I pray, O God, that I may know Thee, that I may love Thee, so that I may rejoice in Thee. And if I cannot do this to the full in this life, at least let me go forward from day to day until that joy comes to fullness.
Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; Where your treasure is, there is your heart; Where your heart is, there is your happiness.
For there exists a delight that is not given to the wicked, but to those honoring Thee, O God, without desiring recompense, the joy of whom Thou art Thyself! And this is the blessed life, to rejoice towards Thee, about Thee, for Thy sake.
How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose!… You drove them from me, You who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure.
True happiness is to rejoice in the truth, for to rejoice in the truth is to rejoice in You, O God, who are the truth… Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy.
There is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love Thee for Thine own sake, whose joy Thou Thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this it is, and there is no other.
The strength and happiness of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going that way too.
True joy comes only from God and He shares this joy with those who walk in fellowship with Him.
He who believes the truth enters on the enjoyment of a happiness which is of the same nature, and springs from the same sources, as the happiness of God. Jehovah rests and rejoices in the manifestation made of His all-perfect character in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And he who believes enters into this rest and participates in this joy.
The soul’s deepest thirst is for God Himself, who has made us so that we can never be satisfied without Him.
Take a saint, and put him into any condition, and he knows how to rejoice in the Lord.
God glorifies Himself toward the creature also in two ways: 1. By appearing to…their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which He makes of Himself… God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.
For my part, I had rather enjoy the sweet influences of the Spirit. I had rather show Christ’s spiritual divine beauty, infinite grace, and dying love. I had rather draw forth the holy exercises of faith, divine love, sweet complacence, and humble joy in God. I had rather experience all this for one quarter of an hour than to have prophetical visions and revelations the whole year.
The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows, but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.
God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in… [W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it; His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.
Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory He has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight. Neither can the highest end of creation be the declaring God’s glory to others; for the declaring God’s glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves and others at what is declared.
The change that takes place in a man when he is converted and sanctified, is not that his love for happiness is diminished but only that it is regulated with respect to its exercises and influences, and the course and objects it leads to when God brings a soul out of a miserable state and condition into a happy state of conversion, He gives him happiness that before he had not (namely in God), but He does not at the same time take away any of his love of happiness.
The pleasures of loving and obeying, loving and adoring, blessing and praising the Infinite Being, the Best of Beings, the Eternal Jehovah; the pleasures of trusting in Jesus Christ, in contemplating His beauties, excellencies, and glories; in contemplating His love to mankind and to us, in contemplating His infinite goodness and astonishing loving-kindness; the pleasures of [the] communion of the Holy Ghost in conversing with God, the maker and governor of the world; the pleasure that results from the doing of our duty, in acting worthily and excellently;…these are the pleasures that are worthy of so noble a creature as a man is.
God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory…both [with] the mind and the heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation [i.e., his heartfelt commendation or praise] of it and his delight in it.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice” (Phi 4:4). All our joy must terminate in God; and our thoughts of God must be delightful thoughts. Delight thyself in the Lord (Psm. 37:4)… Observe, it is our duty and privilege to rejoice in God, and to rejoice in Him always; at all times, in all conditions; even when we suffer for Him, or are afflicted by Him. We must not think the worse of Him or of His ways for the hardships we meet with in His service. There is enough in God to furnish us with matter of joy in the worst circumstance on earth… Joy in God is a duty of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it.
[Joy results] not in the despairing circumstances, but in the attitude of delightful dependence on a faithful Father.
A pivotal Christian thinker of our time once said, “Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God… The bottom line for you and me is simply this: grimness is not a Christian virtue. There are no sad saints. If God really is the center of one’s life and being, joy is inevitable. If we have no joy, we have missed the heart of the Good News and our bodies as much as our souls will suffer the consequences.”
They are seated on the highest throne of joy, and revel in the sweetest sunshine of delight, who know that God is their sure possession. They who hold Him as their own by the hand of faith have greater riches than earth can give, and surer property than this world can amass.
Prayer is the nearest approach to God and the highest enjoyment of Him that we are capable of in this life.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, 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 around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn… That is why it is no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us happiness apart from Himself, because there is no such thing.
Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose…only (upon) the Beloved who will never pass away.
