The Reason for Everything
By David Feddes
A number of scientists are eagerly looking for a big toe. This toe is the ultimate goal of their research and deep thinking. Why do they want a toe so badly? Well, the big toe they want isn’t the kind we have on our feet. They want a really big T.O.E., a Theory of Everything. They want a theory which does more than explain various patterns of biology, chemistry, and physics. They want an overarching Theory of Everything which explains the origin of the universe, the power that keeps it going, and the point of it all.
So far they have no such theory. Science has found some patterns and equations for how certain things work, but it has no explanation for where these patterns come from or why anything exists in the first place. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking asks, “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”
Hawking longs for “a complete theory… of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason‑‑for then we would know the mind of God.” Hawking is right to want to know why we and the universe exist, and he’s right to suggest that it is somehow connected with the mind of God. But he’s wrong if he expects to find the answer in a triumph of human reason without divine revelation. The way to know God’s mind is not through coming up with our own theories and then claiming to know God’s mind, but rather through listening to what God himself has said.
Has God ever stated his reason for creating the universe and for doing things the way he does? Has he identified any one thing as the reason for everything else? Indeed he has. In the Bible God says that the reason for everything is God’s own glory. What is the reason for skies and stars? Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). What is the reason for thunder and rain, donkeys and storks, grass and trees, bread and wine, rivers and mountains, lions and humans? Psalm 104 describes all these things and then says, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works” (104:31). What is the reason God overpowered Pharaoh and rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt? God said, “I will gain glory for myself” (Exodus 14:4). On everything God does is stamped this motto: “For my own sake, for my own sake I do this… I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). At Jesus’ birth the angels chanted, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). When Jesus did his first miracle, says the Bible, “He thus revealed his glory” (John 1:11). Shortly before Jesus death and resurrection, he said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him” (John 13:32). God speaks of his children as those “whom I created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:7). He commands his people, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). God says that in the new creation, “The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isaiah 60:19).
It doesn’t take a genius to notice a pattern here. In one thing after another, God says that the reason for it is his glory. Indeed, God’s glory is the reason for everything.
Is God Self-Centered?
But isn’t there a problem here? If God bases everything on his own glory, if he says, “For my own sake I do this… I will not yield my glory to another,” doesn’t God sound like a self-centered showoff? Yes, as a matter of fact, God is a self-centered showoff—and it’s a good thing, too! God is absolutely self-centered—and he’s perfectly right to be that way. God loves to show off—and it’s a good thing he does.
Let me explain. When God centers on himself and values himself above all else, he is simply giving things their proper value. If you have a pet in your home, you may like it and treasure it a great deal, but don’t you consider yourself more valuable than your pet? If you had to say who belongs at the center of your home, would it be you or your pet? Okay, okay, some pets are so demanding and some pet lovers are so fanatical that almost everything revolves around the pets. But let’s face it, any home where the pet and not the person was central would be mixed up. Now, if it’s not wrong for you to think you’re worth more than a pet, it is surely not wrong for God to think he’s worth more than any of us. It’s just reality.
The fact that one thing is worth less than another doesn’t mean it’s worthless; it just means that things of greater worth should be valued more. The Lord values each sparrow, but he says that one human is worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). God also says that he himself is worth infinitely more than all humans combined (Isaiah 40:22).
It’s wrong for any of us to be self-centered for the simple reason that we’re not the center of the universe. But God is the center, and so it’s perfectly right for him to be self-centered. It’s wrong for us humans to think we’re God, but it’s not wrong for God to think he’s God. That’s who he is! God is right to be self-centered because he is the only self-worth centering on.
And that brings us to another reason it’s good for God to be self-centered: the effect on others. When we’re self‑centered and make our own desires the reason for everything we do, we damage other people. But when God is self‑centered and pursues his desires, he desires others to center on his glory and relish his knowledge, his holiness, his love, his happiness. The self‑centeredness of God is good for others, because he is the fountain of everyone else’s good.
