Pursuit of our own pleasure is a necessary element of worshiping
God and loving people. Far from the moral value of worship or a good
deed being ruined to the extent that we seek our own pleasure, an act of
love for others or worship of God is only loving and honoring to the
extent that we pursue our own pleasure.
We must delight in God if we are to honor and glorify Him
Why is this?
First, because we delight in what we value. Delight is the
response appropriate to something that is supremely valuable. God is
supremely valuable above all things. Therefore if we do not delight in
God, it shows that we do not consider Him supremely valuable. "Rejoice in
the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy
name" (Psalm 97:12). "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my
exceeding joy" (Psalm 43:4). "Love the Lord your God with all your
heart..." (Matt. 22:37).
Second, because praise is the overflow of our enjoyment of God.
Therefore, since we only praise what delights us, we cannot praise God if
we do not delight in Him. In fact, praise is not only the
but the completion of our enjoyment in God. Have you ever thought of
praise in this way? It is true. Have you ever gone to a great movie
that you deeply enjoyed? What were you doing as you left the movie? You
were most likely discussing with your friends how great it was. You were
praising it! But if your friends had told you to keep quiet and stop
talking about how much you enjoyed the movie, your enjoyment would have
been lessened; it would not have been complete. This is because praise is
not just the expression of our enjoyment of something, it is also the
completion and fulfillment of our enjoyment.
Isn't this great news--the highest end of mankind (glorifying God
through our praise) is at the same time the greatest and most passionate
joy of mankind! "Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout
joyfully to the Rock of our salvation" (Psalm 95:1). "My soul exalts the
Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47). "Shout
joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; make His
praise glorious. Say to God, `How awesome are Thy works!'" (Psalm 66:1,
Third, delight confers great honor to God because it shows that
His glory is supremely valuable. "When someone delights in you, you
honored. When someone finds happiness in being around you, you feel
treasured, appreciated, glorified," notes John Piper quite rightly
(Piper, The Supremacy of God in Missions, p. 27). On the other
we did not delight in God's glory, how could we say that He was really
valuable to us? Wouldn't it be a contradiction to say you value and love
God but do not have any good feelings toward Him? "Delight yourself in
the Lord" we are commanded in Psalm 37:4.
It is not selfish to pursue joy in God Note this--I am not
saying that we should pursue joy from God.
We are to pursue joy in God. I phrase it this way to guard against
errors. The first error would be to think that our experience of joy is
independent or separate from our experience of God. It is not; God
Himself is our joy. "I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding
joy" (Psalm 43:4). Thus, we are not pursuing joy from God, but
In fact, the Bible commands us to do this: "Delight yourself in the
Lord" (Psalm 37:4). "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say,
rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). How can it be selfish to do what God
Pursuing joy in God also guards against the sin of pursuing God
in a way that does not honor Him. It is not enough just to say "pursue
God" because there are wrong ways to pursue God. For example, seeking
God for material gain is wrong because it does not honor Him. But, as we
have seen, seeking God because He is our delight most honors Him because
it is the response appropriate to His infinite value! So we do not
simply say "pursue God" but neither do we say "pursue joy from God." We
say pursue joy in God! "Without faith it is impossible to please
for whoever comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He is a
rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Selfishness is a matter of what you value and where your focus
is. Pursuing God because we delight in Him, however, puts the focus on
God and not ourselves. And since God is what we delight in most, it means
we value Him most. This makes pursuing God out of joy God-centered, not
self-centered (and therefore selfish) since our focus and value is God,
not ourselves. My girlfriend does not accuse me of selfishness for being
in a relationship with her because she makes me happy; in fact, there
would be a real problem if I was in a relationship with her even though
she did not make me happy!
If we do not seek our joy in good deeds and do them joyfully, we fail to
honor God or love people Why? As we have already seen, we must
pursue joy in God and His
glory to honor Him. But good deeds glorify God. Therefore, if I do not
pursue this joy in doing a good deed, I am being indifferent toward
and not valuing His glory. I am saying "God, you aren't worthy enough to
engage my interest and delight." The Bible says that Christ "for the joy
set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame..." (Hebrews
12:2). "Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with
singing" (Psalm 100:2). "I delight to do Thy will, O God" (Psalm
40:8). "Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes
them" (Psalm 119:129).
