“Be ashamed, you who spend so much time in reading of romances, in adorning your persons, in hawking and hunting, in consulting the law concerning your outward state in the world, and it may be in worse things than these; Be ashamed, you that spend so little time in search of this, whether ye be an heir of glory or not? whether you be in the way that leadeth to heaven, or that way which will land you in darkness for ever? You who judge this below you, and unworthy of your pains, any part or minute of your time, it is probable, in God’s account you have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, so that you shall have no lot with God’s people in this matter.” – William Guthrie, The Christian’s Great Interest
Though William Guthrie, a Presbyterian minister, wrote these words during the 17th century they are still very applicable to us and perhaps even more so today. Distractions and busyness abound in the 21st century, causing us to fail to diligently seek God and make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). We constantly seek after such frivolous things, things that are not lasting, things that we forget in 10 seconds, things that entertain us for a brief period of a few minutes. Yet we fail to diligently seek the truth and the things that have everlasting consequences. We are lazy when it comes to spiritual affairs! And the world with its emphasis on entertainment encourages us to be so. This greatly appeals to our sinful flesh. We do not want to hear the truth. We do not want to think of hard things. We do not want to think of sin. We do not want to pray. We do not want to seek God. We want an easy comfortable life that pleases our soft and sensitive feelings. We want pleasure now.
But we are so foolish to think such thoughts! Guthrie is right when he tells us to “Be ashamed”! We fill our heads with pleasures that last a brief moment and we fail in respect to the issues that have eternal, everlasting consequences. We fail to seek the things that offer true and lasting joy and not simply happiness. Happiness is confined so much to a particular time and place; it is not lasting. Joy, however, is a state and attitude of the heart, that is not confined to a particular time and place (thus the Christian is able to “count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations [trials]” (James 1:2). It is this joy that the true Christian has. It is in seeking the things of the Lord and the truths of the gospel in the means of grace (such as the preaching, sacraments, and prayer) that the Christian grows in this joy. It is in ardent prayer that the Christian grows in joy. It is by the seeking of the things of the kingdom of heaven that God causes the Christian ever to grow in joy: a joy that praises and exults God. It is this joy that is everlasting! How foolish we are then to seek after a momentary happiness that abounds in iniquity and perversion when we can seek after an everlasting joy! A joy in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
It is this joy that we must seek after, not the momentary happiness and sinful so-called pleasure that the world provides us with. Thus, the apostle John writes his first epistle with the intent that “your joy may be full” (I John 1:4). Nor does John discuss things that are easy to hear. He discusses very hard sayings and truths; sayings that cause us to think and to think hard. He writes truths that ought to challenge us in our daily walk as Christians. But it is in hearing and obeying these harsh sayings (which is accomplished only by the work of the Holy Spirit) that our joy is made full. It is in seeking the things of the kingdom of God that our joy is made full. This is because, as John writes latter in his epistle, we are given assurance of our faith and salvation, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (I John 5:13). It is the knowledge and assurance that you have eternal life and that you believe on the name of the Son of God that provides true comfort, joy, and happiness. Everything else is temporary, but this is everlasting! This is not bound by circumstances, situations or places. This knowledge transcends all of these and allows the Christian, by the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, to be truly joyful.
Let us therefore, by the grace of God, be ashamed at our slothfulness when it comes to seeking true joy and seek this joy with ever greater zeal. May we exalt and rejoice in God as the psalmist does in Psalm 71:
And my soul, which thou hast redeemed.
My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long”