You and I can be truly and permanently happy only when God is central in our thoughts and supreme in our affections. In making his own glory central, God is doing what’s best for us. When we center on God, we can have the same delight in him that he has in himself. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, and we are most satisfied in him when he is most glorified in us. It’s an unchangeable fact that when God delights in the delight his people have in him, he is delighting in himself, for he created them with that capacity for delight and he himself is the object of their delight. It’s not God’s fault that he’s the only infinitely glorious being that exists and the only all-satisfying fountain of happiness for others. He is who he is, and he’s not going to resign or change.
Still another reason it’s right for God to be self-centered is the fact that God is a Holy Trinity of three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, joined in perfect love and united as one being. When God makes God’s own glory the reason for everything, it’s not just as a single, solitary individual looking out for himself but as a union of three supremely perfect Persons mutually loving and enjoying and celebrating one another. The Son glorifies the Father, the Father glorifies the Son, and the Spirit glorifies both and is glorified in both. If any Person in the Holy Trinity did not prize God’s glory above all things, it would be a failure to value and love the supreme perfection of the other Persons in this perfect union. The Father and the Son could never betray each other in that way, nor could the Spirit.
In short, God the Holy Trinity is right to be self-centered because God is the center, because God is the fountain of good for everything else, and because the Persons of the Trinity are faithful to one another in a bond of mutual love and happiness in one another which cannot be betrayed or broken.
A Delightful Showoff
It’s right that God is self-centered, and it’s good that God loves to show off. God loves to show forth his glory, not because he’s vain, but because he considers it a splendid thing for other beings to enjoy him as he enjoys himself. Unlike sinful humans, God is light, and God is love. When God “shows off,” he displays his light and love for others to enjoy and adore. The most loving thing God can do for anyone is to make himself their object of adoration, worship, and delight. God loves to be known and admired and enjoyed, not because he needs our worship in order to be happy but because we need to worship him in order to be happy.
Nothing God does—and certainly nothing we do—can increase or decrease the glory and happiness that God has in himself. “God is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably, and independently glorious and happy” (Jonathan Edwards).
Why did God create the world? Not out of a shortage of glory or happiness but out of a surplus. God wasn’t lonely before he had people to relate to, and he wasn’t bored before he had a world to deal with. How could Father, Son, and Spirit be lonely in the perfect love and understanding of the Trinity? How could boundless beauty, genius, and enjoyment ever be boring? Each Person in the Trinity is more loving and fascinating than all creation combined. Anything in creation that’s loving or interesting is just a droplet from the God the Fountain, a ray from God the Sun. God created the world not because he was overcome with drudgery but because he overflowed with delight.
When God makes his glory the reason for everything, he’s not trying to increase the glory that he has in himself or add to his worth. Rather, he is showing and sharing with others the glory he already has and magnifying his worth in their eyes. In a sense the Trinity is like an enormously rich, loving, perfectly happy family in which the fellowship is so fascinating and fun, and the wealth so boundless, that the members want others in the home to share that happiness.
Some things, it seems, God created simply for himself to enjoy, regardless of whether anyone else ever enjoys them. He has galaxies and quasars that even our best telescopes can’t detect. He has splendid flowers flourishing in mountain meadows that no human sees. He has exotic ocean creatures darting in depths that no human will ever observe. He has birds twittering sweet songs out of range of any human ear. He has billions of fingerprints and trillions of snowflakes, all different, and he enjoys each unique pattern, though few of those patterns are seen or studied by human eyes. He has rubies and emeralds buried in places where no one but he will ever see them. God takes delight in all his works, including many that aren’t perceived by humans.
God delights in many things apart from us, but he had a special delight in mind when he made humanity. He created us not only that he might enjoy us the way he enjoys the stars and flowers, fish and animals, rocks and trees which display his glory unconsciously, but that he might enjoy the worship of thinking, feeling creatures who consciously recognize, enjoy, and adore the glory, goodness, love, and happiness of the Trinity. That’s why people are the crown of his creation.
