“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1
I realize what all the advertisements say. They say, “Spend this on yourself because you owe it to yourself; you’ve earned it.” Have you ever noticed this about marketing? “You’ve earned it; you owe it to yourself to spend this on yourself.”
What God says is, “You’ve earned it with what? Look at all you have. You’ve earned it with what? You’ve earned it breathing the air I created and gave you free. You’ve earned it with the mind that I created and gave you free. You’ve earned it with the connections I gave you free. All these things are from me. The fact that you were born at this time in this country instead of 1200 years ago in the mountains of Tibet is from me. Everything you’ve got is a result of my goodness to you. Every single bit of it. I ask you now to share it.”
The mark of a true Christian is they have a completely different attitude towards money and possessions because they know it’s all completely from God.
In the academy award winning movie Chariots of Fire, one of the main characters, Harold Abrahams, is determined to win the 100 meter dash. He’ll stop at nothing to see that gold metal around his neck. Just before the Olympic finals of that race, he’s in the training room getting ready when he suddenly becomes reflective. Aubrey, one of Harold’s teammates, is in there with him and becomes the sounding board off which Abrahams utters these profound lines:
“You, Aubrey, are my most complete man. You’re brave, compassionate, kind. A content man. That’s your secret. Contentment. I’m 24 and I’ve never known it. I’m forever in pursuit yet I don’t even know what it is I’m chasing. Aubrey, old chap, I’m scared… And now in hour’s time I’ll be out there again. I’ll raise my eyes and look down that corridor four feet wide with ten lonely seconds to justify my whole existence. But will I?”
You can hear it in his voice, “If only I could win, then I would know I’m somebody.” Have you ever thought that? Said that? Dreamed that? “If only… then I could be content.”
Harold’s story doesn’t end there. He walks out onto the track, raises his head looking down that four foot corridor and wins gold. Now he was somebody! Or was he?
In one of the next scenes, Abrahams is in the bar looking a bit inebriated, staring off into the distance as if to say, “Is this all there is?”
This is the emptiness of sin.
Sin isn’t just doing bad things. Sin is also taking good things and making them ultimate things. Harold took a good thing like winning gold at the Olympics and turned it into an ultimate thing that ended up enslaving him, disappointing him, and leaving him empty.
Are you empty? What good thing have you turned into an ultimate thing?
Friction occurs when the desires of my heart and my external reality are at odds with one another. In order to resolve the friction, we are prone to believe the best way to do this is to change our external reality.
Think back to the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. He’s fasted for forty days and the devil comes to him to test him. What approach does the devil take? “Jesus, you haven’t eaten anything for forty days. I can see that you are hungry. Commands these stones to turn into bread and the problem will be resolved.”
The devil spots the friction. There is conflict between Jesus’ “inner life” and outer reality. So the devil says, “Jesus, you need to alter your outer reality.” Jesus says, “No, I need to nourish my inner vitality.”
The devil’s suggestion to resolve the conflict is for Jesus to change his outer reality: command the stones to become bread. But Jesus vehemently opposes this tactic. Jesus says, “I don’t need to alter my outer reality. I need to feed my inner life on the Word of God.”
Learning to interpret the hard times correctly means embracing a hard-to-swallow truth: the best way through hard times isn’t to change your outer reality, but to feed your soul through the hard times. That’s the Jesus way.