Valuable for His Own Sake

Machen:

We are subject to many pressing needs, and we are too much inclined to value God, not for His own sake, but only because He can satisfy those needs. . . .

[Food, clothing, companionship, and inspiring work] are lofty desires. But there is one desire that is loftier still. It is the desire for God Himself. That desire, too often, we forget.

We value God solely for the things He can do; we make of Him a mere means to an ulterior end. And God refuses to be treated so; such a religion always fails in the hour of need. If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things–even lofty and unselfish things–then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. . . .

If we possess God, then we can meet with equanimity the loss of all besides. Has it never dawned upon us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall have recourse to Him in time of trouble as to the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

–J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith?, 73-74

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

One thought on “Valuable for His Own Sake

  1. Absolutely!

    It is, I think, a lifetime’s journey to reach the point where God is our all. And a journey where He, and not us, is the guide. For years, if I read something like this I would feel guilty about not being honestly able to say that I want nothing other than God. Then I would feel I ought to ‘do something’ about it. The resulting striving generally has produced more heat and frustration than revelation.

    More recently, I have realised that on this journey toward and in God, there really isn’t much that we can do in our own strength, other than sincerely ask God to lead us and to shape us. He must introduce Himself. We are entirely reliant upon Him.

    Actually, appreciating God for the things He does for us and the gifts that He gives, are good steps along the way. For indelibly imprinted in His gracious provision we see the marks of His grace and character. As we see His tender care in the minutiae of our lives, gradually, we can dare to believe that perhaps every hair on our head is numbered and that maybe He does truly love us and desire our company and friendship. Wooed by that incredible love, we become enamoured by the God who loves us. Thrilled by His love toward us, we can begin to truly desire to love Him for who He is in Himself. And God, I believe, is delighted to introduce Himself.

    Moses, in the midst of a major leadership and mission crisis, asked not for answers or strategies, but for a greater revelation of God Himself. Most of us are not quite there yet. But perhaps honest, humble gratitude for financial provision and the occasional divinely appointed parking space could be more useful in helping us on the journey than some would suggest. So long as we realise that they are signposts, not a destination.

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