Updated: Apr 29, 2022
We've made it through the first two weeks of the short sermon series 'Why God?' Dean opened the series up dealing with the question of 'Why is there pain in this world" and this past week I dealt with the question of "Why are we here? What's my purpose?"
Sometimes I think as humans we believe that if we just know the underlying Why, it will make everything better. Maybe it's narcissism, 'I'm important enough to get an answer!' Maybe it's some form of entitlement, 'If I'm going to have to endure this, then I'm going to know the reason why!' For whatever reason, in times of heartache and pain we always seem to come back to 'WHY?'
Dean discussed how pain refines, how it often times helps to redirect us and though we have to endure something in the short run, in the long run it is often used for our ultimate good. True, as humans we don't like the long game, especially when it's something we won't see in our natural lifetime. The idea that a pain endured here on Earth may reap something on the streets of gold leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths. We're part of the Burger King generation, we want it our way and right now.
Which ties in, in large part, to what we talked about this past week with purpose. You know when we get all spun up, when we feel we have the right to demand an answer out of the Almighty, it really points to the purpose of our lives. I feel I have a right, I feel God has to answer to me for what is going on, for what He's allowed to happen, for what He's put me through because THIS IS MY LIFE! And something about that makes us think we should be in control, that we should get to set the rules.
Stop and think of that fact for a moment. When pain, disappointment, heartache, and hurts come and we go to God demanding an answer for why we're going through something, it often goes back to that phrase Dean used- 'I don't deserve this.' I don't deserve this because on my scales, in my eyes, by my feeling of justice I've done enough, been good enough, to earn a better situation.
We want God to play by our rules because 'It's my life.'
We don't like those words I quoted from Rick Warren from His book Purpose Driven Life - It's not about you! We looked at several verses that lay out for us that the purpose of our lives, the purpose of us being created was to bring God glory! But that doesn't fit really well with the narrative that we'd rather hear and believe.
All the way back in the garden, sin has always been attached to us failing to believe this truth. What did the snake persuade Eve to do? Don't listen and believe God, you decide what's best for your life, you blaze the trail that you want to go down, you don't have to follow God's rules! Seek your own Glory, make it all about you....we all know how that worked out.
As Scripture says, there's nothing new under the sun. One of the greatest ways the enemy tries to distract us today is to get us to take our eyes off the Glory of God as our focus and to make ourselves #1. One of the tools that he often uses to accomplish this is to manipulate pain. That's why these first two sermons in the series have been so important and go hand in hand.
Think of all the ways that the enemy is manipulating pain to try and get people's eyes off of their ultimate purpose of bringing God glory. Pain comes in- I hurt, I'm lonely, I FEEL like this or that... and with every emotion and desire for something that is missing in our lives comes the promise of something that will fulfill that gap (Something other than God). The enemy is so good at hanging a carrot out before us that 'Can't possibly be bad if it makes me feel better, if it makes me happy!'
So people forget that scripture warns us that 'The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick; who can understand it?' (Jeremiah 17:9) So when the affair feels good, when premarital sex takes that emptiness away for a while, when cheating swells your bank account and makes you feel secure, when homosexual relationships give you the feeling that someone else just understands and 'gets' me, when plagiarizing that essay makes you feel smart, when....anything goes against what God says, but you justify it by saying "I like how it makes me feel" then the functional purpose of your life is to Please You, to Seek Your Glory, to put you on the Throne.
The catch 22 is that while you may salve the pain for a time, in the end you will remain unsatisfied because your actions have taken you further from the purpose you were created for. And when the promise of the lie begins to fade, when pain returns, and returns more pronounced because you are further from what brings ultimate happiness- Being in God's Will- then what?
Unfortunately, what we all too often see is that people get caught up in the cycle of chasing the next carrot. Each venture down a new path of seeking self-satisfaction, while coming up empty, makes them feel less and less like they can turn back to their true purpose, glorifying God. They are deceived into believing they are too far gone, they believe the enemies lie that God wouldn't want them or that they're in too deep and can't turn from their sins.
The truth is that many of the very paths people get caught up in are addressed in
1 Corinthians 6: 9-11
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Verse 11 is such a blessing and ray of hope for people who are caught up in chasing the carrot. Where you are or where you've been isn't where you have to stay. Paul says, be cleansed, turn from sin, and live your life going forward for the glory of God!
This is a weighty teaching. Because its so easy for us to point our fingers at the lives of others and identify the ways that they are chasing their own glory, own happiness, own comfort in a direction opposite to God's glory. And another great way the enemy works at keeping us from dealing with our problems is to persuade us to hyper-focused on the problems of others. (It's a whole splinter plank situation.)
That's why we often turn a blind eye to the pain that exists in our own lives. Maybe we are even blind to how we have started chasing carrots ourselves, deviating in small and not so small ways from the standards God has set for us. We think to ourselves, yeah, but I'm still a good person, yeah I'm still going to church, yeah I'm still.....
But if we're willing to look at our lives and make allowances for how we deviate from God's standards, how am I dealing with the pain? Whose glory am I living for?