"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

A Seizure of Pure Joy When Thinking of God

We are studying on Sunday morning at Emmanuel a series entitled 'SoulTalk,' based on Larry Crabb's bestselling novel of the same title. One of the premises of the series is that life is all about knowing and enjoying God. The soul finds itself in trouble when secondary things crowd out what should be the primary passion of the joy of knowing God. The series has been an interesting one with fascinating comments from the congregation after listening to the message. One such comment came from a person yesterday who wondered aloud to me "I'm not sure what it feels like to enjoy God."

I appreciated the honest transparency of such a remark and it got me to wondering about how best to illustrate the kind of joy we are talking about when it comes to God. Rachelle and I were at the Oklahoma High School Basketball State Championships at the Big House on Saturday at the Fair Grounds in Oklahoma City and we saw firsthand the joy of players and coaches who won the long sought after 'Gold Ball' of a state championship. I remember as a seven year old boy watching Bob Beamon break the world long jump record by nearly TWO feet at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and the incredibly joy that came over Beamon when he discovered what he had done. The video of what some have called the greatest track and field feat in the history of the world contains the images of Beamon collapsing in a seizure of pure joy.



Most of the rapturous moments of joy with which we are familiar come from the sports arena. I can, however, attest to the fact that there are moments in my life when I feel overcome with pure joy over God. There have been songs sung, messages preached, prayers offered - both in corporate worship and in private worship - when I have been felt intense joy in communion with God and meditation upon His work on my behalf. Jonathan Edwards, James Harvey, Augustus Toplady, and other writers of past centuries would often write of their rapturous joy as they contemplated these things as well. It does seem, however, that the soul's enjoyment of God above all else is becoming either a lost subject upon which preachers expound or a lost art upon which believers rely.

Sometimes I wonder if most of the solutions for the problems we face could be found in the deep and abiding joy of simply knowing God. Life does not always 'work out.' Solutions are not always found to prevent painful problems from arising. But the rapturous joy of knowing God and experiencing intimate, personal communion with Him helps us keep secondary things where they should belong.

In His Grace,

wade

22 comments:

Wayne Smith said...

Wade said,
But the rapturous joy of knowing God and experiencing intimate, personal communion with Him helps us keep secondary things where they should belong.

You said it all in "KNOWING GOD"!!!
If one's Heart has been regenerated they will Know God and Pure Joy.

In His Name
Wayne

Darby Livingston said...

Wade,

Spoken like a true Christian Hedonist.

Darby Livingston said...

One more obvious observation. For whatever reason, posts lacking a certain "controversial" potential never seem to have as much participation as the ones that do. To my mind, this is one of your better recent posts. :) I don't say this to say the controversial ones aren't necessary or beneficial.

Bryan Riley said...

Darby, I agree. Excellent post.

I definitely could have joined that person a few years ago wondering about what it would mean to enjoy God, but as we begin to walk in faith in His true character, of a loving daddy who is always faithful and loving and walk hand in hand with Him, experiencing His hugs, comfort, companionship and voice - well, enjoyment becomes reality.

jasonk said...

I remember about two years ago, in the worship service at church, only a few months after going through a divorce, for which I was at fault. The worship leader began singing a song that said, "I am the one who loves much, because I am the one who's been forgiven much."
I could barely contain the joy that came over me at that very moment, as if I had just won a gold ball or set a world record. Only better. Much, much better.

Gary said...

Wade said (last paragraph):

Sometimes I wonder if most of the solutions for the problems we face could be found in the deep and abiding joy of simply knowing God. Life does not always 'work out.' Solutions are not always found to prevent painful problems from arising. But the rapturous joy of knowing God and experiencing intimate, personal communion with Him helps us keep secondary things where they should belong.

I don't want to be Puritanical about this, but I think many of us as current-day worshipers get caught up in the "joy" part and forget the "worship" part. In Exodus 25:21-ff, while instructing the Israelites on how to construct the Tabernacle, God said through Moses "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel." [NKJV]

It doesn't say anything there similar to "I'll make you happy" or "I'll fulfill every want and need that you have", my doggerel paraphrase is "I'll be there, and pretty much you'll listen". That is simplistic, because we know through prayer that we can have a two-way conversation with God, but that the rest of His Word tells us that he will give us what we need to endure to the end.

Goring the new-worship sacred cows, but worship is not about me or you, it is about God. If the reason we go to church is to 'feel good', we're definitely there for the wrong reason. We need to focus more on Wade's last paragraph and not so much on the earlier stuff, IMHO.

Gary

OC Hands said...

