When we enjoy good things in this world, it’s right to thank God and recognise him as the source of those blessings. But there’s a danger that we’ll get into the habit of only praising God if everything is going right. We ought to cultivate delight in God for who he is, not merely what he gives us.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to sustain my joy in God. The knowledge in my head doesn’t always captivate my heart. Beyond thanking him for a particular gift, it’s hard to focus on God for sustained times of reflection and praise.
I found some helpful material recently in an old Puritan book. In the first volume of A Christian Directory1, Richard Baxter includes a section about delighting in God. He directs us to “diligently labour that God and holiness may be thy chief delight: and this holy delight may be the ordinary temperament of thy religion.”
Thankfully, Baxter doesn’t leave us to scratch our heads and figure out what this looks like. After exploring what sort of delight we can find in God, and how much we can expect in this life, he helps us to “understand what there is in God and holiness, which is fit to be the soul’s delight.”
Baxter lists twelve rich truths about God for us to rejoice in.2 There’s enough for a lifetime of joy in each one. I encourage you to dwell deeply on them—perhaps meditate and pray about one point each day or week so they sink into your heart.
- Behold him in the infinite perfections of his being; his omnipotence, omniscience, and his goodness; his holiness, eternity, immutability, &c. And as your eye delighteth in an excellent picture, or a comely building, or field, or gardens, not because they are yours, but because they are a delectable object to the eye; so let your minds delight themselves in God, considered in himself, as the only object of highest delight.
- Delight yourselves also in his relative attributes, in which are expressed his goodness to his creatures: as his all-sufficiency, and faithfulness or truth, his benignity, his mercy, and compassion, and patience to sinners, and his justice unto all.
- Delight yourselves in him as his glory appeareth in his wondrous works, of creation and daily providence.
- Delight yourselves in him as he is related to you, as your God and Father, and as all your interest, hope, and happiness are in him alone.
- Delight yourselves in him as his excellencies shine forth in his blessed Son.
- And as they appear in the wisdom and goodness of his word, in all the precepts and promises of the gospel.
- Delight thyself in his image, though but imperfectly printed on thy soul; and also on his holy servants.
- Delight yourselves in the consideration of the glory which he hath from all his creatures, and the universal fulfilling of his will…delight in the glory and happiness of God.
- Delight yourselves in the safety which you have in his favour and defence: and the treasury which you have in his all-sufficiency and love, for your continual supplies in every want, and deliverance in every danger; and the ground of quiet contentedness and confidence which is offered to fearful souls in him.
- Delight yourselves in the particular discoveries of his common mercies to the world, and his special mercies to his saints; and his personal mercies to yourselves, from your birth to this moment; both upon your souls, and bodies, and friends, and name, and estates, and affairs in all relations.
- Delight yourselves in the privilege you enjoy of speaking to him, and of him, and hearing from him, and adoring and worshipping him, and singing and publishing his praise, and in the communion which your souls may have with him through Christ, on his days, and at all times, in his sacraments, and in all your lives.
- Delight yourselves above all in the forethoughts and hope of the glory which you shall see and enjoy for ever.
- Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory (Volume 1 of 4): Christian Ethics, Retrieved from: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41633/41633-h/41633-h.htm
- Some points in this list have been edited for length.