Well, that was one.Now here I am a teenager, knowing, perhaps not as clearly from Scripture, but from my own soul,that I had another passion. I wanted to be happy. I couldn’t get rid of it. As much as I heard certain spokesmen in my church talk about the denial of my own desires in order to do God’s desires, that paradigmnever ended it. I wanted to be happy.
Call it what you will: joy, satisfaction, contentment. It doesn’t matter, they are all in the Bible. The Bible is indiscriminate in its pleasure language. If you have nice little categories for “joy is what Christians have” and “happiness is what the world has,” you can scrap those when you go to the Bible, becausethe Bible is indiscriminate in its uses of the language of happiness and joy and contentment and satisfaction. It is lavish in all of them, and none of them is chosen above the other.
So, I was torn in those days. I cast about as I finished Wheaton College and went out to Fuller Seminary, looking desperately for some unifying thing. “Let Your Passion Be Single” is my topic tonight. And that’s been the passion of my life for all these years. I must have a single passion. I can’t have a divided heart.
“Unite my heart O God to fear thy name” is the great goal of our lives. (Psalm 86:11) To have a united, not a divided heart. I couldn’t deny the one from Scripture. I couldn’t deny the other from experience. I also couldn’t deny it from reading. I was looking around to see whether I was the only one in the world who felt this way.
All Men Seek Happiness
In reading Pascal, I read,
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.1
Well, that seems to be what I think, too. To find it in the Pensées gave me encouragement that this other passion to be happy was universal, undeniable and just as unavoidable as hunger in the stomach. How does it fit with this tremendously central, biblical passion for the glory of God?
Well I got help. First, from C.S. Lewis and then from Jonathan Edwards, and then the Bible broke open to me. So I want to tell you how Lewis helped me, then how Edwards helped me, and then spend some time showing that the Bible undergirds these things profoundly.
C.S. Lewis: Praise Is Joy’s Consummation
Lewis had an awful time accepting God’s centrality in the Bible. He called the demands for praise in the Psalms, when he was still an atheist, the soundings of an old woman seeking compliments for herself. That’s the way God sounded to him when the Psalms said, “Praise the Lord.” But this is God’s word, and it says over and over again, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” So, you have God up there saying, “Praise me! Praise me! Praise me!” which sounded very vain to Lewis.
Then in this life-changing page in Reflections on the Psalms, I read this:
But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…
The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game…My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.2
That was almost the solution. Very close. That set my feet to dancing. That praise giving glory to God was described by Lewis as not something different from joy but joy in consummation—O, that’s so close to having them be one passion.