Good News: God Is Happy

. . . the gospel of the glory of the blessed God . . . (1 Timothy 1:11)

This is a beautiful phrase in 1 Timothy, buried beneath the too-familiar surface of Bible buzzwords. But after you dig it up, it sounds like this: “the good news of the glory of the happy God.”

A great part of God’s glory is his happiness.

It was inconceivable to the apostle Paul that God could be denied infinite joy and still be all-glorious. To be infinitely glorious was to be infinitely happy. He used the phrase, “the glory of the happy God,” because it is a glorious thing for God to be as happy as he is.

God’s glory consists much in the fact that he is happy beyond our wildest imagination. As the great eighteenth-century preacher, Jonathan Edwards, said, “Part of God’s fullness which he communicates is his happiness. This happiness consists in enjoying and rejoicing in himself; so does also the creature’s happiness.”

And this is the gospel: “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.” It is good news that God is gloriously happy. No one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God.

If God is unhappy, then the goal of the gospel is not a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all. But, in fact, Jesus invites us to spend eternity with a happy God when he says, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).

Jesus lived and died that his joy — God’s joy — might be in us and our joy might be full (John 15:11; 17:13). Therefore the gospel is “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.”

I Can Be Content in Every Circumstance

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

God’s provision of day-by-day future grace enables Paul to be filled or to be hungry, to prosper or suffer, to have abundance or go wanting.

“I can do all things” really means “all things,” not just easy things. “All things” means, “Through Christ I can hunger and suffer and be in want.” This puts the stunning promise of Philippians 4:19 in its proper light: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

What does “every need of yours” mean in view of Philippians 4:11–12? It means “all that you need for God-glorifying contentment.” Which may include times of hunger and need. Paul’s love for the Philippians flowed from his contentment in God, and his contentment flowed from his faith in the future grace of God’s infallible provision to be all he needed in times of plenty and want.

It’s obvious then that covetousness is exactly the opposite of faith. It’s the loss of contentment in Christ so that we start to crave other things to satisfy the longings of our hearts which only the presence of God himself can satisfy. And there’s no mistaking that the battle against covetousness is a battle against unbelief in God’s promise to be all we need in every circumstance.

This is so clear in Hebrews 13:5. Watch how the author argues for our freedom from the love of money — freedom from covetousness — the freedom of contentment in God: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be contentwith what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Faith in this promise — “I will never leave you,” — breaks the power of all God-dishonoring desire — all covetousness.

Whenever we sense the slightest rise of covetousness in our hearts, we must turn on it and fight it with all our might using the weapons of this faith.

 

Serve God with Your Thirst

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.(2 Corinthians 5:9)

What if you discovered (like the Pharisees did), that you had devoted your whole life to trying to please God, but all the while had been doing things that in God’s sight were abominations (Luke 16:14–15)?

Someone may question this and say, “I don’t think that’s possible; God wouldn’t reject a person who has been trying to please him.” But do you see what this questioner has done? He has based his conviction about what would please God on his idea of what God is like. That is precisely why we must begin with the character of God revealed in Scripture.

God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket. So, the great question is: How do you serve a spring? And: How do you serve a watering trough? How do you glorify God the way he really is?

If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough, you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring, you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell the people what you’ve found.

My hope as a desperate sinner hangs on this biblical truth: that God is the kind of God who will be pleased with the one thing I have to offer: my thirst. That’s why the sovereign freedom and self-sufficiency of God are so precious to me: they are the foundation of my hope that God is delighted not by the resourcefulness of bucket brigades, but by the bending down of broken sinners to drink at the fountain of grace.

By all means we should seek to please God, now and forever. But woe to us if our whole life proves to be based on a false view of what pleases God. The Lord is pleased not by those who treat him as a needy watering trough, but as an inexhaustible, all-satisfying spring. As Psalm 147:11 says, “The Lord takes pleasure . . . in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

Strength to Wait

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Colossians 1:11)

Strength is the right word. The apostle Paul prayed for the church at Colossae, that they would be “strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11). Patience is the evidence of an inner strength.

Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependent on external supports — like schedules that go just right and circumstances that support their fragile hearts. Their outbursts of oaths and threats and harsh criticisms of the culprits who crossed their plans do not sound weak. But that noise is all a camouflage of weakness. Patience demands tremendous inner strength.

For the Christian, this strength comes from God. That is why Paul is praying for the Colossians. He is asking God to empower them for the patient endurance that the Christian life requires. But when he says that the strength of patience is “according to [God’s] glorious might” he doesn’t just mean that it takes divine power to make a person patient. He means that faith in this glorious might is the channel through which the power for patience comes.

Patience is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), but the Holy Spirit empowers (with all his fruit) through “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5). Therefore Paul is praying that God would connect us with the “glorious might” that empowers patience. And that connection is faith.

Authentic vs. Phony Faith

Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

The question before us all is: Are we included in the “many” whose sins he bore? And will we be saved by his coming?

The answer of Hebrews 9:28 is, “Yes,” if we are “eagerly waiting for him.” We can know that our sins are taken away and that we will be safe in the judgment if we trust Christ in such a way that it makes us eager for his coming.

There is a phony faith that claims to believe in Christ, but is only a fire insurance policy. Phony faith “believes” only to escape hell. It has no real desire for Christ. In fact, it would prefer it if he did not come, so that we can have as much of this world’s pleasures as possible. This shows that a heart is not with Christ, but with the world.

So, the issue for us is: Do we eagerly long for the coming of Christ? Or do we want him to wait while our love affair with the world runs its course? That is the question that tests the authenticity of faith.

Let us be like the Corinthians as we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7), and like the Philippians whose “citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

That’s the issue for us. Do we love his appearing? Or do we love the world and hope that his appearing will not interrupt our worldly plans? Eternity hangs on this question.

Jesus Knows His Sheep

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them.” (John 10:27)

Jesus knows those who are his. What is this knowledge?

John 10:3 is a close parallel to verse 27. It says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

So, when Jesus says, “I know them,” this means at least that he knows them by name; that is, he knows them individually and intimately. They are not anonymous, lost in the flock.

John 10:14–15 provides another insight: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”

There is a real similarity between the way Jesus knows his Father in heaven and the way he knows his sheep. Jesus sees himself in the Father, and he sees himself in his disciples.

To some degree Jesus recognizes his own character in his disciples. He sees his own brand mark on the sheep.

He is like a husband waiting for his wife at the airport, watching as each person disembarks from the plane. When she appears, he knows her, he recognizes her features, he delights in her, she is the only one he embraces.

The apostle Paul puts it like this: “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’” (2 Timothy 2:19).

It is hard to overemphasize what a tremendous privilege it is to be known personally, intimately, lovingly by the Son of God. It is a precious gift to all his sheep, and it contains within it the promise of eternal life.

What It Means to Love God

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.(Psalm 63:1–2)

Only God will satisfy a heart like David’s. And David was a man after God’s own heart. That’s the way we were created to be.

This is the essence of what it means to love God: to be satisfied in him. In him!

Loving God will include obeying all his commands; it will include believing all his word; it will include thanking him for all his gifts; but the essence of loving God is enjoying all he is. And it is this enjoyment of God that glorifies his worth most fully.

We all know this intuitively as well as from Scripture. Do we feel most honored by the love of those who serve us from the constraints of duty, or from the delights of fellowship?

My wife is most honored when I say, “It makes me happy to spend time with you.” My happiness is the echo of her excellence. And so it is with God. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

None of us has arrived at perfect satisfaction in God. I grieve often over the murmuring of my heart at the loss of worldly comforts. But I have tasted that the Lord is good. By God’s grace I now know the fountain of everlasting joy.

And so I love to spend my days luring people into joy until they say with me, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).