The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
Man’s happiness was never meant to be determined by his circumstances, and that is the fatal blunder that we all tend to make… Man’s happiness depends on one thing only – and that is his relationship to God!… We cannot get it anywhere else. We must come back to the soul and to God who made it. We were made for Him, we are meant for Him, we have a correspondence with Him, and we will never come to rest until, like that needle on the compass, we strike that northern point, and there we come to rest – nowhere else.
Christian joy is not a giddy, superficial happiness that can be devastated by illness, economic difficulties, broken relationships, or the countless other vicissitudes and disappointments of life. Instead, it flows from the deep, unshakable confidence that God is eternally in control of every aspect of life for the good of His beloved children – a confidence rooted in the knowledge of His Word. God’s character, the saving work of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, divine providence, spiritual blessings, the promise of future glory, answered prayer and Christian fellowship all cause the believer to rejoice.
The more you know Him, the better you know Him, the more confident you become, the more secure your joy is… Joy is related to your knowledge of God: little knowledge, little joy; much knowledge, much joy. The more you know of God’s glorious truth, of God’s great covenants and promises, of God’s plans, of God’s faithfulness, of God’s power, the more joy you experience in life… Our joy is connected to the goodness of the Lord. And the more you understand His grace and mercy and goodness, the more stable your joy becomes, no matter what circumstances may come.
God is not a cosmic killjoy. I know some people who believe He is. They think God runs around saying, “There’s one having fun; get him!” They believe God wants to rain on everybody’s parade. But that isn’t so. God made you. He knows how you operate best. And He knows what makes you happy. The happiness He gives doesn’t stop when the party’s over. It lasts because it comes from deep within.
No power in the universe can rob you of it; none, but yourself, can even diminish it. “Your joy no man takes from you.” What the power, or love, or presence of man can create – the power, or hatred, or absence of man can destroy. But, the joy of the believer has a different origin, and, as no man bestowed it, so no man can take it away. It has God for its author – the living Rock of Ages for its ever-flowing fountain – the Holy Spirit for the golden channel, which it conveys into the heart. Thus, coming from the fountain of joy, it is of immortal origin – and, is far above the reach of mortal enemies. All the sorrows of earth – all the temptations of hell, are vain against this joy. So far from being diminished by what would crush earthly happiness, and reduce the stoutest heart, without Divine grace, to hopeless dejection – it is only realized more fully, amid the raging fury of the hurricane, or the dreary gloom of a starless midnight.
God and eternal things are my only pleasure.
I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
But according to my judgment, the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things, see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord! Other things may press upon you; the Lord’s work even, may have urgent claims upon your attention. But I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all other things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself. Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life.
The more we know of God, the happier we are… When we became a little acquainted with God…our true happiness…commenced; and the more we become acquainted with Him, the more truly happy we become. What will make us so exceedingly happy in heaven? It will be the fuller knowledge of God.
In what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How shall we obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in Him as shall enable us to let go the things this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, this happiness is to be obtained through the study of Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.
Trying to find happiness on our own terms, rather than on the terms our Creator has built into our nature, is an exhausting and disappointing undertaking.
They are the happiest Christians, who have the lowest thoughts of themselves, and in whose eyes Jesus is most glorious and precious.
When grace penetrates into the depth of an anguished soul, joy in the Lord anchors faith (William VanGemeren).
As Christian hedonist preachers we know that every listener longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God’s glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues, and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of gray and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the word onto the rich fare of God’s grace and glory. We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade our people:
1. That “the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).
2. That they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35).
3. That they should count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus their Lord (Phil. 3:8).
4. That the aim of all of Jesus’ commandments is that their joy might be full (John 15:11).
5. That if they delight themselves in the Lord He will give them the desires of their heart (Ps. 37:4).
6. That there is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 6:6).
7. That the joy of the Lord is their strength (Neh. 8:11).
We will not try to motivate their ministry by Kantian appeals to mere duty. We will tell them that delight in God is their highest duty. But we will remind them that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2), and that Hudson Taylor, at the end of a life full of suffering and trial, said, ‘I never made a sacrifice.”
The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God. All sin comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others.
God’s greatest interest is to glorify the wealth of His grace by making sinners happy in Him.
Our joy in God is insatiably greedy. The more you have, the more you want. The more you see, the more you want to see. The more you feel, the more you want to feel.
Pursuing joy in God and praising God are not separate acts.
Any good-hearted goal, without the desire to give people eternal joy in God, is condemnation with a kind face.
