This World Will Leave You Empty

Yesterday I wrote an article that spoke of living as an exile in this world. So, I thought I’d follow that up with a related thought that God has been impressing upon me more and more as time passes. It seems that people are often allured by the things of this world, whether it be beauty, money, fame, intelligence, a fulfilling spouse, athleticism, materialism- clothes, cars, houses, boats, recreation- vacations, travel, alcohol, sex, good food, drugs, gambling, pornography, entertainment, community status, or even just being accepted or respected by others. This is certainly not an exhaustive list. People often live for very unusual things. Some of the things I’ve just mentioned are not sinful or harmful in and of themselves, but in excess, any of these things can cause some significant problems. And, above all, it must be noted, NONE of these things can make a person happy for a lifetime. This last line is really the point I’m driving at today. If you look to any of these things to find happiness in life, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. What does Scripture say about this?

1 John 2:15-17 15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Another text that reinforces this is Philippians 3:18-21 18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

These 2 texts better illustrate what I’m trying to say than I ever could. Here is the sad thing for me, personally. I see so many Christian people who say that they live for Christ and that He is their all in all, but then when you see how they are invested in this world, it becomes apparent that they have been deceived into believing that these things bring them joy. Just pay attention to what really gets a person excited and you’ll see what they really live for.

The truth is that the world makes many promises but rarely ever delivers on them. Just watch TV commercials for about 5 minutes and you’ll see that advertisers know they’re marketing to a people by appealing to their discontentment. “Are you unhappy with X? Try this new product!” And then you’ll see the testimonials from people whose lives have been improved so dramatically because of the product. The truth is that we are dissatisfied with life. Why? We’re dissatisfied because we are believing the lie that these various things will help us find lasting happiness. And there is temporary pleasure to be found in these things, but they will leave you empty. That emptiness you feel will drive you to seek happiness in the same place. Only this time, you’ll have to have a little bit more. It’s a vicious cycle.

You will never find satisfaction living for the things of this world. And the truth is, you will never find happiness only using God as one thing among many that makes you happy. Yet, that is usually what He gets from us. When our minds are set on earthly things, we end up living as enemies of the cross. Oh, we may say we’re a friend of God, but our actions speak louder than our words, and the true joy of our lives betrays us when we interact with others. Our schedules speak loud and clear as well. It seems we’re more worried that our kids be the star of whatever thing they’re involved in than we are with their spiritual development. These things are very telling. If you live this way, do not be surprised if you look back with much regret some day. Only God is going to satisfy you at the deepest level and in any lasting way. Look to Him. “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Rest for your soul can only be found in an ongoing, vibrant relationship with God through Jesus Christ, empowered by His Spirit.

Your Struggle Is Worth It

Do you ever feel like you’re all alone pushing against the tsunami of a culture that is traveling a million miles per hour toward destruction? I feel that at times. I’m reminded of that video from the song from Switchfoot called “I Dare You to Move” in which the streets are filled with people sprinting in one direction while one person tries to run against that current. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE-Krlqi4fk Sometimes I get very frustrated trying to reach people for Christ and share the Gospel. There are definitely times when it seems nobody is listening or, worse still, that nobody even cares.

I’m reminded of what Paul said to the church at Corinth in chapter 3 of his first letter. The context here is a bit different, but the point he’s making is very applicable and helpful to the scenario I’ve mentioned above. Listen to what he says here:

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.

This is the answer to my frustrations. Who are we as believers who share the Gospel and make disciples? We are merely servants of God. God is the one working in the hearts of people in His perfect timing. What do we do? By God’s grace, we must plow up that hardened ground- the hard-hearted person who refuses to hear the Gospel or even acknowledge God. Sometimes they are listening more than you know. Sometimes a stinging truth sparks an angry response. Your intent is not to offend, but truth often offends. Sometimes the one who protests most is truly wrestling with it even while they appear to be firmly against the message. What else do we do? We plant the seeds. We share the Gospel with more than just actions, but also with spoken word. And we may not see the result. What comes next in the process? Sometimes we get to take part in seeing that seed take root and life begins. Sometimes we get to see the harvest. Often that harvest has come because of the labor of others who never got to see the fruit of their efforts.

Now, Paul switches metaphors on us and speaks of a building. He is emphasizing that it is very important to be mindful of how we build on the foundation which has been laid, which is Christ. This is what he was dealing with in Corinth. Divisions like the ones in this church arise when people begin to make new believers their own disciples rather than disciples of Jesus Christ or when believers take their eyes off of Christ and put them on a man. So, we must be careful how we build and be certain that we are always pointing people to Christ.

But here is the point that I want to emphasize my friends. There are times when we don’t see results like we hope to see. I think of Isaiah and Jeremiah, who were called by God to speak to the children of Israel. As He told them to speak, He also told them that their messages would not be heeded. I can’t imagine the frustration. God often gives me a glimmer of hope, even though it’s not as much as I want to see. Still, I do see God working and that He is still calling a people to Himself.

I just want to encourage you, dear Christian laborer, that your efforts are not in vain. Even in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, there was a remnant who heard the message and had faith. Even in the days of persecution and torture, which still go on to this day in the lives of believers throughout the world, the Gospel will not be thwarted. It will go to the ends of the earth and there will be people from every nation, tribe, and tongue standing before the throne of God one day. So, keep fighting the good fight my friends. Keep plowing the hardened soil. Keep planting the seed. Keep watering the seed. Keep harvesting. Keep building with materials that will last. God is building His Kingdom and we get to be a part. All glory to God!