Pursuing your own joy in a good deed is necessary to be truly
loving to the other person because it most honors the person you are
helping. For example, if I give my girlfriend flowers, but then shrug
off her "Thank you very much!" with a "Don't mention it, it's my duty as
your boyfriend. Don't worry about me giving these to you for selfish
reasons, because I don't enjoy giving you things" there is a real
problem. Doing a deed out of duty does not honor or value the one we are
helping. But let's say I respond with "It's my pleasure! I enjoy giving
you things!" She is honored not in spite of the fact that I pursued my
joy in giving her flowers, but because I sought my joy in giving her the
flowers! Delight honors and values the other person more than duty.
It is not selfish to seek our own joy in doing good deeds Good
deeds are good because they reflect and display God's
character. Since, as we have seen, we must delight in God, we must
therefore also delight in good deeds to the extent that they reflect
God. Second, as we have just seen, good deeds are truly loving to the
other person to the degree that they are not done begrudgingly. As the
flower illustration demonstrates, seeking my own joy in an act of love
does not make my love insincere; it is in fact the only way to be truly
loving to the person! The joy we seek in doing good is joy in the other
persons's welfare. We are not seeking our own joy at their expense or
independent of their benefit. We are showing that we value them because
our delight is their benefit and happiness; we have tied up our own
in their joy. Selfishness is focusing on yourself and pursuing your
benefit at the expense or exclusion of others. I am not
your joy at others' expense, but in the joy and benefit of
your joy is in the other person's welfare, not yourself, your focus is on
them, not yourself. Thus, it is not selfish. "God loves a cheerful
giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Specifically, the ultimate benefit we seek for the other person
in any act of love should be that they praise God and enjoy Him more when
they experience His love through us, because their glorifying and
praising and enjoying God is the best thing for them. But God's
exaltation is what most delights us, and seeing others enjoy Him as well
and thus share our joy will doubly delight us!
Do you see the connection here? Pursuit of my joy and the other
person's welfare are not two separate pursuits, but the same pursuit!
Their joy and benefit is my joy! The fear of selfishness
from thinking that pursuit of my joy and the other person's welfare are
separate pursuits that are not in harmony. But they are not separate
pursuits; they are the same. No less than the apostle John penned these
words: "We write this that our joy may be made complete" (1 John 1:4).
He later said "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children
walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4). John's joy was that his spiritual
children walked in the truth, and he sought to "make [his] joy
complete." The apostle Paul wrote "And this is the very thing I wrote
you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from those who ought to make
me rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy would be the joy of
you all" (2 Cor. 2:3).
Thus, we cannot worship God if we don't delight in Him. And we
cannot honor God or love people in our good deeds unless we pursue our
own joy in doing good. But if we do delight in God, and therefore we
also delight in good deeds since they glorify Him by displaying His
character, we can be in continual worship to God moment by moment
throughout the day by continually "delighting [ourselves] in the Lord"
Glorify God by enjoying Him Do not forget this utterly
life-changing discovery: pursuit of
God's glory and our delight are not at odds with each other, but they are
the same pursuit! "God is glorified precisely when we are satisfied in
Him--when we delight in His presence, when we like to be around him, when
we treasure His fellowship. This is an utterly life-changing
discovery. It frees us to pursue our joy in God and God to pursue His
glory in us. Because they are not two different pursuits. God is most
glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" (Piper, p. 27).
chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever," notes
Therefore, pursue your joy in God to the highest possible
extent! In everything you do, do it to see more of His glory because His
glory is your treasure and greatest joy! As C.S. Lewis has said "if we
consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of
the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds
our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is
offered us...we are far too easily pleased" (quoted in Piper, Desiring
God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, p. 15).
"In Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are
pleasures forever" (Psalm 16:11).
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation.