The gifts from last Christmas litter the family room, parked helter-skelter where little hands have abandoned them. After a few months the kids are bored again, the thrill of the latest and greatest "gotta have" toys worn sadly thin. The batteries have faded and the glossy paint shows the tell-tale signs of wear and tear. Worse yet, the bills lie in a sullen heap on the kitchen table, a silent reminder that playtime is long over and "pay-time" has begun.
And the big question remains—are we truly satisfied? Did our gifts, given or received, yield lasting pleasure?
Many in today’s world are engrossed in the search for personal satisfaction through material things. Robert Service reflected this in his classic poem:
"The Spell of the Yukon" "I wanted the gold and I sought it;
I scrambled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into the grave.
I wanted the gold and I got it,
Came out with a fortune last fall;
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all."
The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest teacher who ever walked on planet Earth. His Teaching, like Himself, is transcendent (that is, superior to human reasoning) and absolutely true. And His observation on this subject was direct and to the point: "A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). So, contrary to the popular wisdom, "The most toys" doesn’t win after all!
In a stunning and completely reversal of today’s philosophy, Jesus is saying that inner spiritual wholeness results in external satisfaction, not vice versa. His teaching embraced the truth that "money is the universal provider for everything but happiness, and the universal passport to everywhere but Heaven." He would be the last to dispute that American millionaire’s lamentable statement; "The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money."
The Bible states emphatically that God intends a full and satisfying life for His creatures. The Lord Jesus Himself made this abundantly clear; "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). But since He taught that peace does not come from possessions, what source can provide what Christ called "Life to the full"?
To answer this vitally important question, it is helpful to see what is causing all the dissatisfaction in the first place. Only a correct diagnosis will yield a wholesome cure. And the all-knowing God of eternity has clearly spelled out the problem. The original sin of our first parents in the Garden of Eden has resulted in an inescapable legacy for the human race. Tragically, we have inherited their fallen nature and have produced a bitter harvest of sins against God in our own lives. Like Adam and Eve, we are "like sheep who have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6), and God’s conclusion is straightforward—"There is no one who does good, not even one!" Little wonder, then, that He laments, "They do not know the way of peace" (Romans 3:12,17).
You may be thinking, "If God allowed this whole process to occur, what has He done to correct it? After all, if He truly loves us, He won’t walk away and let us perish, will He? NO! In fact, He has done everything possible to provide salvation for our souls and to give true and lasting satisfaction in our lives.
God has "fixed" the entire human dilemma with a single, bold act of wonderful grace! He has given a unique gift, the reception of which guarantees the "full life" that Christ promised. "For God so loved the world the He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Christ was given (and He gave Himself willingly) to the death of the cross to give satisfaction to God for our sins. And is God satisfied? Yes! A thousand times yes! The Bible practically shouts with Joy—"He will see the result of the suffering of His soul, and be satisfied!" (Isaiah 53:11).
Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis for real life. God declares that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). All who receive this wonderful gift have forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and full satisfaction in their souls.
Do you want real and lasting satisfaction, independent of material wealth or want? Christ is waiting to impart the gift of peace and joy to all who accept Him as Savior. He alone can supply a full life and a secure eternity. "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
Over 2,500 years ago, the nation of Northern Israel, with its capital Samaria, was in a similar crisis. Like us, they were a confident, self-centered society. One historian has written, in words that sound eerily contemporary, "Moral standards had crashed, little honesty was left in business, poor people were badly treated, and upper-class indulgence was a byword; but there was a trade boom on, money was flowing into the country, and...they never had it so good. How could anyone be worried in such prosperity?
How indeed? But we are worried; we are not sure that "be happy" is an adequate philosophy for a whole life. Intuitively we know that wealth has not brought wisdom, materialism has not promoted morality, and commercial success has not yielded a clear conscience. We have a deficit—we know it in our deepest being—but we have few answers.
Well, what about God? In our enlightened day, some simply say that there is no God, therefore He cannot by default, care or speak. "Who needs a voice from God?" they say. "Can’t we simply apply our intelligence, our technology, our popular psychology to the future and expect a bright result? A society that can send men to the moon, after all, must be able to find answers to the riddle of life!"
Alternatively, some may feel that God exists, perhaps even cares, but is powerless to affect our modern society. Big-hearted but toothless, He is a fuzzy relic of our father’s religion, not a relevant participant in our lives. Still others suppose that God has the power, but not the will to intervene for our benefit. To them, He is a force to be reckoned with—like gravity or an earthquake—powerful but not personal, loveless and ultimately unlovable.
These philosophies lead to one inescapable end: utter and unrelieved despair. At best, they yield a God with a big heart and no hands; at worst they leave no heart, no hands, no hope. Human life is an accident without meaning, history is a random joke, and there is no future, no hope, no light.
The Christian, on the other hand, asks a different and intriguing question: Is it possible that God has spoken, but we have not listened? A prophet named Amos had a stunning message for the ancient kingdom of Israel: "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign Lord, "when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it" (Amos 8:11 ff.).
Did God have a message for them? Indeed He did! What’s more, He had been speaking to them for centuries. Since the days of Abraham and Moses and David, He had sent a series of instructions, encouragements, and when necessary, warnings. God indeed was speaking—the word of the Lord through Amos is indisputable evidence of that; the danger was that if they continued to refuse to listen, He would speak no more.
The Bible teaches, all true Christians believe, that God is alive, and that He is not silent. It is important, therefore to understand how God has spoken in the past and how He is speaking today. We can explain this with some simple facts from the Bible:
God has spoken generally through creation (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20).
God has spoken prophetically through holy men of God (Hebrews 1:1).
God has spoken finally and completely through His own Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:18, Hebrews 1:2).
God is speaking permanently in His written Word, the Bible (1 Peter 1:24-25).
God is speaking universally through the gospel, the good news about salvation and eternal life (Mark 16:15).
The good news is this: In spite of widespread abandonment of God and His Word, God is still speaking! And more than that, God is speaking to you and me!
God’s message to us from the Bible is one of solemn warning and tender love. It is a call, on the one hand, to repent of our sin; on the other, to receive forgiveness of sins. It says that sin pays wages of eternal death; it shouts that Christ offers eternal life in Heaven with Himself. It is a message of the curse we all bear, yet it is a story of a Savior who carried our sins and our curse at the cross!
The message of good news is summed up in the following words from God:
"God commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed" (Acts 17:31).
"God commends [demonstrates] His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 3:8).
"Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
And so, our restlessness, our emptiness, our longing for a compass in the dark waters of life has but one answer: We need God! We need to hear Him speak. We need to meet His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for sinners on the Cross. We need to rely fully on Him for forgiveness of sins, to trust Him with our lives, our souls, our all. It is only in Christ that the full meaning of life is realized, the full potential of human-hood experienced, and the full joy of eternal life known!
A final warning, echoing the words of Amos, is in order: "Beware lest He speak no more!" Perhaps He has been speaking to us and we have not been listening: "For God does speak now one way, now another though man may not perceive it" (Job 33:14). We must listen today, for God says, "Today, if you hear [my] voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7).
God’s Word refused is God’s Word lost. "Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).