Reflections – 2020.02

Glorifying God: Walking Cheerfully

The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

– Westminster Shorter Catechism

As the gross sins of the wicked bring a scandal on the gospel, so do the uncheerful lives of the godly.

– Thomas Watson, from A Body of Divinity

When I was in seventh grade, my family moved to Arkansas for a year as part of my dad’s continuing education.  It was an adventurous year with many fond memories.  The first friend I made there hated his parents.  In Maryland, I didn’t know anybody like that and so it never had entered my mind that someone my age could feel this way about his family.  We lived in a trailer park – a rough kind of place – and walked to school.  As we walked, my friend would occasionally come across a beer bottle in the road.  He would proceed to kick it until it smashed.  Sometimes he would comment (or maybe this is what I later learned from my parents – seventh grade was a long time ago) that his dad got drunk a lot – the drinking had damaged my friend.  So he took it out on those bottles.

The minister Thomas Watson comments in his book, All Things for Good, “There are two things I have always looked upon as difficult.  The one is, to make the wicked sad; the other is, to make the godly joyful.”  The Christian often experiences difficulty.   Inwardly, we struggle in our war against sin, we wrestle with thoughts of despair, impatience, envy, restlessness.  Outwardly, things don’t go “our way.”  Sometimes it seems that the Christian life doesn’t pay, as we see those who have very little interest in the Gospel rise in power, live in luxury, and do seemingly whatever they want.   We grumble.  Maybe even go so far as to kick the bottle.

I have only one impression of my friend’s dad.  It is the image of a broken bottle.  Ugly, harsh, angry, unwelcome.  What impression do we give the world of our heavenly Father?  Are our lives cheerful? or are they full of complaint?

There are many reasons for the Christian to be cheerful, even in the greatest difficulty.  Consider our justification and the reality of our union with Christ in His death and resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, the hope of eternal life, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the promises of Scripture, the fellowship of other Christian friends, the beauty of the Gospel, the works that have been prepared for us to do (and the fact that we are even given important work to do!).

Psalm 100 gets it right: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!  Serve the LORD with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing!  … For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”

When the world looks at us, what do they see?  Those who cheerfully live for the LORD, facing difficulty knowing that their Father loves them, that He is good, that He is faithful?  My friend would sometimes come over to our trailer and my parents would feed him.  What was his impression of them?  I don’t know for sure, but I do know that there was no bottle reserved for my dad, either from my friend or from me.  I suppose he was just cheerful, grateful for a meal.  As you walk as a Christian, as one who has been fed the feast of the Gospel and has received every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, are you cheerful, grateful for the meal?  May we glorify God by walking cheerfully … for as Watson reminds us, “It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him that can make him cheerful in the worst of times.”