More Joy (Psalm 4:7)
The message trumpeted by the world, the flesh, and the devil is relatively simple. It's often packaged in different shapes and sounds, but the underlying theme is monotonously the same. Like a reverberating echo in an empty cave, the refrain is incessant, unending, and unchanging: "There is more joy in illicit sex than in Jesus. There is more joy in goodies and gold than in Jesus. There is more joy in power, pride, and a drug-induced high than in Jesus. There is more joy in looking fit and feeling good and the latest fashion than in Jesus."
I fear for my grandchildren. Not because I lack faith in God or suffer from paranoia. I'll briefly explain. Recently my wife and I took Joseph (3 ½) and John (nearly 2) to the mall to ride the train. Immediately across from it, next to the merry-go-round, was Victoria's Secret, the display case filled with near-naked mannequins clothed only in sexually seductive lingerie.
I commented to Ann that it wasn't until high school that I was confronted with images like that, and even then one had to buy a magazine in a seedy shop or sneak under-aged into an R-rated movie. The sixties weren't especially spiritual, but at least television, billboards, and the shopping mall were relatively safe. Yet here were my two precious grandsons, already exposed to the underbelly of human depravity.
As we somberly walked out, store after store, sign after sign, song after song perpetuated the refrain: "Buy me. Taste mine. Eat this. Drink ours. Smell like us. Wear these clothes. Wear no clothes. Drive this car. Bet on that. Look like her." I fear for my grandchildren.
I suppose the next time we could tell them the train is broken. Or we could shield their eyes, or look for another playground with less seductive surroundings. Maybe we will. But I'm not sure that's going to work. It may not even be possible. (Do places like that still exist?) So what's the solution? Is there one?
I do have a strategy, and it's as relatively simple and straightforward as the destructive message it's designed to counter. It doesn't call for isolation, withdrawal, or the wearing of blinders. I plan on challenging the claim. I intend to confront it and confute it. Contrary to what the world may say, there is more joy in Jesus than all fleshly pleasures combined!
My aim as a father, preacher, teacher, author, and now grandfather is to hammer home with unrelenting zeal that the joys of knowing Jesus are simply incomparable. His capacity to please knows no rival. We must preach from our pulpits and model in our lives and fill our prayers and labor and suffer and sacrifice greatly to make this truth known: in the presence of our great God and Savior there is joy that is full, not partial, half-baked, measured, or parceled out; at his right hand there are eternal pleasures, not the fleeting, transient, toxic sort that promise so much and deliver so little (Ps. 16:11).
David, King of Israel and inspired psalmist, was unapologetically relentless in his effort to drive home this truth. Surrounded by those who loved "vain words" and sought "after lies" (Psalm 4:2b), he uttered one prayer for himself and his people: "Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!" (Psalm 4:6). Again, "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us" (Psalm 67:1; cf. Num. 6:24-26).
On the other hand, when "you hid your face; I was dismayed" (Psalm 30:7). Even the animals of the earth know this devastation: "When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust" (Psalm 104:29).
When the crowd clamored for satisfaction and demanded to know, "Who will show us some good?" (Psalm 4:6a), David fixed his gaze on the precious presence of Yahweh, whose glorious visage alone he longed to behold, whose life-changing power and sin-forgiving grace and covenant-keeping love alone can satisfy the human soul. The single, simple driving force in his battle with unbelief, temptation and the magnetic allure of the world, flesh, and the devil was this:
"You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound" (Psalm 4:7).
Grain and wine are good gifts of God, not to be belittled. Be grateful for them. Just don't trust them! We must never despise the blessings God bestows, whether they be financial, physical, or political. What we must guard against is believing the marketing lie that more grain and increased profits and sweet wine and your neighbor's car and a computer with more memory can deliver more joy than Jesus can.
David envisions a time when the harvest is bountiful. Crops are abundant and the future looks good. The wine is flowing and the supply is endless. Bellies are full. Our enemies are at bay. The bank account is expanding. Our mouths savor the sweetness of the fruit of the vine. Life feels good! It seems to be working.
But there is more joy in the goodness and greatness of God! There is more joy in the promise of eternal reward than in the presence of earthly riches. Spurgeon was right: "Christ in the heart is better than corn in the barn, or wine in the vat" (I:36).
Is it not the case that all temptation finds its strength in our refusal to believe that one simple truth? Is it not the case that all sin, in one way or other, consists in a refusal to trust God's promise of more joy than what the world, the flesh, and the devil offer us?
David wasn't the only Israelite to grasp this truth. Consider Moses. Faced with the almost irresistible offer of indescribable wealth, power and prestige, what the author of Hebrews calls "the treasures of Egypt" (Heb. 11:26), he said No! He embraced "mistreatment" (11:25) rather than the joy that comes with "the fleeting pleasures of sin" (11:25).
Why? For heaven's sake, Moses, why? Because "he considered the reproach of Christ (to be) greater wealth [read, more joy!]" than anything Egypt might offer, for "he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:26).
As I think about the future and the world in which my grandchildren will live, I have only one hope. They have only one hope: knowing and believing the promise that in God's presence, not in abundant grain, is "fullness of joy"; trusting and living in the assurance that in Christ alone, not rivers of sweet wine, are "pleasures" that never end (Ps. 16:11).
Longing for more joy in Jesus,