The works of the Lord are great,
studied by all who have pleasure in them.
Previously we saw that Christians must keep their hearts from being entangled with this present world’s sources of joy and its values if they are to find abiding joy in this present age; that such joy only comes through an abiding love relationship with God through Jesus Christ; and that our first joy must be the Person of God, himself. So what, if any, existential pleasures are available to the child of God?
Clearly, Peter did not find it an unspiritual desire to want to “love life and see good days” (1 Peter 3:10).
We are not called to live self-flagellating, monastic lives. He gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17).
He who is truly dead to the world is free to truly enjoy many of the “things of the world” according to conscience, as long as it does not harm or exploit others. (Titus 1:15)
Here is the fallacy (and danger) of legalistic religion that forces all types of obligatory restrictions and taboos upon the Christian. Such religion replaces joyful communion with God with either the superficial joy of being among the self-righteous few, or with self-condemnation and defeat. Ultimately, there is no middle ground. (see Colossians 2:16-23).
Happy is the man who does not condemn himself (either by conscience, or by becoming enslaved) in the things which he allows (Romans 14:22).
Our separation (crucifixion) from the world, then, is first and foremost a condition of the heart. The infallible (though often ignored) warning flag is when the abiding joy of the Lord is obscured or replaced by the things of this world. At that point some self-imposed austerity might well be in order as we seek earnestly to rekindle our supreme love and joy in God himself. May we be able from our hearts to say with Habakkuk:
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
– Habakkuk 3:17-18
We have seen that true joy can only be found in a personal relationship with God in Christ. The world system, under the dominion of Satan (2 Cor 4:4, et al.), is the enemy of such joy, seeking to replace it with sensuality, materialism and pride. We have noted that, ironically, it is only by becoming dead to the world that we are free, under the dominion of Christ, to enjoy the things of this world with which God has blessed us, . Furthermore, we must not allow these temporal blessings, be they great or small, to become idols, controlling our lives; but rather we are to glorify God in them through thanksgiving and service.
Let’s begin examining a few of the perennial sources of earthly blessing available to the child of God.
We look first at the joy of God’s creation.
This “natural revelation” of God holds within it great fountains of joy as we observe and meditate upon it. At every level, the wisdom, complexity, and beauty of creation ought to erupt in the heart of the believer with joyful praise and adoration. Whether it is from our own created capacity to discern and enjoy creation’s beauty, or taking delight in observing the seemingly endless (and sometimes whimsical) variety of forms in which He has placed life, or be it the exercise of our God-given intelligence to delve into those intricacies of His design, our joy should abound with a simple walk among the woods, mountains, rivers, or shorelines.
This joy is available to every God-lover; but it is also, in fact, the heart of all true science: The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them (Psalm 111:2). This was the true foundation of modern science- not the antithesis of it. Whether we gaze out into the heavens and see the canvas of God’s glory or look into the secrets of sub-atomic matter, we are confronted with a God of order, beauty, intelligence, and power. When man loses the adoration of God in his quest for knowledge, he is set adrift upon the vain imaginations of his own heart (Psalm 11:10; Prov 1:7, 9:10; Rom 1:21). For the Christian, however, this joy of contemplation and discovery will never reach an end .
In creation is also the joy of our hope in Christ. God has purposed before time to have mankind glorify Him in ruling over all His creation (Heb 2:5-8). God, through Jesus and redemptive history, is in the process of bringing many sons to glory (vs10) for just that purpose. Right now, Jesus (as glorified man!) is reigning til He completes His Church – the gathering of all the Sons of Glory. Then all the rule and authority of this present age will be destroyed. The creation will be renewed and glorified together with Him; and He shall present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:25). Then, we shall, with Christ, reign and rule over God’s creation for His glory forever. Amen.
About Ed Ross
Ed Ross has been pastor of Springwood Chapel in York, PA for the past 16 years. He and his wife, Lynna, have been married 34 years, and have three grown children (a son and two daughters) who are all actively involved in the church and/or missions work.
Having attended Millersville University (PA: 1969-1972), Maranatha Baptist Bible College (WI: 1977-1980 ), he received a bachelor of theology from International Bible Institute & Seminary (FLA). He was first ordained into the ministry in 1980, at which time he and his wife began an Independent Baptist church, remaining there for eight years.
Ed has been bi-vocational at times, working in supervisory and management positions in the quality and manufacturing engineering fields.
He is actively involved in missions work, having spent significant time teaching among the amaZioni peoples of southern Africa. Ed has written numerous tracts and pamphlets, and currently publishes Tuesday’s Touch, a weekly e-devotional. He has also served as a city police chaplain for a number of years, and enjoys writing music/poetry, hiking, and traveling with his wife.