Friday, November 5, 2010

True Joy II

Remember, O my soul,
  It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
  He requires it of thee for all His favours of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and His goodness,
Be happy in Him, O my heart, and in nothing
   but God,
  for whatever a man trusts in,
  from that he expects happiness.

He who is the ground of thy faith
  should be the substance of thy joy.
Whence then comes heaviness and dejection,
  when joy is sown in Thee,
   promise by the Father,
   bestowed by the Son,
   inwrought by the Holy Spirit,
   thine by grace,
   thy birthright in believing?

Art thou seeking to rejoice in thyself
  from an evil motive of pride and self-reputation?
Thou hast nothing of thine own but sin,
  nothing to move God to be gracious
  or to continue His grace towards thee.
If thou forget this thou wilt lose thy joy.
Art thou grieving under a sense of indwelling sin?
Let godly sorrow work repentance,
  as the true spirit which the Lord blesses,
  and which creates fullest joy;
Sorrow for self opens rejoicing in God,
Self-loathing draws down divine delights.
Hast thou sought joys in some creature comfort?
Look not below God for happiness;
  fall not asleep on Delilah’s lap.
Let God be all in all to thee,
  and joy in the fountain that is always full.
~ "A Colloquy on Rejoicing", The Valley of Vision

I have quoted from The Valley of Vision before so some of you may already know this but this work is a collection of Puritan prayers, poems, and devotionals. I love reading from it because each prayer is short yet so rich with good theology and the glory of God. I like this one because it reminds me of a lot of the Psalms that David wrote calling his soul to rejoice in God and bless His name (Psalms 31, 32, 103, and 104 to name a few).

I also like it because it reminds me of what our purpose on earth really is. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man?" and answers "The chief end of man is to glorify God [Isaiah 43:7; 48:11; I Corinthians 10:31] and enjoy Him forever [Psalm 16:5-11; 144:15; Isaiah 12:2]." One of my favorite things about this answer is how it wisely combines enjoying and glorifying God. Do you see it? The "chief end" (singular) has two components--glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Glorifying God and enjoying Him are not two different ends but two aspects of one end. We cannot have one without the other. True, endless joy is only found in Him and only in enjoying Him can we truly glorify Him.

Jonathan Edwards (a Puritan preacher and American philosopher) wrote on this subject often. One of my favorite things he wrote is in The End for Which God Created the World:
God in seeking His glory seeks the good of His creatures because the emanation of His glory... implies the... happiness of His creatures. And in communicating His fullness for them, He does it for Himself, because their good, which He seeks, is so much in union and communion with Himself. God is their good. Their excellency and happiness is nothing but the emanation and expression of God's glory. God, in seeking their glory and happiness, seeks Himself, and in seeking Himself... He seeks their glory and happiness.
Another quote on this subject, that I have previously written about here, which I love comes from Augustine's Confessions:
Forbid it, O Lord, put it far from the heart of Thy servant, who confesses to Thee--far be it from me to think I am happy because of any and all the joy I have. For there is a joy not granted to the wicked but only to those who worship Thee thankfully--and this joy Thou Thyself art. The happy life is this--to rejoice to Thee, in Thee, and for Thee. This it is and there is no other.
May we always remember that any other joy we might experience is not true joy, but fleeting, and that we can only have true joy in God. Even all those things that God has blessed us with were given to us so that we could have joy in Him through happiness in His gifts. If we ever start to look to the gifts for joy, instead of Him, they will cease to satisfy, but if, while enjoying the gift, we look past it to the Giver, we will find true joy in Him.

By His Grace,

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