Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Three weeks ago, Dennis and I watched a John Piper sermon which he preached to death row prisoners. At first, I deeply respected the tone which he approached the gravity of their situation and sought to humbly encourage them. By the time he had finished preaching, I knew it was for me.
Two weeks ago, two lives hung in the balance- a new one, which ended, and an old one, who praise God, lives on.
In that precious and difficult time, I rejoiced that God gave both the opportunity and also the victory all in one fell swoop, for the sole purpose of glorifying himself.
God is a supremely and unshakeably happy God, says Piper. Having been so happy, he made man, so he could share what he loved so much with us- relationship. God didn’t make us to be useful to him. I know this, because he was fully content in himself before he made anything. So we weren’t needed to make life easier, or as pawns. We were made to be valued.
God also made us in His image, that we should be able to value him too (Gen 1:27)- in having His image, he wanted us to be like him and to love him and the others around us with a Christ-likeness. This is what gives him glory- that we value him for who he is and what he is, and also seek to emulate it.
God made it clear in John 6 that he didn’t come to be useful. We know this ourselves. We don’t like people who like us for what we can do for them or for our money or status. We don’t like being taken for-granted. We seek to find deep relationships where our value is unconditional.
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
I know that we are not out to take Jesus for-granted, and we are not in a relationship with him in order to milk the benefits. However, there are times in my life where something happens and I realise that part of me does value Jesus for what he does for me. When I turn my face from him when I’m angry, or when I question why I suffer, or when I am afraid to surrender all that belongs to me because I don’t know what God will do with it, it hits me. I’m not trying to abuse God, but somewhere along the line- is He precious enough to me that I would give it all up? Everything? And be completely okay with it? Oh, that’s something I want so much.
In this day and age there is a lot of prosperity being preached in the church. Yet, we will never have had the chance to hang on to Jesus like Job did if we do not look at our rough patches with joy enough to say, “here’s my chance!” I’m not asking you to wallow in suffering and self pity and burden, nor does this mean we shouldn’t fight very hard for victory in Christ. However, let’s not deny that God still lets curveballs happen to us in life.
Here’s the secret- if I let Jesus be precious, treasured, and valuable above all else, I will in my joy find the sacrifice of valuing him quite a lot more pleasant than my flesh thinks it will be.
I’d like to encourage you- the times that you have pulled through tough patches, and the times where you hung on tight and called God good anyway: these times make him so supremely happy because you were able to value what is above all things valuable. And this gave God the glory he so desired. In going through that rough patch, you made Him happy, and also fulfilled a fundamental purpose in life- to give him glory.
He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”