What Really Matters
Temporal things have temporal appeal; they can satisfy only temporarily. Many hardships exist in this world and we can turn to many things for comfort and peace. We can focus on music, photography, paintings. There are many academic topics from which to choose: the hard sciences, the social sciences, philosophy, mathematics, the various arts, all manner of things to occupy the mind. We can step outside and focus upon the wonders of nature, of man-made architecture and technology, and all the other marvels that exist in our day. We can focus on friends, relationships, family. We can behold the laughter of children, the heroics of men, the beauty of women. We have movies and television, computers and video games, a seemingly endless assortment of distractions to fill our time. There is fitness and exercise, meditation, health and nutritional studies, all manner of interesting facts and practices to get our minds and bodies in order. Fill up your days, your hearts, your thoughts with all of these things and you (if you are a Christian) will soon be filled with emptiness. Let these things and a plethora of other unnamed distractions allure you, pull you in, entice you and you will indeed smile, but only for a season; thereafter, the smile will be wiped away until it is restored again when something, better yet -Someone-, of greater worth and value is put before you. If these things, many of which are not sinful and some of which may be quite good and beneficial — if these things become idols, if they become the predominant focus of your attention for extended periods of time, if they redirect your attention away from eternal matters, then (if you are like me) you will soon encounter periods of coldness of heart; periods wherein that joy in His salvation seems far out of reach. These things will turn from enjoyments to clouds, pleasures to walls; they will be clouds that obscure the precious Light of the Lord and walls of of separation between you and your god. Separation in prayer, separation in communion, separation in unity felt in the heart.
True bliss comes from a close walk with the Lord; a felt sense of communion with Him. Such a sense can often seem fleeting, especially when we are entangled by the earthly, carnal weeds of temptation. Here today, gone tomorrow; we remember it in times past but wonder when we will ever experience such joy again, that is if we will ever experience such joy again. We could have had such blessed communion just days before but when it eludes us now, it seems like so long ago. We could have been lifted up quite high by a needful sermon, a passage from scripture applied powerfully to the heart, or by an open period of prayer only to find ourselves brought quite low again when these blessed things are once more replaced by the cares, the interests, the relative absurdities of this world.
So much time and effort is spent on utter uselessness. We care about wars and rumours of wars, many of which are overseas and pertain to those who are outside of Christ. I am saddened by death and destruction no matter where it is found; however, I know that God is in control of all of these things and desire that my only care be about the furtherance of His glory, His kingdom, and the edification of his people. As it is said, let the dead bury their dead. Likewise, we often focus on wicked laws and wicked rulers, even the wicked laws and rulers that God -Himself- has ordained to be. This world is cursed; it is not meant to be run efficiently, let alone, righteously. God, in His sovereign omniscience, has ordained these ills; He alone has raised up the very leaders whom we foolishly feel tempted to rail against; He places them in power as a judgment against the wicked and, I believe quite often, as a chastisement upon His often slothful church. We are slothful in prayer, in bible-reading, in the sending of encouragements to others. I know that this is true, at least, with me. Our slothfulness can often lead to redirection towards the cares of this life. We can focus on problems at work, at school, in the neighborhood, in the congregation, amongst family and yet we often forget the One who has ordained these problems; ordained them ultimately for our spiritual growth and good.
The worst thing is being caught up in the midst of such foolishness: doing wrong, not doing that which is right, being aware of our woeful state, and yet proceeding in it nonetheless. Engaging in conversation that does not profit or edify; watching that which does not honour God; listening to that which only feeds the flesh; focusing on that which pulls our affections away from our Lord; wanting that which isn’t ours to have; and yet all the while knowing that we are doing these things, knowing the madness and folly of it all, and yet persisting therein anyway. A heart turned to God is the greatest gift that a man can receive. When God arrests us, interrupts our folly, and forces us (in love) to behold Him and His goodness — that is the greatest blessing in this life. When He causes us to feel the vanity of our present thoughts and actions and gives us the strength to turn from such things to seek Him, to behold him, that -and that primarily- is true joy. When our thoughts are not on what we think of ourselves, what we think of others, what others think of us, but on God and His great love for us and His great worthiness to be honoured and praised, when our thoughts are turned towards Him — then, and only then, do we experience true peace and joy.
Would to God that I had a greater, a longer lasting and more consistent, even a more diligent, single-eyed focus on Him, on His Gospel, and on His kingdom. Then I would be happy indeed. Then I would not have to be so often, so cyclically-often reminded that this world has nothing of lasting value in it. All that matters in this world is the people of God, God -Himself- in His people, and His eternal glory. All temporal joys, distractions, enticements, they will all burn; they will all burn as will the people who are eternally ensnared by them. What a frightening, sobering thought. If we had an honest, solemn view of the fierce, fierce, wrath and agony that awaits the non-elect in hell, if we had an overflowingly appreciative, God-praising view of the glory that awaits us in heaven, even Christ himself and the Godhead of whom He is the fulness bodily, then we wouldn’t (likely) get so caught up in the vain things of time and sense. Yet His grace is sufficient for us and He appears to leave us to ourselves for a season, though never really leaving us, so that we can see the folly of our ways; so that we can see the proneness of our hearts to wander, forsake, and forget; and so that He can shine forth as our great and perfect Shepherd, Friend, Husband, Lord, and God. He is faithful, we are not. He loves us anyway — what a Great God.
As with the Lord Jesus, so it is with us when we read in Psalm 16:11 “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.“