Gary,
If in sincere worship you do not experience the joy of the Lord, I truly feel sorry for you. Because it is in the total abandonment in praising and honoring such a great and wonderful God that I experience the greatest joy.
It is a foretaste of glory divine, as the hymn "Love Divine" paints the picture of our life in heaven with him "till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise."
We experience a little of that here on earth, as God promises to "make us joyful in his house of prayer."
Worship without joy is lifeless to me.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Good post and great set of messages that I hope many hear(watch?). The Bible speaks of joy many times in both the OT and the NT.

"This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long."

Darby Livingston said...

"Goring the new-worship sacred cows, but worship is not about me or you, it is about God."

I think this point is a good one that people interpret in different ways. That's why Wade's sports illustration is so pertinent. We could just as easily say that a basketball championship game is not about the fans, it's about the teams on the court. The players on the court get the glory and the fans in the stands get the joy of watching excellence in action. That's a shadow of what takes place in worship of God - except that God is inherently glorious whereas any glory in creation is derivative. Worship is about God, but let's not forget that in God's presence is fullness of joy, at God's right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).

Anonymous said...

Wade, my verse for the week is found in Exodus 33. "And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." And my favorite saying that goes along with that verse is: "In order to walk with God, we must make it a practice to talk with God." Not bad advice, huh??

rick t

Lin said...

"Solutions are not always found to prevent painful problems from arising. But the rapturous joy of knowing God and experiencing intimate, personal communion with Him helps us keep secondary things where they should belong."

Amen!

Bryan Riley said...

Rick T, great verse. God called both Abraham and Job His friend. He longs to be ours. But man must show himself friendly to be a friend. He also is the lover of our souls. He is the husband to the widow. The daddy to the child (and child at heart).

I grew up singing "What a friend we have in Jesus" but was taught to relate to Him stoically and that He too was stoic. what an incorrect picture of Who God Is.

Gary said...

OC,

No need to feel sorry for me. I go to worship. I don't go to get a good feeling. Because when I worship, God takes care of the rest. I know that I have truly worshiped when He gives me joy, not when I go to get it.

I've been to "happy, happy, joy, joy" 'experiences' in the past. I found no worship there. I have been to worship where there was true joy because God was the focus of worship and He blessed. The style of worship does not matter (although I believe there is much to learn from a solid hymn text), what matters is the spiritual posture of the worshiper.

"This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour, all the day long."

Gary

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade,

My twisted mind just made an observation. Put up a post about predators in the pulpit, about immorality in high places, and you're over 150 comments in a day. BUT ... put up one about joy in worship and .. surprise .. barely over a dozen comments.

Maybe a reflection on which we're more interested in, or more in touch with? Maybe we've had a lot of experience with one, but not with the other?

Hmmmm......

Anonymous said...

Gary,
I think I know what you are speaking of with "happy, happy" services, but I do not think that is where Wade was going with this. The pursuit of God ends with a joy unspeakable, because we realize He is what is "best" for the us. I don't even know how to say that as impactful as I wish. God is so good and He fills my soul with joy and I love that!
Robert

greg.w.h said...

RickT's comment echoes the fullness of this passage from John 15 and suggests this passage as an additional act (not work) of true worship:

9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

Greg Harvey

Debbie Kaufman said...

Gary: Mat 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
Mat 22:37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Also read the Psalms

Debbie Kaufman said...

Robert: I would use the word happiness. I've never been happier despite circumstances. The source of my happiness is nothing in this life. My source of happiness is the Trinity.

OC Hands said...

Gary,
I could not agree with you more.

Amen and Amen!!!

Debbie Kaufman said...

I've been to "happy, happy, joy, joy" 'experiences' in the past. I found no worship there. I have been to worship where there was true joy because God was the focus of worship and He blessed. The style of worship does not matter (although I believe there is much to learn from a solid hymn text), what matters is the spiritual posture of the worshiper.

I agree.

Clif Cummings said...

Wade wrote: "It does seem, however, that the soul's enjoyment of God above all else is becoming either a lost subject upon which preachers expound or a lost art upon which believers rely."
Could it be that the reason why this type of post gets so few comments is because so few of us preachers have genuinely experienced "the soul's enjoyment of God above all else"?
Could it be that many would rather spend time on convention politics rather than cultivating the soul's enjoyment of God?
Could it be that it is "a lost art upon which beleivers rely" because they do not see it modeled in the pulpits?
I haven't commented in a long, long time for many reasons -- but this one is too personally convicting to pass up because I believe it hits at the root of the issue.
I would like to say "thanks Wade" I needed that!

Only By His Grace said...

Worship:

1. "…I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
2. "Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two He covered his feet, and with two he did fly.
3. "And one cried unto another, and said, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD (YAH) of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.'"

5. "Then said I, 'Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD (YAH) of hosts.'
6. "Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7, "And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, 'Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.'
8. "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,' Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then said I, 'Here am I; send me.'"

Not many hallelujahs, not much clapping of the hands, not much stomping of the feet, not much jumping up and down, but it is worship in all its elements.

Phil in Norman