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index“Oh, what a life might men live if they were but willing and diligent! God would have their joys to be far more than their sorrows.” Richard Alleine*

The Puritan Richard Alleine says that many Christian make their own lives miserable by refusing the joys that God has set before them. He asks:

How much do those persons wrong God and themselves who either make their thoughts of God the inlet of their sorrows or let these offered joys lie by as neglected and forgotten?

He then goes on to list ten problems that result from the lack of spiritual joys:

  1. This lack will dampen, if not destroy, love to God. Insofar as we apprehend God’s loving purpose to make us eternally happy, we will increase in love to God and delight in God. But refusing to think so highly of God’s goodwill cannot but chill our hearts and harden them against Him.
  2. This lack produces infrequent and unpleasant thoughts of God. Because our thoughts tend to run after what we delight in, if we don’t delight in God, we won’t think about Him much; and any thoughts we do have of Him, will made us sadder rather than happier.
  3. This lack results in infrequent and unpleasant speech concerning God. We talk much about what we think much about. That’s why most people talk only of worldliness and wickedness; it’s what their minds and hearts delight in. Thus, the lack of spiritual joy silences the Christian’s witness to God in the world.
  4. This lack deprives us of all desire to serve God, because we have no delight in Him or any sweet thoughts of heaven. Without delight in prayer, or praise, or Bible reading, these services will be performed rarely and reluctantly.
  5. This lack perverts our judgments concerning the ways of God. What happens when God’s providence crosses our view of how our life should be, or our world should be? Alleine says it all depends on whether we have joy in God. “Affection holds its object faster than bare judgment.” If we love God, we are more likely to submit to His providence, whereas if we don’t have this delight, we will quarrel with Him. Alleine says, “Had men a true delight in God and heavenly things, it would rectify their judgments better than all the arguments in the world.”
  6. This lack causes us to entertain the delights of the flesh. The soul needs something to delight in and will find it elsewhere if it doesn’t find it in God. Alleine says that if more could experience the pleasures of a spiritual life, we could dispense with so many of the laws that are needed to regulate our passions.
  7. This lack leave us under the power of every affliction without any divine comfort. When the pain of this world outweighs or replaces the pleasures of this world, what’s left to comfort and ease people in their suffering?
  8. This lack makes us unwilling to die, for who would wish to go to God when he does not delight in Him? The reason most people resist death so vigorously is because they believe that their greatest happiness is in this world. Who would want to go to God when he finds to pleasure in Him? The believer, in contrast, looks forward to getting even more of the pleasure in God that they have begun to experience on this earth.
  9. This lack lays us open to the power of every temptation. It’s very easy to turn away from work that we don’t enjoy and be diverted to something that seems more enjoyable. Similarly, if we have little joy in God and His ways of holiness, we will easily be distracted and turned away by seemingly more enjoyable temptations. “A little thing will entice a man from that which he has no pleasure in.”
  10. This lack is a dangerous step on the road to total apostasy. If we get no joy from reaching the summit of a mountain and enjoying the view, it’s unlikely we will persevere through the difficulties to get to the top. Rather, we will easily and quickly give up when the going gets tough. Sadly, many eventually depart from the Christian faith because they never had sufficient joy in the way or anticipation of joy at the end. As Alleine says, “A man will hardly keep on for long in a way that he has no delight in, nor use the means if he has no delight in the end.”

Alleine concludes his warnings with a passionate appeal:

“And now dear friends, we have tried to lay before you a precious, heavenly employment. Would you but pursue it, it would make you happy indeed. To delight in God is the work of angels, and the contrary is the work of devils.”

Or as the Psalmist said:

“Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

* Richard Alleine, The World Conquered by the Faithful Christian (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997), 159-162.

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