Joy is not just the spin-off of obedience to God, but part of obedience. It seems as though people are willing to let joy be a byproduct of our relationship to God, but not an essential part of it. People are uncomfortable saying that we are duty-bound to pursue joy. They say things like, “Don’t pursue joy, pursue obedience.” But Christian Hedonism responds, “That’s like saying, ‘Don’t eat apples; eat fruit.'” Because joy is an act of obedience. We are commanded to rejoice in God. If obedience is doing what God commands, then joy is not merely the spin-off of obedience, it is obedience. The Bible tells us over and over to pursue our joy (Psm. 32:11; 37:4; 67:4; Lk. 10:20; Phil. 4:4).
Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others… Or to say it another way: we do not merely seek to love in order to be happy, but we seek to be happy in God in order to love.
Joy originates in God. It comes through Jesus His Son. And it is the fruit of his Spirit. Those who embrace Jesus as their Savior and treasure, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of the Father, enter into that Trinitarian joy.
Christianity is a divine project of replacing inferior joys in inferior objects with superior joys in God Himself.
Delighting in worldly things – effectually prevents our delighting in God. Therefore it is often the case, that the Lord strips us of these things, or incapacitates us to enjoy them – in order to bring us back to delight in Himself.
Joy in God is the happiest of all joys. There are other sweets, but this is the virgin honey dripping fresh from the comb. Joy in God is also a most elevating joy. Those who joy in wealth grow avaricious. Those who joy in their friends too often lose nobility of spirit. But he who boasts in God grows like God. It is a solid joy, and he who joys in God has good reasons for rejoicing. He has arguments which will justify His joy at any time. It is an abiding joy. In a word, it is celestial joy.
The joy of pardon has a voice louder than the voice of sin. God’s voice speaking peace is the sweetest music an ear can hear.
Now, how would a God like this go about loving us? Would it not be by providing us with the highest good possible? And is not God Himself the highest good? Therefore, if God really loves us, He must work to bring us into the enjoyment of who He is (there’s our happiness) and thereby win from our hearts praise for Himself (there’s His glory). He must do everything in His infinite power to lead us into praise and honor of His name. By winning for Himself our worship as the God of all glory, we experience the greatest possible satisfaction, namely, enjoying God. There’s our happiness again. And God is most glorified by our enjoyment of Him. Or, to put it in words we already heard, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
To say that worship is either about glorifying God or finding personal satisfaction is to put asunder what God has joined together. His glory and your gladness are not separate tracks moving in opposite directions. Rather His glory is in your gladness in Him.
The reason we resist God’s laws and pursue our own sinful strategies is because we believe that we can do better at securing our happiness than God can.
You can’t escape your passion for pleasure. It will haunt you in the night. It will whisper to you in the day. You will feel its impulse in all you do and think and say. The problem is not that we desire. The problem is that we desire sin rather than God. The problem is that we have been duped by the Devil. We have believed what is perhaps the most pernicious lie ever told, namely, that the pleasures and delights of the world, the flesh, and the Devil are more enjoyable and satisfying than who God is for us in Jesus.
Do you fear that it might one day run dry, that the capacity of God to “entertain” and “thrill” your soul with Christ will soon dissipate as eventually do all earthly pleasures? Then you have not yet considered the inexhaustible resources for joy in the inexhaustible heart of God.
God has, as it were, placed Himself on display in the art gallery of the universe. He beckons His people, you and me, to stand in awe as we behold the symmetry of His attributes, the harmony of His deeds, the glory of His goodness, the overwhelming and unfathomable grandeur of His greatness; in a word, His beauty. God is infinitely splendid and invites us to come and bask in His beauty that we might enjoy Him to the fullest.
My principal motivation in life must be to increase my pleasure in God. In fact, my prayer every day is “Oh God, mobilize all Your power on my behalf to maximize my pleasure and delight in You.” Don’t misunderstand what I’m suggesting. I’m not saying that pleasure is put above God, nor that pleasure is God. I’m saying that our pleasure must be in God. The pleasure or satisfaction we seek is God Himself. God is not a tool for finding pleasure. God is not the shovel, so to speak, with which we dig for buried jewels. God is Himself that treasure. The Christian’s pursuit of happiness is consummated when we find in God our all in all. He and He alone is our exceeding great reward. He is not a means to a higher end. He is the end.
