted honey. We know something of his sustaining richness because we have eaten bread. We know something of the refreshment of his fellowship because we have drunk water when we are thirsty. We know something of the personal depths and exquisite intensity of person-to-person pleasure because we have felt sexual desire. We know something of the warmth of his affection because we remember being held securely by our mother. And we know something of his worth because we have coveted gold. Even our sins witness to his worth.

Whatever action is good in this life, whatever idea is good and true, whatever thing we see or hear or smell or taste or touch of all God’s creation — all of it is designed by God as a sign and taste of what it is like to enjoy God himself. Crucifixion, creation, providence, covenant, honey, bread, water, sex, mothers, gold — these are not God. They are his good gifts. And if our enjoyment terminates on them, we are idolaters and not worshipers, no matter how much we thank God for them. Thanking God for something you love more than God doesn’t make you into a worshiper. We are created to know and enjoy a Person, not just his gifts.

People Point Us to God

One of the best pointers and tastes of the experience of enjoying God as a Person is the enjoyment of the human persons we know, not just their gifts. So, when you have some quiet moments, think of the kindest person you know, the most loving person, the wisest person, the most patient person, the most intelligent person, the strongest person, the most tenderhearted person, the happiest person, the most peaceful person, the most optimistic person, the meekest person, the most courageous person, the most articulate person, the person with the best sense of humor, and the most generous person. Think about what it is like to enjoy these persons when their personalities are at their best.

Then combine all the good traits of all those persons in one person. And then increase those traits to perfection in quality, and to infinite beauty in how they are proportioned and exercised. And then let all the enjoyment of all those persons for all those personal excellencies, raised to that perfection and that beauty, give you some hint of what it will be like to enjoy God fully. And then pray that the Holy Spirit would grant this miracle to happen.

That is my answer to question one: What is it like to delight in God — to enjoy God?

Is Delight Our Highest Duty?

And now my second question is: Is this delight your highest duty? Is this enjoyment your ultimate, God-given obligation?

My answer is yes. And I will give you three reasons from God’s word. And as I give you these three reasons, my prayer is that you will experience them not as a heavy load, but as a light burden and an easy yoke (Matthew 11:28–30). What could be more liberating, more thrilling, more amazing than that the God who made the universe would come to you, a hopeless sinner, and point you to the death of his Son where sins are paid for, and then say to you, “Your first and greatest obligation is that you enjoy supremely what is supremely enjoyable? Namely, me and my Son in the power of my Spirit.”

Love God with All Your Heart

Here’s my first reason that your supreme happiness in God is your highest obligation — and that your delight in God is your greatest duty. When Jesus was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:35–38).

The great and first commandment is that we love God. And the essence of loving God is that we delight in God, that we enjoy God, that we find God to be our all-satisfying treasure — our gold.

“If you lay gold in the dust . . . the Almighty will be your gold. . . . Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.”

Loving God is not first working for God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He did not say loving me is keeping my commandments. He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love is first. Commandment-keeping follows. Doing is fruit. Loving is root.

This is probably why Jesus put the heart first in this highest duty: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” The heart is not the organ of performance. It’s the organ of preference. It’s not the organ of doing for God. It’s the organ of delighting in God. Therefore, the great and first commandment is: Delight yourself in the Lord! Enjoy this Person above all persons. Treasure him above all treasures. Lay your gold in the dust. Treasure the Almighty as your gold. Then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.

Love Others Because You Love God

Now for the second reason that the enjoyment of God is your highest obligation — and that your delight in God is your greatest duty: Genuine, Christ-exalting love for people is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. In other words, if there is no blood-bought joy in God, there can be no Christ-exalting love for people. The first commandment precedes the second commandment. And Jesus says they are both essential!

“Enjoying God is the root of all Christ-exalting love and all God-exalting worship. It is our first and greatest duty. ”

Here is one of the most amazing descriptions of love in the Bible. It’s 2 Corinthians 8:1–2. Paul is describing the love that the Macedonian Christians showed for the poor believers in Jerusalem when he was taking up an offering for them.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

Joy overflowed in generosity to other people. And this joy was not in prosperity because it says they were in extreme poverty. And this joy was not in comforts because it says they were in severe affliction. This was a miraculous, blood-bought, Spirit-wrought joy in the God of the gospel that overflowed in the midst of affliction and poverty for the good of others. That is Christ-exalting love. Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.

Therefore, joy in God is our first obligation. Delighting in God is our highest duty. Because loving God and loving people ae the two great commandments, and joy in God is the essence of one and the spring of the other.

Do It All to the Glory of God

Finally, the third reason you should make the duty of delight in God your highest priority is that God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. The glory of God, the greatness of God, the beauty of this all-satisfying Person is the most important reality in the universe. God has made it plain that we exist to magnify that beauty. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

And my final argument that your chief duty is to be satisfied in God is that, without this, you cannot glorify God from your heart. If we had time, I would take you to Philippians 1:20 and show that the way Paul magnified the glory of Christ is by being satisfied in him in life and death. But instead, I’ll try to make this point clear with an illustration that I think virtually all of you will understand.

Delight Is Your Duty

Two weeks ago, Noël and I celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. Which means we are in our 50th year of marriage. Now let’s suppose that I buy fifty long-stem, red roses. That’s almost $200. And I make a plan for the evening, and I want to surprise her with the roses at the door when I come home from work. Ordinarily, I would just walk in. But I ring the doorbell. And she opens the door and looks puzzled — until I present the roses from behind my back, and say, “Happy anniversary, Noël.”

And she says, “Johnny, they’re beautiful. Why did you go to such an expense?” And suppose I say, “It’s my duty. I read it in a good marriage manual.” How would she feel? I’ve done my duty. What’s wrong with doing your duty?

I’ll show you what’s wrong. Let’s rewind this scene and do it over. I ring the doorbell. And she opens the door and looks puzzled — until I present the roses from behind my back, and say, “Happy anniversary, Noël.”

And she says, “Johnny, they’re beautiful. Why did you go to such an expense?” And this time, I say, “I couldn’t help myself! And I’ve got a plan for this evening. So why don’t you go put on something nice, because we’re going out, and nothing makes me happier than to spend the evening with you.”

Do you think she would say, “Nothing makes you happier! All you think about is what makes you happy!”? No. She wouldn’t. Why? Because finding my happiness in her as a person honors her, and she feels it. Spending an evening with her, because that’s what good husbands are supposed to, dishonors her. But spending an evening with her because she, as a person, is my joy — that honors her. Her worth is magnified because I am satisfied in her.

It’s the same as when Edward Carnell asked his wife, “Must I kiss you good night?” Her answer was, “Yes. But not that kind of must.” The duty is the delight. Or it’s not done.

And so it is with God. Enjoying God as an all-satisfying Person is our greatest “Yes, you must! But not that kind of must.” It is not optional. It is not peripheral. It is not secondary. It is the root of all Christ-exalting love for people, and all Christ-exalting worship of God. It is our first and greatest duty.

“If you lay gold in the dust, then the Almighty will be your gold. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God.” And this delight will be in an infinitely beautiful, all-satisfying Person! And it will be your first and highest duty.