Our local church began doing Community Groups at the beginning of this year. Community Groups is our version of getting together in small groups for a mid-week bible study and fellowship. Through the summer we are using the John Piper book “Don’t Waste Your Life” as a guide to lead us into a study of what the bible says a fulfilling life should look like. The first couple of chapters have been a little difficult because the content is based on Piper’s own journey of discovery into what a fulfilled life should be and what a wasted life might look like. But this week the spiritual afterburners seemed to have been kicked with chapter 3. The following is an abbreviated version of our past study.
Chapter 3 is titled “Breakthrough – the Beauty of Christ, My Joy.” The accompanying study guide begins with an examination of what people perceive as happiness or the pursuit of it. To that end Piper introduces a quote out of a section of work called “Pensées” written by the French philosopher, mathematician, and Christian apologist, Blaise Pascal. The quote is about happiness:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
The study guide then follows with the thought provoking question: Is it true that all men seek happiness (even those who commit suicide)? Is the pursuit of happiness inevitable? How do you think the Bible regards the pursuit of happiness?
How would you answer that question? Should Christians even regard the pursuit of happiness as the highest life priority? If you think like the American theologian Jonathan Edwards, the answer would be a hearty YES! This can be confirmed in Edwards’ 22nd Resolution:
Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
Can you imagine someone claiming to be a Christian making this kind of resolution? This can be affirmed by looking into his use of the phrase “in the other world.” I think Jonathan Edwards also had Colossians 3:1-4 in mind when he penned the resolution.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
If you also look into Jonathan Edwards’ work “Concerning the End for which god Created the World” you can be assured that his priorities were well in place and his focus intently on Jesus Christ with excerpts like this:
That God in seeking his glory, therein seeks the good of his creatures: because the emanation of his glory (which he seeks and delights in, as he delights in himself and his own eternal glory) implies the communicated excellency and happiness of his creature. And that in communicating his fullness for them, he does it for himself: because1 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, i.e. himself diffused and expressed (which he delights in, as he delights in his own beauty and fullness), he seeks their glory and happiness.
According to John Piper (and I wholeheartedly agree), in the accompanying video for the study, he says that God pursues his glory in everything that he does. And has designed us in such a way that when I find my full satisfaction in him, he gets glory, and I get satisfaction. So there is no presumed competition between our desire to be happy and God’s passion to get his glory. God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in him.
But where do other people fit in? Do we just sit on our butts completely satisfied in God while the world spins on into eternal destruction? How do we love others as God has commanded us to do? We can love others by helping them not pursue happiness within themselves but to be satisfied in God as we are. As we extend our love of God to others and our joy is increased, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Phil. 2:1-4, that my joy be complete. God gets the glory, we are satisfied in him, we love others and help them become happy in him, and we find joy in that, and God again gets the glory. I would call this the “Happy, love, to God’s glory cycle.”
I am looking forward to more of this study and will most likely write more about it later here.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!