Three of the delightful saints in my land.
As for the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.
—Psalm 16:3 (ESV)
What makes your heart glad? Is it the saints you know? Do you even know any saints?
Saint-Friends Who Stick Closer Than Brothers
This is not super-spiritual, silly talk. I know this because in the last week I had not one or two, but four friends tell me in four different ways that blood isn’t always thicker.
All four confided to me wounds inflicted on them by members of their own biological families: a sister whose words are sword thrusts, a brother whose whose self-imposed silence hurts her, another brother whose selfish choices take him to a distant land, and a father who delayed until my friend was 42 before he said “I love you.”
All four also shared how a Christian friend—a saint in their land—had helped them through. How, for example, when a wound was raw, one texted a friend to pray. Her friend not only prayed, but came twenty minutes later to whisk my friend to a happier place.
Who are the saints in your land? But first, what even is a “saint”?
Saint literally means, “holy one.”
If the term is murky, don’t worry. You’re not alone. One source reports that the word “saint” has almost completely lost its original meaning.
[T]hat is, of being set aside for the exclusive ownership and use of the Triune God. Very few people in the Christian Church today would consider themselves to be “saints”…Unfortunately the original meaning of the word “saints” has largely fallen into disuse.
But if the word is still fuzzy, a quick survey of Scripture makes it clear: “saints” are simply believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament all believers are called saints, even when their character is “dubiously holy” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2, Rom. 1:7, Eph. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2). Saints are not a special class of Christian. They are all who believe in Christ and are sanctified by his Spirit.
In other words, Saints-R-Us.
Falling Off Pedestals & Growing Up
Still, we’re prone to put people like Mother Teresa and Apostle Paul on pedestals and to think that they’re the only ones who can attain “saint status.”
But, as C.H. Spurgeon explains,
Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are “called to be saints” by that same voice which constrained them to their high vocation…They lived with Jesus, they lived for Jesus, therefore they grew like Jesus. Let us live by the same Spirit as they did, “looking unto Jesus,” and our saintship will soon be apparent.
The saints in my land are growing more like Jesus as they:
- Face their fragile health and uncertain futures with hope.
- Share temptations humbly and depend on God’s strong grace.
- Forgive faster because they know they are forgiven more.
- Count it all joy because they know suffering produces glory.
That’s why the saints in my land make me glad. They all remind me of Jesus.
Saints Strengthen Our Hands In God
In 1 Samuel 23:16-18, we find the best description of a saint-friend. David is not yet king and is fleeing for his life from a jealous king Saul.
Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.”
Whatever else Jonathan did to knit his soul with David’s he did this: he strengthened his hand in God.
Jonathan could not rescue David, but he strengthened his hand in God. Jonathan couldn’t give David all the answers, but he strengthened his hand in God. Jonathan couldn’t stay with David, but he strengthened his hand in God.
We don’t use that phrase much. Instead we might say: “He encouraged me,” or “She gave my hope.”
As David Guzik noted,
No matter their exact words, we walk away from time saint-friends feeling stronger and more ready to take on the trial. We don’t feel so afraid. Maybe our friends remind us of one of God’s promises to us. Jonathan reminded David of God’s promise to him—that you shall be king.
When our friends remind us of God’s precious, unbreakable promises they stabilize and strengthen us. My best friends don’t ignore my pain or minimize my trials and they seldom solve my problems.
But they do point me to the rock that is higher than I.
“Those Nearest Him Are Nearest To One Another.”
It’s no wonder, then, that friends like this may be closer to us than our non-believing families. That’s the oneness of the body of Christ; the intimate, eternal fellowship we have with the saints.
It is why David cannot help but say, “As for the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.” Or as Pastor S. L. Johnson said, “God’s the center. Those that are nearest him are nearest to one another.”
Saints take joy in saints.
David did that. He took delight in the saints he knew. “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,” (Psalm 101:6), and “I am a companion of all who fear you,” (Psalm 119:63). David delighted in the saints.
Do the Saints Make You Glad?
What about you? Do you delight in the saints? Do you cherish God’s people? Do they make you glad or do merely endure them?
If your honest answer is merely endure, I have two questions for you. They’re from this sermon by Pastor John Piper.
- Do you know any Christians? I mean radical people who lay down their lives for Jesus because…God has broken them free from their love affair with the world and their ego and power and comfort.
- Why would it be that you, a professing Christian, would find more joy in people who find no joy in what is your primary joy?
These questions are hard hitting. But it makes sense: If we treasure God, we treasure those who treasure God.
These are the excellent ones in whom is all my delight.
The “Sweetness of the Saints” Test
Saint-friends are sweet to us because God is sweet to them. That’s why this saint stuff matters. Because it is one way we can assess our relationship to the Lord.
It’s a simple test, really. Because, as James Boice explains, “Those who love the Lord will love the company of those who also love him.”
As I close, I ask again: Do you love other Christians? Do you cherish the people of God and seek to be near those who treasure your Lord?
Do you delight in the saints in your land?
Yes? Go, tell them so.
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Afterward, if you’re still not certain you know any saints:
“The new men are already here, dotting the earth—recognisable if you know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be NEEDED: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianit,