Another story of Jesus revealing his goodness to me.
When I was a Sophomore in college, I encountered and struggled with this question: “Am I doing everything for God’s glory? Am I living this life purely out of a motivation to serve him with none of myself in the equation?”
The more I thought about this question the more I realized that the answer was no. There was some kind of motivation to please myself behind everything that I did “for God,” whether that was getting personal satisfaction or a promised future reward.
I can’t tell you how guilty this made me feel. I saw myself as selfish and inclined to evil, desiring what was contrary to God’s heart. I tried to suppress and ignore my thoughts and emotions and focused on obeying God simply because that was the right thing to do. I wanted to live out of a devotion unadulterated by my own desires, but it seemed impossible. How could I get rid of motivation rooted in myself?
Unfortunately, I never stopped to ask some simple questions.
What brings God glory? What pleases him?
One day I was browsing through my college’s library when I stumbled upon a book called “Desiring God” by John Piper. Piper recounted how he had gone through the same struggle I myself was going through at that time – and it was during college for him too! I read with wide-eyed excitement as I sought his answer to our dilemma.
Piper writes, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever…God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Oh my God! Oh my God!…Oh my God! I had no other words. This was simply too good to be true.
God wasn’t looking for me to clean up my motives or work hard at self-denial. He was looking to be glorified precisely by my enjoying him.
I was mind blown. I was heart melted. I was utterly blissed.
The happy message of the Gospel is that the glory of God and the joy of mankind are not in opposition but rather are in harmony.
I had tried to suppress my God-given nature as a pleasure seeker but failed. “To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people,” writes Piper.
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. … The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. – Blaise Pascal
What I really needed was to make sure I was drinking from the most pleasurable source: Christ. Only he satisfies. And he indeed does satisfy, completely. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14).
This is why it’s important to happily repent (i.e. change our minds). It’s not about striving to quit seeking pleasure; it’s about reconsidering what is and isn’t pleasurable, ultimately realizing that God himself is the greatest delight.
“The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful,” writes Piper. “We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God.”
God wants a people addicted to His pleasure – a people who serve him for no other reason than the delight they take in Him. This is the very heart of true worship. It is not self-centered. It is putting God at the very center of self, so that self cannot possibly be satisfied without Him. – John Crowder
“Eden” literally means “pleasure.” God gave Adam the job of tending the garden of pleasure. This is what we were created for.
God is that good.
(If you want to see a fuller scriptural basis for this idea, check out The Ecstasy of Loving God by John Crowder.)