12/30/18 Psalm 27
(I’m going to freely interchange the words joy, happiness, contentment, and fulfillment because they all reflect an aspect of what the Bible calls Shalom – and Shalom is actually what everyone is looking for whether they realize it or not. Shalom is a contentment or sense of fulfillment from a rightly ordered harmony or peace inside us & or in our community).
In this life we see that there are many trials for us, as well as many joys to pursue.
Sometimes it seems as though there is an infinite source of both.
Joy, we must pursue, while trials seem to find us.
And strangely enough, we bring on some of our own trials when we pursue the wrong kinds of joys. Why does this seem strange? Because a common phrase I hear is, ‘I just want to be happy (or find happiness or joy)’, as if the goal of finding a joy or happiness legitimizes any path we take in order to be happy or find joy. Pursuing joy does not guarantee finding it any more than pursuing gold guarantees you’ll find it. Finding gold might be a fine enough goal, but looking for gold in chlorinated swimming pools will net you no gold. You’ve got to look in the right places. The thinking today seems to be, if the goal is my happiness, how can what I’m doing be wrong? The truth is some trials do come as the direct result of pursuing joy or happiness. Why? Well, simply put, seeking a certain ends, does not guarantee that any means will get us there. And how we pursue joy and happiness is as important as the joy itself.
But, shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I think will make me happy? “Don’t you want me to be happy?” Actually, I do. But what I want is also actually irrelevant.
But what God actually wants for you is of utmost importance (and relevance). And as it turns out, God too, wants you to find joy as well.
This Psalm 27 from the sermon, gives us a framework for finding true joy through the right means. Finding that true contentment or happiness begins in seeking God Himself. Why?
At the core of our understanding of how we are to best find joy in this world, is knowing that we are made in the image of God. And as His image bearers, we were made with an innate desire to connect with what only God can provide.
Unfortunately, our tendency is to try and fill this yearning with all kinds of other things.
Our heart is not settled until it finds its home in God. Thomas Aquinas put it this way, “Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.”
Instead of first seeking God’s face, we must admit we have the tendency to make as our go-to, some short-term fix, in place of relying on God to meet our deeper needs. This is not to say that God does not use many good things of this world as tools in His service. It is to say however, that He has an order about all things in this world and not all things are fair game or helpful to us.
We can easily become addicted to material things such as an opioid, alcohol, some device or other form of technology, or any number of other stimuli that masquerade as forms of contentment or fulfillment. Once anything usurps from God, that place of being needed in order to get through the day, you are addicted to that thing. In the Old Testament they would have called it trusting in a false god. We were made to find our ultimate fulfillment and joy in Him. We are meant to find our satisfaction in God. When we replace Him with anything else, we are missing out on the biggest and best sense of pleasure in life.
God actually wants Shalom for us all - that deep sense of contentment that comes from a rightly ordered soul inside and a rightly ordered atmosphere around you. It is only found when we genuinely seek Him first.
One final quote I saw: Addiction is a special kind of hell. It takes the soul of the addict and breaks the hearts of everyone who loves them.