True Joy is Found in Obeying God (Luke 12: 13-21)
In her sermon, Rev. Christine reflects about the futile things we all pursue in life. She writes, "we were never designed, never put together, to find our true life in any created thing, but in the Creator Himself". She exhorts us to install Christ in our lives and open ourselves to a completely new way of doing life—live the Jesus way! The Godly way!
Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 12-14, 2: 18-23; Colossians 3: 1-11
Our God is humane, approachable, loving, forgiving, and more. We ought to get deeper in our understanding of this God and the relationship He wishes to have with us, and our appropriate response to Him. Right from the word go of creating us – human beings, God intended that we would be in a close, intimate relationship with Him — that He would be the center of our entire life, that pleasing Him would be the epitome, the embodiment of our joy and deepest satisfaction, that we would give anything to retain that relationship existing at its highest.
But as the Bible tells us, something happened – the unthinkable happened. We—with our eyes wide open, and all our faculties present with us, entertained the sweet talk of God’s enemy Lucifer, who craftily deceived us into rebelling against God and living life in our own way, away from God.
But we soon found that the phenomenal life, we had been promised by the enemy was only a mirage! Yet, the rebellion had monumental repercussions! It could not be cancelled by the mere stroke of a pen. Death was necessary, either of ourselves, or of a worthy substitute. At that time, God initiated the process of winning us back to Himself, through the sacrifice of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a long winding story, told in the Holy Bible.
Our rebellion thrust us away from God and His ways. We were left pretty much on our own to devise ways and means of surviving on this planet, now turned hostile to us and to the kind of life we were created for. We have to contend with fellow sinful human beings, ruthless forces of nature and, unfriendly animals of the wild that we were supposed to rule over and care for, and enjoy company of, and thank the Creator for.
What is a person supposed to do in such novel, foreign, unfriendly environment? We scratch our heads, and think hard, and we “wise up.” We learn how to protect ourselves, and how to attract what we want. Self-esteem becomes of paramount importance. We look for it in a myriad ways. Acquiring the things, the planet has to offer becomes a sensible pursuit. We crave success, pleasure, comfort, security…and all these, we run after with all the gusto we can muster. Good jobs, happy marriages, beautiful homes, great relationships, happy retirements.
We can do religion, we can do Christianity but really at the core of our lives, the pursuit of those things and more, remains the central intent of our lives. If we were to be bisected and our insides analyzed, those are what would be found with our life beating and throbbing to it! I am not at all saying that good jobs, happy marriages, beautiful homes, happy retirements or great relationships are bad in themselves but to worship them is what we should guard ourselves against.
Yet, we were never designed, never put together, to find our true life in any created thing, but in the Creator Himself. The story of the Bible is nothing but the call of God for human beings to wake from slumber and become aware of the futility of pursuing the things named above, as the source of life. Not many human beings come to that realization. There still remains in us a lingering thought, that, yes, having God is good, BUT having the futile things is what would make life REALLY WORTHY LIVING!
In Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 12-14, 2: 18-23, we read the words of a man who had all that the world could ever offer an individual. King Solomon had wealth, pleasure, fame, honor—servants, women—it is said that he had a total of a thousand wives and concubines. I just wonder where he got the time to be with them – 1000 wives and concubines. But we are told that he had wisdom too, his wisdom became legendary in his day. A queen of another country is reported to have visited him to ask him hard questions. The man answered the questions in such an easy manner, leaving the visiting queen and her entourage mesmerized!
In the reading, that king is making an assessment of all his pursuits and work and achievements, and is reaching the paramount and inevitable realization, which God is trumpeting in His Word for all the world to hear—namely, all the pursuits, and achievements, and work, put together, are vanity—meaning empty. They are like a person running to grab the wind and have it in his or her hands to show. Did you see me run so hard? Here, this is what I was running after, it is the wind!
God is yelling loudly, like in a megaphone, to us humans, that He must be the chief pursuit of our lives, for sanity to be restored to us as individuals and to the entire world.
In Luke 12: 13-21, we come upon a teaching story told by Jesus. The man Jesus talks about was crafty. He was about to be fired from his job for inefficiency. He added two and three and got five, as to win over his master’s creditors. So after he was fired, they would be open to helping him in one way or another, and he would survive. No consideration of what God would say? What pleases Him-God? How can I conduct myself in this situation to show to the watching world that I belong to God? No! These are not the kind of questions we ask ourselves, and yet they are vital.
Back to the crafty man, that man could even have been a frequent church goer, perhaps even have some position of responsibility in the church. But the disease planted in all human beings because of the Fall earlier narrated, had not been healed in him. No transplant had yet happened. Juggling life for his survival was still the central philosophy of his life. Friends, that philosophy is a lie. It is the lie — and the lie of all lies, and the root cause of a large portion of the suffering we experience caused by other human beings!
The entire New Testament put together, arises from the understanding that discovering and submitting to Jesus as God come in the flesh, as the Savior, as the Supreme Ruler of the universe, wakes the believer up from slumber. This leads him or her to install a new operating system in himself or herself. This is a system powered by Jesus and His ways, and completely jettisoning, throwing out, forever trashing the old system. No more survival for the fittest. No more seeking survival through acquiring whatever we can get from the planet.
Instead we need to seek to conform our lives to Jesus Christ and His ways and to enjoy doing so as the only way to live, and no other! Holiness is the way to happiness and joy for us as human beings, and it is the only way, no other!
We run after other pursuits to our detriment. Deep disappointment, sorrow, emptiness, and the like will be our final portion if we do not wake from our deep sleep. Paul wrote in Colossians 3: 1-11 that since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is…..and so on! I have nothing to add. In conclusion I can only emphasize two things we have said already:
Number one: We are called here to install a new operating system in ourselves, the system called Jesus. That will lead us to eternity with God. From now on, may we spend our energies developing ourselves in Jesus’ character to make it our own. And of course, uninstall the old operating system of fending for ourselves using our own ingenuity. You cannot have the two systems operating side by side in you. They are opposites. Two opposing systems cannot operate together in a unit.
One cannot have Microsoft Windows 97, 98, and/or 2000 operating together in a computer. Moreover they are now all outdated, and if you tried using them you could not work. If you tried, utter confusion and disaster would be the result. Windows 7 is still operating today, but then there is the newest, Windows 10. To upgrade to Windows 10, you have to uninstall Windows 7. And Windows 10 opens you to a completely new world of service.
So install Jesus as your operating system, remove the old system from yourself, and open yourself to a completely new way of doing life—live the Jesus way! The Godly way!
Number two: May we implant deep in our subconscious, the fact that holiness is our way to true happiness and joy, and that it is the only way, and there is no other. All other purported avenues are counterfeit, phony, sham, fake.
May we not be blinded or confounded by the temporary thrills we can get from unholiness! The end of them will be the opposite of what our human heart longs for and pants after!
People of God, that is God’s message for us today! May we accept it! God is calling us to have authentic Christianity, know Him and worship Him in truth and love.
The Rev. Christine Nakyeyune-Busuulwa is an Anglican priest, ordained in the Anglican Diocese of Mityana, Uganda
Photo by Jacqueline Munguía on Unsplash