Man was built to be in continual pursuit. We are in the pursuit of something at all times. It seems to me that the chief thing we are all pursuing is our own happiness. I believe if we truly ask ourselves why we do the things that we do, the answer that lies at the root of nearly every decision we make is the pursuit of our own happiness. We buy lavish cars and luxury homes because they make us feel good about ourselves and bring us convenience. We pursue money and wealth because they offer peace and security. We desire to go on vacations because they give us rest and relaxation. And some even turn to alcohol, drugs, and pornography because they make them feel good. We are all pursuing the same things….happiness, peace, joy, contentment, fulfillment, etc. We all seek our own pleasure. All men are alike in this. And I believe the fact that we are all in pursuit of these things is a piece of evidence that points to the fact that we were created to need and desire these things. And if we were created to need these things then we must agree that it is not wrong or sinful to desire and seek after them. Really, the question we must all ultimately answer is this….Where do we believe we will find these things that our soul desires? Where should we be seeking?
I would propose to you that both the things of this world AND God offer us happiness and joy and contentment. We can find contentment and security in money. We can find some joy in that luxury car and lavish home. There is rest to be found as we lie on the beach on that vacation. That new thing we just have to buy will give us some happiness. Drugs and alcohol do feel good! There would be no addicts if they didn’t. I believe the ultimate issue is one of comparison. I suppose we could say that we are comparison shopping in some sort of way. There is the store of this world and the store of God. Both have made claims to offer what we are seeking. The decision to buy would be easy if one store had none of what it claimed to sell but that’s not the case. As we have already discussed, both stores will sell us a version of the goods we are after. The decision would be easy if we could shop in both stores, but that’s not the case. The word says that “the worries of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18).The question we must ask is this….Which store has the greater goods? Which goods are of greater value and more satisfying? This is where we have made our mistake. I believe we have made one of two fatal errors. One, we believe that what this world has to offer is better than what He offers. We simply believe that the store of this world has the greater product. Or two, we are satisfied too easily. What I mean by this is that we may, with our rational mind, believe that God has the better product, but it really doesn’t matter because we are currently satisfied with the product we are buying in the store of this world. At the current time, we are a loyal customer. Why shop elsewhere? We are content. Once again, I will quote the great theologian C.S Lewis from his book, The Weight of Glory…
“…it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half –hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased”
John Piper refers to Lewis’s statement in his book Desiring God and says this…
“It is not a bad thing to desire our own good. In fact, the great problem of human beings is that they are far too easily pleased. They don’t seek pleasure with nearly the resolve and passion that they should. And so they settle for mud pies of appetite instead of infinite delight.”
Pascal says it well in his work Pensees…
“There was once in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”
So I will say it again. Either we simply don’t believe that what God offers is better than what this world offers or we are currently satisfied with what we are receiving from the world and therefore we find no compelling reason to shop elsewhere. At the current time, we are satisfied with our “mud-pie”. So what does God do? I will tell you what He does. He lets us continue to eat our mud-pie. Just as the father let the prodigal son leave and squander his inheritance. He lets us continue to shop in this world until we finally realize just how unfulfilled we really are. He lets us seek after the gods of this world until we find ourselves empty and depressed and alone. He lets us shop until we find that the gods of this world have left us enslaved. Enslaved to debt. Enslaved to our addictions. Enslaved to our lust for material things. Enslaved to our worldly ambitions. In the words of the addict, He lets us hit “rock bottom”. He is not a God who forces us to shop in His store. He lets us shop elsewhere until we become so sick, and tired, and weighted down, and overwhelmed, and empty that we decide to come to the One who created us. He waits to be wanted. He waits to be needed. And that is why Jesus said…”Blessed are the poor in spirit.”(Mathew 5:1) The poor are needy. The poor have entered the store of the world and realized they came out empty handed. They realized they were deceived. The poor gave their money and time to the shopkeeper and came out with nothing in return. The prodigal came home poor and ashamed. How blessed are those who realize they are empty and poor and needy. How blessed are those who have come to the point that the mud-pie no longer satisfies. They are craving something greater! Their soul is parched and dying of thirst and it cries out like David in the Psalms… As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God (Psalm 42:1)
I have found in my own walk with God that there is a direct correlation between my experience with God and my neediness of Him. I don’t shop in the right store every day. My wife will certainly attest to that fact. Many days I wander back into the old store and come out with depression and anger and anxiety. And as I said, He lets me shop there until I become poor again. But in those greatest moments of neediness, and by His grace alone, He has allowed me to experience His presence at various moments in my life. It is in those moments I was able to get just enough of a glimpse of Him to realize that what was to be found in His presence was infinitely greater than what this world has to offer. In those moments I was alive. In His presence I am reminded of when I got glasses for the first time as a kid. I had no idea my vision was blurry and I couldn’t see until I put those glasses on for the first time. Then I realized what I was missing. That is what His presence is like. You don’t realize you were dead until you have felt what it is like to be alive!
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