Thursday, October 17, 2013


Help me never to expect any happiness
  from the world, but only in Thee.
Let me not think that I shall be more happy
    by living to myself,
  for I can only be happy if employed for Thee,
  and if I desire to live in this world
  only to do and suffer what Thou dost allot me.
Teach me
  that if I do not live a life that satisfies Thee,
    I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself.
Help me to desire the spirit and temper of angels
  who willingly come down to this lower world
    to perform Thy will,
  though their desires are heavenly,
  and not set in the least upon earthly things;
    then I shall be of that temper I ought to have.
Help me not to think of living to Thee
    in my own strength,
  but always to look to and rely on Thee
    for assistance.
Teach me that there is no greater truth than this,
  that I can do nothing of myself.
Lord, this is the life that no unconverted man
    can live,
  yet it is an end that every godly soul
    presses after;
Let it be then my concern to devote myself
  and all to Thee.
Make me more fruitful and more spiritual,
  for barrenness is my daily affliction and load.
How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly
  with little done to good purpose!
I need Thy help:
O may my soul sensibly depend upon Thee
    for all sanctification,
  and every accomplishment of Thy purposes
    for me, for the world,
    and for Thy Kingdom.
~ "Happiness" from The Valley of Vision

If you have never read or used The Valley of Vision in your personal devotions, you are missing out on a great resource. It is a collection of Puritan prayers from Christ-exalting saints like Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, and many others, and it will bless your soul.

This particular prayer was one that I read this morning, and so many different lines caught my attention. (If you follow me on Twitter, you will find that my customary #MorningPrayers for next week will all come from this one prayer.)
  • "Help me never to expect any happiness from the world..." Right out of the gate, the author reminds us that true happiness is found only in God. Certainly, He gives us gifts in this world that add to our happiness, but if we try to find our happiness in the gift without looking past the gift to the Giver, we will ultimately be disappointed. We will turn the gift into an idol, and those who worship idols become like them: empty. (cf. Ps. 115:4-8)
  • "Let me not think that I shall be more happy by living to myself..." Again, the author reminds us of where our true happiness is. In our time and culture, we tend to think that we will find happiness if we live for ourselves or for some "noble cause" (which is just another form of living for ourselves). But, we were created to glorify God (Is. 43:7; 48:11; 1 Co. 10:31), and that is where we get the most joy (cf. Php. 4:4). The first question of the WSC shows us that these (i.e. God's glory and our happiness) are two aspects of our one end, which cannot be separated: What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. See how it is the "chief end" (singular) with two aspects? Jonathan Edwards did a great job of arguing this truth in The End for which God Created the World. This is a Christian classic that is well-worth reading.
  • "Teach me that if I do not live a life that satisfies Thee, I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself." This basically carries the previous statement, on which I commented above, forward. John Piper has argued well in Desiring God that our greatest satisfaction is derived from pursuing our joy in God's satisfaction in Himself. While I think Piper is sometimes too cut-and-dry in many statements in this book, it is another Christian class that is well-worth reading.
  • "Help me not to think of living for Thee in my own strength, but always to look to and rely on Thee for assistance." The Christian life cannot be living in our own strength. We just cannot do it. Fortunately, Jesus has told us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Co. 12:9)
  • "Lord, this is the life that no unconverted man can live..." Since we were created to glorify God and our greatest joy comes in that end, the unconverted man cannot truly live this life to its fullest joy and happiness. Paul tells us that the unconverted cannot submit to God and are indeed hostile to Him (Ro. 8:7). They will always pursue their happiness in something else that will eventually disappoint them. Life in meaningless if it is not live for God. Even atheists like Albert Camus have argued for this. As Camus argues, without God the only important life-question is whether or not to commit suicide, and his solution was simply to live with dogged hatred of the situation in which we are. There is no joy in that, but there is true joy in Christ. The world needs to see that in our lives. Christians are the only people who have anything worth laughing about, and the world needs to hear the laughter of the redeemed.
Let me end with a couple of quotes from Edwards and Augustine. One of my favorite things Edwards 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.
The other quote on this subject, which I have previously written about here, 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 or happiness we might experience is not true, but fleeting, and that we can only have true joy and happiness 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 happiness in Him.

By His Grace,

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