A dear friend sent me this daily devotion the other day, and while I’m sure its author meant well, it did get me thinking…
I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me.
Our motives are misplaced if we think we read the Bible and pray to please God, or to keep from making Him mad at us. God once told me, “You think, when you read the Bible, that you are making Me happy. I am going to be happy whether you read it or not. No, if you read the Bible, you’re happy. If you pray, you’re happy. If you give, you receive.”
Every single thing that God tells us to do, He tells us to do so to bless ourselves. He doesn’t ask us to devote ourselves to study and prayer for Him; it is for us. The good life is our choice.
We don’t have the power or authority to bless ourselves. When we read the Word, God gave us the Word and the Spirit to move us to read it. When we read the Bible, it’s still God blessing us. Blessing us with the air in our lungs and the eyes to see and the heart to accept and understand His Word.
And I’m not sure if God is happy “whether we read the Bible or not.” He wants us to draw near to Him, and we do so when we read His word. We get closer to God when we are meditating in the word daily. When we don’t read His word, it grieves Him that we would turn away from his counsel, because it’s there for our good. He wants us and pursues us. Think about all the things he orchestrated through time and space to give us His word for our good, think about everything He did on the cross to make sure we could be reconciled and near to Him, for our good. Why would he be happy when we ignore him in His word? To me, “good” here means so much more than mere happiness. Being in the word has nothing to do with happiness, but everything to do with His glory and our obedience. Those two things are “our good.”
“He loves those who love Him” because they search and thirst for Him, and He is pleased that His children return to Him. It’s not a cause and effect, we love then He loves, no. His unconditional love for us feeds our love for Him into a gloriously vicious cycle. “Those who seek Him early and diligently shall find Him” because they are the ones who love Him enough to look. He is omnipresent, He’s there all the time for the whole world to see. He’s not hard to find for those who want to. It’s like that CS Lewis quote, “It is safe to say ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ for only the pure in heart want to.”
If God is happy even when we don’t read the Bible, why read it? Not to be happy, but to be fully and deeply satisfied in Him, because that’s what we were made for, God, not our own happiness. We pray to be with our Father, we give in obedience to our Father. Not our own happiness.
I guess I just don’t like the word “happy”… it seems to imply if we do (works), we’ll be happy, if we give, we receive and prosper. But the lives of the apostles show that they gave and they suffered, even Christ gave everything, and He suffered. They obeyed the Father in love, and their reward wasn’t found in the consequences of their giving, but in obeying itself. When we obey the Father, He is glorified, and we are satisfied… not necessarily happy, but satisfied. And when we are satisfied, He is glorified. In that sense, our devotion to Him is for Him. For us too, but mostly for His sake. Not because he’s egotistical and self-absorbed, but because He wants to show us that we can trust that He is the God of all creation for eternity, that we really don’t have to be afraid when he reminds us that He is for us not against us. He’s got this. He’s like the climbing rope that can hold 3000lbs that a 160lb climber brings to the mountain. The greater that we see that He is, the more faith we have in Him, and the easier it is for us to draw near to Him, and feed that cycle again.
Happiness is fleeting, but Christ is the rock that never changes, never moves, never fails. We can trust in Him, we can find our peace and our joy in Him. That is why we ought to seek after Him in reading the Bible, seek Him in prayer and seek Him in obeying His commands. Christ. Not happiness. We don’t need happiness from anything or anyone or any works if we’ve got Christ. We can be suffering, crying, dying and still be satisfied. We can still say, “It is well with my soul.”
Happiness is shiny, but cheap in light of God’s brilliant glory and His everlasting Kingdom to come. Happiness is dangerous, even happiness in faith, because it makes us self-sufficient, makes us think we’re okay, we don’t need a saviour, I saved myself, blessed myself today. Happiness makes us comfortable here in this world. Joy in what Christ has done is so much more robust, it gives us strength to look forward, to wait daily, patiently for our King, even when the world around us crumbles.