I am afraid that the title to this piece promises more than I can deliver. I don’t have it all figured out. Not even close. If I had it all figured out in my mind, I would still be an impossible gap away from waling it out.
If my mind knew all there was to be known about faith, I am not confident my heart would be sure to follow. In fact, I fear my heart would not follow. It often does not follow where my mind, limited as it is, knows it should go – wretch that I am.
I say this with no love lost for myself and no false humility (to the extent that I can muster a humility that is true).
The worship leader prayed, “You are a God of love”, and he followed with the acknowledgment, “You loved us first.” He continued, speaking to us to remind us that “God forgives is; we fall short, but His mercies are new every day”.
I humbly, gratefully, and joyfully accept these truths. If God were not such as He is, I could not live with myself. I could not forgive myself, but that God forgives me.
This morning I tuned in online to the church service from my easy chair because I tested positive for COVID on Friday. I barely left this easy chair yesterday.
I don’t do well with nothing to do – nothing to do that I want to do anyway, other than mindlessly scrolling through everything my various technological devices will offer me.
Some people are given to doom scrolling, “spending an excessive amount of time reading large quantities of negative news online”, according to Wikipedia, which can cause the mind to race, leading to burnout, and causing you to” feel uncertain, anxious, or distressed”, according to WebMD.
Ironic, isn’t it? The Internet offers conveniently a ready definition to a malady caused by excessive time spent on the Internet. I don’t need to search my mind for the right words. They are at my fingertips with the click of a mouse. I barely need to think about it!
Not that it helps at all. I can define doom scrolling, acknowledge it, understand it and still fall victim to it. Knowledge is like that. It gives us a false sense of mastery and control.
Boredom and mindlessness are a bad combination for me. I constantly desire to be intrigued, engaged, entertained, piqued, inspired … yet I am not always willing to put in the work or thoughtfulness out of which real inspiration, meaning and purpose comes. I also sometimes look for inspiration and meaning in sources that are not capable of delivering it.
Sometimes, I simply don’t want to be bored, but I am too lazy to work at not being bored. Like I said, this is a bad combination for me. It’s a real time suck. An utter waste of time. It leaves me feeling completely unfulfilled and tempted to fill that gap with shadowy pleasures.
After getting up in the morning yesterday and reading through the daily Scriptures that are mapped out for me in the bible app I use, I failed to devote my attention to God or anything meaningful for the rest of the day. I might have said a half-hearted prayer or posted half a thought here and there – nothing but a mist floating over a never-ending torrent of things to see and hear on the Internet.
The sermon this morning was on “the crisis of pleasure”. The crisis of pleasure is a crisis of faith.
It’s a crisis of focusing our primary attention on seeking the scraps we can scrounge up in a world subjected to futility, heads down, eyes focused in the dust, when God is nudging us to look up. It’s a crisis of settling for the meager samplings found in the here-and-now while ignoring Christ, the hope of glory, who offers us things we can’t even imagine.
My mind knows these things full well. I write about them often. It might even be the most common theme of my writing – letting go of the things of this world to seek first the Kingdom, living as strangers and aliens in this world that is passing away, because we long for a heavenly country.
The pleasure we seek in this world is to please the self. There is no other kind. The pleasure we long for is the pleasure God gives back to us when we please Him:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“
That brings us to the sermon, which was about Enoch, a man who was commended for his faith, because he pleased God. (Heb. 11:5) Enoch was a man who “walked with God”. (Gen. 5:22, 24) Reading these passages together tells us that walking with God and pleasing Him are the same things, and they are evidence of our faith, because:
[“W]ithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Once again, we see that faith is an action word, something I have noted a few times lately. Faith is an action that involves walking!
Interestingly, the word translated as “walked” in the Hebrew is הָלַךְ (halak), which means “to go, come, walk”. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word conveys that idea that Enoch came, and he went, and he walked with God – wherever he was and in whatever he did.
The suggestion is that Enoch always walked with God, everywhere and at every time, and yesterday I didn’t walk with God beyond my morning bible reading routine…. Once again, I find myself prone to wander, as the old hymn goes:
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
(This old hymn that most people who have spent much time in church have heard or sung before was penned by Robert Robinson at the age of 22 in 1758. Robinson was an English Dissenter (dissenting from the Church of England). I note, also, how easy it is for me to get distracted!)
Prone to wander I am, and always seem to be. I am eternally grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning, because most mornings I need them.
I think most of us are more “prone to wander” than we are like Enoch, who “walked with God”. God showed His pleasure in Enoch by when He simply “took him away” so that Enoch could not be found.
Of all the people in the Hebrews 11 “faith hall of fame”, Enoch is the only one who apparently never tasted death, so the fact that we are less like Enoch and more like Robert Robinson puts us in good company. All the more, though, these things remind me of the importance of walking daily with God.
From the sermon today, I am reminded that it’s impossible to please God without faith. Faith begins with belief and continues into action. We must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. We need to believe that He is real and that He is good.
That is the criteria for a life that pleases Him – believing in Him and believing that He is good. Why is that so hard?
“[A]nyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6) We have to come to Him. Walking with God starts with coming to God.
The fact that we must come to God illustrates that we do not begin with God. We have to come to Him. We don’t start with God; we have to come to Him, and coming to Him is an act of faith.
We can come to God because Christ removed all obstacles; He tore down the walls that separated us; He moved all of all the things that separate us out of the way. Jesus made the way for us.
But, it’s not enough just to come to God; we most continue to come to Him. Because we are prone to wander, we must continually come back to God. Coming back to God is an act of faith, because we trust Him; we believe that He is good; and He is a rewarder of those who come to Him.
Eventually, though, we should also go with God. If we are to be more like Enoch, who pleased God, we should not just come to God; we should go with God and walk with God wherever we go.
Kevin Pruitt, the pastor wo preached at Ginger Creek Community Church this morning, is famous (or maybe infamous) for his funny examples that make a point. The example today was “over sampler” – the person who clearly takes more samples than he should have while other people are waiting in line.
He even told the humorous story as reported somewhere of a man who absconded from a grocery store with something like a pound and a half of “samples”. He was tackled in the parking lot by security and arrested for theft.
Clearly, there is a line (somewhere) between sampling and oversampling. And then there is theft!
The point of the humorous story is that samples are not meant to fill us up. Samples aren’t meant to be a meal. Samples aren’t meant to sustain us. Samples are meant to be just a taste.
In this life, we get just a taste of the goodness of God. The things that give us pleasure are just a sampling of God’s goodness, but they are not the meal God has prepared for us. They aren’t a substitute for what God as planned for us.
The things that give us pleasure are no substitute for God and relationship with God. Jesus said, “Abide in me and let my words abide in you.” (John 15:4) Jesus spoke of his death and resurrection when he said, “On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)
John the Apostle said, “Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:6) This is another way of saying that the person who walks as Jesus walked abides in God. Jesus, like Enoch, pleased God because he walked with God; he came and went with God.
The Psalmist encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good”! (Ps. 34:8) The experience of abiding in God and walking with God, is a sample that we cannot get too much of. Tasting the goodness of the Lord, not just in the shadow of “pleasures” we can get in this world, but in eternal relationship with our Maker is food that sustains us.
Meanwhile, for those of us unlike Enoch – those of us prone to wander – let us ever continue to come to God, to go with Him and walk with Him as often and as far as we can, making our way back to Him as often and as quickly as we can continue on to in our journey to God’s “far kingdom”.