The Dancing Puritan

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Only Christ Can Satisfy


Lori and I were returning home from a day of Christmas shopping. We had just finished dinner at a popular soup and salad restaurant and I was stuffed to capacity. Our once-a-year shopping day is looked forward to by both of us. Most of our Christmas shopping is done in one day (with a little help from Amazon). We had been in the van about five minutes after dinner when suddenly I had sharp pain on the left side of my chest. It got my attention. For a moment I felt like Fred Sanford and thought, "This is the big one." Interestingly, my breathing was fine, so I had some level of confidence that I was not having a heart attack. Lori unwrapped a peppermint and gave it to me. Amazingly, after just a couple of minutes the pain subsided. It was indigestion after all and the probability increased that I would live to shop another day.

The sharp pain was not heart related but it did remind me that one day my heart will fail. Ultimately everyone dies of heart failure. The chest pain was a stark reminder that physical life cannot be counted on. But it is not just physical life that can't be trusted. Look around. A rich businessman. who once had a strong financial standing, lost his wealth. A family down the street, who once was the picture of happiness, now has a "prodigal son." You know the stories.

I spent the past two years digging into the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a honest book about the vanity of life. Vanity does not mean worthlessness, it refers to the fleeting nature of all things "under the sun." Even the best things of life are fleeting. They cannot be captured and brought to the chest in a permanent way. They leave. They blow through our hands like a puff of wind. They are here today, gone tomorrow.

Solomon knew it. He tried everything. He built houses, planted vineyards, gardens, and parks. He surrounded himself with people who answered to his every command. He collected silver and gold and was renowned around the world. He collected musicians, music, wine, and women (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). His conclusion: Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (2:11).

The problem for Solomon was not that he possessed silver and gold. The problem was that the good life possessed him. He knew that gifts were to be enjoyed as from God. He learned that good gifts make terrible gods. It is a lesson that all of us need to learn. Anything or anyone can be worshipped.

It is challenging to grow older and to see the remnants of youth fading away. The world is strewn with men my age who are constantly grasping for their glory years (which probably were not as glorious as they are now romanticized to be). Such men often do foolish things. Sometimes they abandon the "wife of their youth" in search for that pretty-little-thing across town. In their vain attempt to show themselves strong they become pitiful in their attempts to be young again. You have seen them. You have felt sorry for them and for those who have felt the impact of their wind chasing. Hollywood is an example. It is plastered across grocery store magazine covers. Hollywood is a lie. Take a look behind the face lifts and multiple marriages that are draped in fine clothes and flashy smiles.You don't have to look very hard to see the utter emptiness of life without God.

Our family went to the local mall the day after Christmas to exchange imperfect gifts. The parking lot was beyond capacity. Christmas Day brought gifts that were not quite right so we rushed to the stores to make them right, knowing full well that the replacements will soon be broken or out of style. The problem is not with shoes, shirts, tech, and movies. The problem is much deeper. Once again, millions of people tried to capture the wind on Christmas morning. They looked to the gifts and overlooked the baby. They didn't know or they failed to remember that all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16). The wind is refreshing but it cannot be captured. It is time to stop chasing the wind and find the meaning of life in the one whom "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." (1:19). Let the next chest pain, sick child, lost business venture, and even your next success remind you of what really matters.