The gods of the world display their greatness by blessing their people with the treasures of the world when they are properly obeyed. If the gods are treated just right, they dispense their blessings in the form of earthly wealth and comfort.
Only the God of the Bible is big enough, glorious enough, good enough, and full enough of deep enough love to display the depths of his wisdom and the power of his goodness by withholding the world’s treasures and comforts from his people. In love he withholds. In love he disciplines. In love he shows us through loss, through trial, through rejection — through a cross — that he alone is the true treasure worth possessing.
And his grace is not for those who have worshiped him rightly, nor for those who have blessed him by obedience. His grace is for the weak; his mercy for the rebel.
Among all the gods of the world, with all their wares, our God stands alone — he stands above. He offers himself: a treasure greater, more beautiful, more exquisite than anything we have ever tasted or seen.
Only our God is big enough to deny us what all the world wants to show us that he is the desire of the nations; he is the desire of our hearts.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low. (Jonah 4.7)
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
— Words by John Newton (1779)