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God’s river

February 2016 | by John Thornbury

‘And you gave them drink from the river of your pleasures’ (Psalm 36:8).

It is, I believe, the opinion of many, that believers in Christ are a miserable people, eschewing the wonderful delights of sin. I am afraid that Christians do often give the impression that we are an unhappy people, and that is a poor witness.

There are, of course, pleasures in sin. These are called in Hebrews 11:25 the ‘passing pleasures of sin’, which Moses rejected when he chose to follow the Lord. These satisfactions of mind and body which are offered on Satan’s menu are indeed ‘passing’.

The above text reminds us that God has in store for his children more enduring, more truly satisfying pleasures, in knowing and serving him. These are so many that I can scarcely begin to highlight them. But here are three to think about.


There is the pleasure of forgiveness. There is within human beings, even those still under the wrath of God, a voice which we call conscience. And that conscience witnesses that there is a God who holds us all accountable.

Guilt can be an awful load to carry. And when people come into contact with the gospel and reject God’s offer of grace, they can fall into despair. But the child of God does not need to have such feelings of despair, for he knows that Jesus Christ has taken away his sin, by his sacrifice on Calvary.

The believer is a child of God and has free, unfettered access into the presence of God at all times. What a blessing!


There is the pleasure of fellowship with Christ. Have you ever wondered what Peter was talking about when he referred to ‘joy inexpressible and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:8)? He says this joy is in One we cannot see now, but know by faith.

More importantly, I ask you candidly, have you experienced this ‘inexpressible’, this ‘unspeakable’ joy? It is clearly the joy of salvation, the wonderful knowledge that we are saved by God, loved by God and kept by God.

When Jesus walks with us in the fulness of his presence, we are the happiest people on earth. Regretfully too, this joy of Christ’s presence can be lost by sin and doubt.


There is, thirdly, the pleasure of the hope of eternal glory. Faith is trusting God for present benefits and blessings, but hope looks to the glorious future we have in Christ.

It is no secret that on this earth God’s people are beset with many trials, tribulations and troubles. Diseases of all sorts ravage, not only people of the world, but God’s own children. Cancer, heart disease, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, depression and a host of other ills come our way.

I honestly believe that God sends these things to loosen us from our ties to this world and cause us to look forward to the future glory in heaven where there will be no sin and sorrow.

As the song says, ‘This world is not my home, I am just passing through’. We are pilgrims on our way to a better country. This assurance comforts us as we weep and sorrow in this world of sin.

Waters to swim in

Have you ever read Ezekiel’s description of the temple in Ezekiel 40-47? As he watched that glorious temple in astonishment, he saw waters begin to rise up. First it covered his feet and ankles, but slowly it rose and rose, until it covered all in sight and became a river which one could swim in.

Now I am sure that prophecy experts could expound the prophetic significance of these waters, but, since I am not one of those, I can only see in this, a picture of the abundance of God’s mercy and grace to his people.

Sometimes the pleasure of his love may be just a trickle, but eventually it rises and rises and just overwhelms us. ‘Oh God, let me swim in the pleasures of your great salvation!’

John F. Thornbury has served for many years as a pastor in Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

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