That’s also why, with the fall of humanity into sin, the Lord has taken astonishing measures to save many. It wasn’t because any of us were worth so much in and of ourselves that Jesus died for sinners, but because God would be glorified in saving people from utter nothingness and in having a society of eternal beings to forever enjoy and exalt the glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The emptier we are without him, and the more delighted we are with him, the more God is glorified as the almighty, all-sufficient, all-satisfying Lord.
God Speaking to God
God’s glory is his greatest passion. That’s clear when we open the Bible and hear God speaking to us, and it’s even clearer when we hear God speaking to God! In John 17 we overhear God the Son, Jesus Christ, speaking to God the Father, shortly before the Son’s death and resurrection that will bring eternal life to those God has chosen. Jesus says,
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began… All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them…
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them…
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me… I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
When we overhear Jesus speaking to his Father, it’s clear that God’s passion for his glory is the reason not only for creation but also for salvation. Jesus went to the cross so that he and his Father might glorify one another. This glory would come by canceling the sins of his chosen ones through his death and giving them eternal life through his resurrection.
And what is eternal life? Knowing God in Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. The Spirit, says Jesus, “will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine” (John 16:14-15). Jesus leaves no doubt that his purpose is to give his people the full measure of his own divine joy, to share with them the very glory the Father has given him, and to insure that God’s love will be in them and that Christ himself will be in them, as the Holy Spirit satisfies their deepest thirst, the thirst for eternal life.
Come and Drink
Now that we’ve heard these towering truths from God’s Word, let’s hear them in another form—from a children’s book, The Silver Chair, one of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. A girl named Jill was getting very thirsty when she came upon a stream.
But although the sight of the water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion…
She couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she couldn’t be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.
“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”
… For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink.” …it was the lion speaking… the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I‑‑could I‑‑would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling of the stream was driving her near frantic.
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.
When C.S. Lewis wrote that, he wasn’t just telling a fun story for kids. He was giving an allegory, a deeper lesson in story form. In the Bible, Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Holy Spirit is described as living water. There is no water of life except God’s Spirit, and there is no way to drink of the Spirit outside the presence of Christ the Lion.
Are you like Jill? Is your soul thirsty? Don’t think you can satisfy your soul at some other stream than the living water of God’s Holy Spirit. “There is no other stream.” And if you wish to drink of that stream, you can’t avoid Jesus the Lion. You can’t ask him to move for your convenience so you can quench your thirst without having him around. It’s easier to move a mountain than to move the divine weight of glory that is the center of gravity for the whole universe. You can’t try to bargain with Jesus on your own terms. You must simply throw yourself on his mercy, to do with you as he pleases.
Whatever your misgivings, Jesus still invites you. Jesus says in Scripture, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). “Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). So drink in God’s goodness by faith. Your inner thirst will be quenched, and God will be glorified in you as you are satisfied in him.
This is what the Bible calls “the good news of the glory of the happy God” (1 Timothy 1:11, literal translation), and it is the greatest news imaginable. God’s aim in dealing with his people in Christ is not only to solve some problems for us but to show forth the riches of his glory. God starts this already now; he will do it more fully when we enter heaven; and he will keep increasing the flow for all eternity.
No moment will ever arrive when God says, “That’s enough. These people have had enough gladness to know my full glory. I’ve glorified myself enough. Time to quit.” No, God’s infinite passion for his glory means that no outpouring, no matter how great, will ever be enough. He will keep lavishing on us more and more of his wisdom, holiness, goodness, and love, without limit. Our gladness in his glory, and his glory in our gladness, will forever keep growing and overflowing. In that flood of glory, we will know firsthand the reason for everything.
Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World
John Piper, The Pleasures of God
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.