God is Happiness



Sam Storms:

Charles Spurgeon, though on occasion depressed and despondent, held firmly to the truth that joy or cheerfulness or happiness must be the aim of every Christian. There are several reasons why he believed this to be true. Here is the first:

“Working Christians should, as far as possible, be cheerful of countenance, happy in manner, and merry in heart; and there are several reasons why I think so. They should be happy, BECAUSE THEY SERVE A HAPPY GOD. It enters into the essential idea of God that he is superlatively blessed. We cannot conceive of a God who should be infinitely miserable. . . . As it is true that ‘God is love,’ so is it equally true that God is happiness. Now it would be an exceedingly strange thing if, in proportion as we became like a happy God, we grew more and more miserable. . . . Congruity is to be studied everywhere, and it seems not meet that the ambassadors of the Prince of light should wear a perpetual shadow over their faces” (“Bells for the Horses!” The Sword and the Trowel, March 1866, in The Spurgeon Reader, 19).

I love the word “congruity” that Spurgeon employs. His point is that it is incongruous or inconsistent that people who are saved and indwelt by the infinitely happy God should live with “a perpetual shadow” of sadness and melancholy over their faces. If we are God’s own, if we live in the fullness of the salvation he sacrificed his Son to obtain, and with the expectation that our eternity will be in his presence, it doesn’t make sense that we should be consumed or controlled by sadness. While we live in this fallen and corrupt world we cannot entirely escape it, but there is far more that ought to bring us joy than should induce misery and grief.

The cheerfulness or joy that Spurgeon has in mind was seen in the exuberance of King David as he danced before the ark. He explains:

“David danced before the ark, which was but a symbol of Divinity; what ails us that our heart so seldom dances before the Lord himself? The old creation has its sunshine and flowers; its lowing herds and bleating flocks; its heaven-mounting larks and warbling nightingales; its rivers laughing, and its seas clapping hands; is the new creation of grace to render less happy worship to God our exceeding joy? Nay, rather let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, and show ourselves glad in him with psalms” (19-20).

It would appear that Spurgeon envisions himself dancing in his “heart” but perhaps not as physically demonstrative as David did with his body! In any case, I hope you catch his point.

Nothing that Spurgeon has said should be taken as a denial that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations and trials and heartache. As Peter himself has said, the “gold” must pass through the fire (1 Peter 1:6-7). But “when the gold knows why and wherefore it is in the fire, when it understands who placed it there, who watches it while amid the coals, who is sworn to bring it out unhurt, and in what matchless purity it will soon appear, the gold, if it be gold indeed, will thank the Refiner for putting it into the crucible, and will find a sweet satisfaction even in the flames” (20).

Yet another reason why Christians should experience “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) is that heaven itself is happiness, “and it is scarcely conceivable that those who possess the ‘earnest of the inheritance,’ can find that ‘earnest’ to be unlike the ‘inheritance’ itself. ‘An earnest’ is part of the possession; the earnest of heaven must, surely, be joyful and blissful like heaven, of which it is the foretaste” (20).

His point is that we have been given, in the person and indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, a down payment or earnest or pledge of the full inheritance that will come to us in the new heavens and new earth. And if in the latter there is nothing but joy and bliss, so too must there be, at least to some appreciable degree, in the earnest!

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

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