God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

The title of this post is borrowed from John Piper’s classic exposition on Christian Hedonism. Since Christianity is modelled after Christ, the epitome of selflessness, and hedonism connotes the pursuit of selfish pleasure above anything else, the terms are almost antithetical. The import however is that we get the most pleasure as Christians when we pursue God exclusively.

I’m in my 20s, single, studying, and not the most financially stable but recently my most earnest and consistent prayer hasn’t been about a better job, marriage or more money, I do pray for those things but they haven’t been my most pressing. Lately,  my most ardent prayer has been from Philippians 3:7-10 -That I would know God and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings and becoming like Him in his death …. and that ultimately I would count everything else as poo ( well the bible uses ‘dung’, but in this days we just call it poo), compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him.

This has been a surprising transition for me. It reminds me of a time long ago when I became a Christian. I was so enthralled by the love of Jesus and so cognizant of how undeserving I was (and still am) of such unconditional love and grace, that I would often pray, ‘Lord if you didn’t do one more thing for me after saving me, you have satisfied my soul’s thirst and I would love and thank you forever’. I would read 2 Corinthians 9:15 where Paul thanks God for His unspeakable gift of grace, and acknowledge that being a part of God’s family was truly the supreme gift, and that Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for me gave me all the validation and gratification I would ever need.

That feeling slowly changed as I became accustomed to being a Christian. As I occasionally displayed good works consistent with the righteousness God has imputed to me, I started to feel like God owed me compensation for my good behaviour, that for professing His name and taking his ‘side’, he was obligated to make me rich, happy and healthy. I was taught to make demands of God, to name and claim blessings, and expect that because I’m Christian, things will always happen as I want them to. Don’t get me wrong, I am not wholly refuting those assertions, there is some merit to them.One of my favourite verses, Romans 8: 32 declares that if God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? So I do believe that our God is a gracious giver, but who determines what he gives us? Contemporary christianity introduces God as almost a religious Santa Claus, no doubt God is the giver of good and perfect gifts(James 1:17), but our definition often differs from His, because only He knows what we require for genuine satisfaction.

Matthew 6:33 says to seek the kingdom and all other things will be added to us. My flesh loved that because I assumed it meant that if I put God first He will give me all the comforts I want (emphasis on wants, as opposed to needs). But I look at scripture and I’m not sure where I got that interpretation from. A cursory read of the apostles biographies, reveals different, it actually paints a startling picture. If any group ever sought God’s kingdom, it was the disciples, their lives were characterised by outspoken desires and efforts to expand Gods kingdom, yet their lives were full of untold hardship. They all lived perilous lives and died painful deaths in martyrdom. Only the apostle John died a regular death, and that was because they tried to ‘deep fry’ him in a scorching cauldron of hot oil and he didn’t die so he got sentenced to exile on a remote island.

Yet the disciples spoke about possessing inexpressible joy, Paul even boasted in his hardships ( he draws an exhaustive list in 2 Corinthians 12). In 1 Peter 1, Peter addresses Christians exiled and ostracised for their faith, he speaks of them having suffered grief by and all kinds of trials, but shortly after, in the most startling about-face he describes them as having unspeakable and glorious joy (verses 7-9). This piqued my interest, because in my pursuit of comfort, I had experienced bouts of happiness but nothing close to ‘unspeakable and glorious joy‘.

Believe me, I do like material comforts, I don’t like being broke, I am by no means extravagant but I like to be able to afford the necessities and the occasional luxuries. However, I have found that as soon as I satisfy one need another comes up, after I go on one trip, I immediately get ideas for another; right after I purchase a pair of shoes, I think I need a pair in red. Is it just me or do all human accomplishments not always lead to bigger goals? This is not bad in itself, after all like Paul said we are encouraged to forget what is behind and strive for what is ahead (Philippians 3:13).But this vicious cycle certainly didn’t fill me with joy unspeakable so I sought to know what the apostles knew that made them feel that way in spite of  hard circumstances.

The result has been a shift in my theological paradigm, I have learnt that the beauty of Christianity is not that I get a provider in God, but infinitely greater than that, I GET GOD!!! That in the new birth God becomes our Father and we who were far away and alienated from God are befriended by and brought near to God, we who were once not  ‘a people’ are now His people and that we who were once objects of wrath, become recipients of God’s mercy( Ephesians 2 :12-13, 1 Peter 2:10).

According to Peter, the reason why the exiles referred to in 1 Peter 1 had unspeakable and glorious joy, was because they got this, in verse 8 he says, ‘Though you have not seen him, you love and believe in him and as a result, you are filled with joy’. So my current quest is the prayer in Ephesians 1:18, as I ask God to open the eyes of my understanding to see the beauty that is in Him, that I would have such an understanding of Him that everything else pales in comparison with knowing and being known by Him. Like Paul, I want to get to the place where I count everything I once saw as important and impressive, as loss (the aforementioned poo description is Paul’s, he counts his lofty credentials and achievements as just that compared to the EXCELLENCE of knowing Christ.(Philippians 3:8).

  

I am in no way negativing worldly efforts or accomplishments, working hard, being industrious and making money. God is not averse to us being wealthy, on the contrary he gives us the power to make wealth, but the underlying reason has to be centred on him, and his reason is that we may establish His covenant in the earth and expand His kingdom.(Deuteronomy 8:18). He has to be the reason behind all our efforts,the great end-result we are after. In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul writes to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God.

  

I want to get to the point where I truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is Christ (In Philippians 1:21, Paul does say ‘…to die is gain’, but the gain is because He goes to be with Christ). Where I recognise that my life is no longer about me, but about Christ who lives in me, that he died for me so that I will live for no other purpose than for Him who loved me and emptied Himself of all rights for me (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:6).

 

My most ardent prayer now is that I learn to love and delight in God, for who He is, not what I can get from Him. I pray that just as I prayed when I was first exposed to His all surpassing greatness, that I remain true to him even if He doesn’t grant another request. My prayer is that just like Jesus resolved after asking God twice to take the cup of the cross away, that I settle in my mind that He is my father, who withholds no good gift from His children, and that those gifts are not always material. That I would realise that most of all, he is THE prize,the supreme value in the universe who counted the joy and cost of my redemption so high, he gave his very life and he invites me to reciprocate for my joy and His glory( Hebrews 12). I hope this challenges you to a life of christian hedonism and that your quest for satisfaction leads you to God and God alone.

Shalom fam 🙂

P.S

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I will be doing follow-up posts on this subject. If you are looking for related resources,  I have found the following very instructive:

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. belladoo
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 17:54:04

    Really true, the more goals I accomplish no matter how small, the more I realise that they cant fill me. The yearning for my first love only gets deeper .I have John Pipers Dont waste your life and it is really challenging! Come to think of it where did we get our revised version God Christianity from! Really challenging, love your honesty. Thank you for prodding us out of complacency!

    Reply

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