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May 8

Piper on Three Levels of God-Glorifying Desire

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Clarus 09,Quote,Recommended Link

This question came up, directly or indirectly, multiple times in our Clarus conference weekend:

How do we glorify God with our desires in those times when we can’t seem to feel the joyous affection for God and his Word that we should?

A section from Piper’s Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (pp. 85-86 — well-worn pages in my copy of the the book) is one of the first things that comes to my mind in answering this question:

[The preceding comments in this chapter] might give the impression that we cannot come to God in real worship unless we are overflowing with the affections of delight and joy and hope and gratitude and wonder and awe and reverence. I do not believe this is necessarily implied in what I have said.

I see three stages of movement toward the ideal experience of worship. We may experience all three in one hour, and God is pleased with all three — if indeed they are stages on the way to full joy in him. I will mention them in reverse order.

1. There is the final stage in which we feel an unencumbered joy in the manifold perfections of God-the joy of gratitude, wonder, hope, admiration. “My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5). In this stage we are satisfied with the excellency of God, and we overflow with the joy of his fellowship. This is the feast of Christian Hedonism.

2. In a prior stage that we often taste, we do not feel fullness, but rather longing and desire. Having tasted the feast before, we recall the goodness of the Lord-but it seems far off. We preach to our souls not to be downcast, because we are sure we shall again praise the Lord (Psalm 42:5). Yet for now our hearts are not very fervent.

Even though this falls short of the ideal of vigorous, heartfelt adoration and hope, yet it is a great honor to God. We honor the water from a mountain spring not only by the satisfied “ahhh” after drinking our fill, but also by the unquenched longing to be satisfied while still climbing to it.

3. The lowest stage of worship-where all genuine worship starts, and where it often returns for a dark season-is the barrenness of soul that scarcely feels any longing, and yet is still granted the grace of repentant sorrow for having so little love. “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee” (Psalm 73 :22).

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. This is the ideal. For God surely is more glorified when we delight in his magnificence than when we are so unmoved by it we scarcely feel anything, and only wish we could. Yet he is also glorified by the spark of anticipated gladness that gives rise to the sorrow we feel when our hearts are lukewarm. Even in the miserable guilt we feel over our beast-like insensitivity, the glory of God shines. If God were not gloriously desirable, why would we feel sorrowful for not feasting fully on his beauty?

The book is available online for free. So, no excuses — if you’ve never read Desiring God immediately stop what you’re doing and read it. Give up all recreation, food, sleep, even hygiene, until you’re done.