There is a sense in which the human soul has caved in on itself and is now held captive by a fixation with its own states and conditions and concerns. The soul has become parasitic on itself, feeding on its needs and cravings by excessive introspection and elaborate attempts to elevate its sense of self-worth. Your soul was never meant for this. You were designed for something better. You were built for the contemplation of something infinitely more complex, something incomparably more fascinating than your own “self.” You were created for the joyful contemplation of God.
Theological ignorance won’t take us very far, at least not in the right direction. Excitement uninformed by truth invariably leads either to idolatry or fanaticism. If we don’t know the God we enjoy, we may end up enjoying the wrong god!
If we don’t know who God is and how He thinks and what He feels and why He does what He does, we have no grounds for joy, no reason to celebrate, no basis for finding satisfaction in Him.
If we do not know who God is and how He thinks and what He does, we have no grounds for joy, no reason to celebrate, no basis for finding satisfaction in God. Delight in God cannot occur in an intellectual vacuum. Our joy is the fruit of what we know and believe to be true of God. Emotional heat (i.e., joy, delight, gladness of heart) apart from intellectual light (knowledge of God) is useless. Worse still, it is dangerous, for it inevitably leads to fanaticism and idolatry.
God created us so that the joy He has in Himself might be ours. God doesn’t simply think about Himself or talk to Himself. He enjoys Himself! He celebrates with infinite and eternal intensity the beauty of who He is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we’ve been created to join the party!
The purpose of existence is the pursuit of enjoyment…in God! Our desires, affections, pursuits, all that we say and do, all that we love or hate, are to be measured by this single criterion and subordinated to this one end: happiness in God.
I believe that exulting in God is the most biblical and effective means for exalting God! Or to put it in other terms: to prize God is to praise God! Or again, we are His pleasure when He is our treasure! Or again, God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him.
Pleasure is the measure of our treasure. How do you measure or assess the value of something you cherish? How do you determine the worth of a prize? Is it not by the depth of pleasure you derive from it? Is it not by the intensity and quality of your delight in what it is? Is it not by how excited and enthralled and thrilled you are in the manifold display of its attributes, characteristics, and properties? In other words, your satisfaction in what the treasure is and what the treasure does for you is the standard or gauge by which its glory (worth and value) is revealed. Hence, your pleasure is the measure of the treasure. Or again, the treasure, which is God, is most glorified in and by you when your pleasure in Him is maximal and optimal.
The happiness for which we are eternally destined is a state of soul in which we experience and express optimum ecstasy in God. Happiness is the whole soul resting in God and rejoicing that so beautiful and glorious a Being is ours. Happiness is the privilege of being enabled by God’s grace to enjoy making much of Him forever. I’m talking about the ineffable and unending pleasure of blissful union with and the joyful celebration of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a joy of such transcendent quality that no persecution or pain or deprivation can diminish, nor wealth or success or prosperity can enhance.
How do you measure the value of something you hold dear? How do you assess the worth of a prize? Is it not by the depth of delight it induces in your heart? Is it not by the intensity and quality of your joy in what it is? Is it not by how excited and enthralled and thrilled you are in the manifold display of its attributes, characteristics, and properties? Is it not by the extent of the sacrifice you are willing to make to gain it, to guard it, and to keep it? In other words, your satisfaction in what the treasure is and does for you is the standard or gauge by which its glory (worth and value) is revealed. The treasure, which is God, is most glorified in and by you when your pleasure in Him is maximal and optimal.
God threatens terrible things, if we will not be happy [in Him] – [see Deut. 28:47-48]!
He will know neither rest nor joy – until he shall have heaven for his home, and sit forever beneath the smiles of that gracious God, who is at once the author of his existence, and the source of his felicity.
Wise leaders should have known that the human heart cannot exist in a vacuum. If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit they will turn to the wine of the flesh… Christ died for our hearts and the Holy Spirit wants to come and satisfy them.
It is only through God’s Holy Spirit that we can find true joy (Psalm 51:11-12; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). We can do nothing apart from the power of God (2 Corinthians 12:10, 13:4). Indeed, the harder we try to be joyful through our own efforts, the more miserable we can become. Rest in the Lord’s arms (Matthew 11:28-30) and seek His face through prayer and Scripture. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Thou canst not make me happy with Thyself, till Thou hast made me holy like Thyself.
Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, “You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away”? So, for God to say, “Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count Myself glorified!”
One design you are to pursue to the end of time – the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this; love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever you desire or fear, whatever you seek or shun, whatever you think speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being.