Have you ever realized that everyone always, without exception, pursues what makes them most happy?
Sure, we all do unselfish things from time to time. But at the bottom of all our motives, we chase after whatever satisfies us the most—what gives us joy.
Is it possible to actually find that soul-satisfying joy? The Bible’s answer is yes—it’s not only possible; it’s required of you!
Why We Were Made
God, who is the center of the universe, made us to glorify him. “…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7 ESV). And when we glorify God, putting him first, he becomes our source of joy. We were made to be fully satisfied and happy in God.
Every good thing in life points back to the ultimate source of good in the universe. Family, food, air, water, health, sex, rest, and nature—all incredible gifts meant to help us know and enjoy the ultimate giver, God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Our souls are only satisfied when we treasure God above all else, since he is infinitely good.
The Obstacle to Our Joy
The problem is that we don’t treasure God as we should. We don’t glorify him. Instead, we reject his authority and devote ourselves to other things. We don’t obey or love God, as if his glory wasn’t enough to satisfy us. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).
The evidence of this is that we all break God’s commands. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). We all lie, lust, hate, and follow our own opinions about right and wrong. We constantly violate God’s two greatest laws: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Our sinful wandering blinds us to the beauty of God. And because we reject God deep in our hearts, he says, in essence, “Have it your way.” We lose the right to enjoy God forever, because of our sin. God is determined to vindicate his infinite worth and holiness, so all sinners must be cut off from his joy forever and suffer eternal punishment instead. “For wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a).
If we live living in sin and don’t turn trust God to satisfy us, we will never experience his joy, but only misery and wrath from him for every sin we have committed. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
That is the bad news. Our sin cuts us off from God, the ultimate source of joy. But there is good news. God has made a way for us sinners to still enjoy him forever, without tarnishing his glory.
The Good News
God decided the pay the way for us to come back to him and enjoy his goodness forever. So 2,000 years ago, God sent his Son as a human being, the fullest representation of himself on earth. That man, Jesus Christ, lived the perfect human life. Jesus fully glorified God, loving him above all and keeping every single command. He had perfect joy in God—so he can offer it to us.
Yet Jesus suffered the brutal death of crucifixion. He was fully subjected to God’s wrath, even though he never sinned. The purpose? To pay our debt, allowing us to escape God’s judgment. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Then Jesus physically rose from the dead three days later. He ascended into the presence of God, serving as the only intermediary we’ll ever need. Because he is alive, we can trust him to give us right standing with God. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
Jesus’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection can rescue us from Hell and unlock the eternal life and joy with God—even though we are unworthy. “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).
Achieving Ultimate Satisfaction
Is this starting to make sense? Can you see how Christ’s death pays the price for our rejection of God, so that we can come back to find satisfaction in him? If so, there are two things we must do to receive benefit of Christ’s work for us.
First, we must repent—turn from the sin we’ve been hoping will please us. Sin cannot satisfy us because it cuts us off from God’s goodness and earns us God’s punishment. We must turn from it and ask God to help us change. “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
But most importantly, we must trust in Jesus alone to bring us to God. Jesus came to earth “proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14b-15). We must trust that his death paid our punishment call out to him. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:13).
When we repent and trust in Christ, God pours his joy into us as a free gift—a down payment on our ultimate satisfaction with God in eternity. God’s Spirit enters us, freeing us from the power of sin and filling us with pleasure in knowing Christ. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Amazingly, God is after humanity’s joy. Nothing else in the world will satisfy us except God. “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). But if Christ’s death is credited for our forgiveness and we trust in him, we are free to enjoy God for all eternity. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Trusting fully in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from God’s wrath and be fully satisfied forever. Trust Christ, and he will save you. Then, continue following him, learning about him, obeying him, and gathering with others who follow him as you set all your hope on his promise of eternal life. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
This post was originally written as a tract drawing heavily from John Piper’s Quest for Joy.
Image credit: Rocky Raybell (CC 2.0)