prayer

Why happiness is so elusive…

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Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

-James 4:2-3

John D. Rockefeller built a fortune through his company, Standard Oil. Seeing a need for a reliable brand of kerosene that would not explode into flames as kerosene often did in the 1800s, Rockefeller set out to develop a safe way to refine the liquid fuel from oil, and then brand it so that anyone buying it would know they bought a safe product. Hence the name, “Standard.” As in, “This product lives up to our standards of safety,” and burns bright enough to illuminate our homes and offices to our standard. It elevated our standard of living.

Rockefeller’s shrewd business skills and ability to leverage service, money and volume built his empire. He built strategic partnerships with railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, eliminated competitors through hostile takeover and stock purchases, and never quit working to expand his empire.

To this day, the name “Rockefeller” is synonymous with wealth. Unlike many who inherit wealth, Rockefeller built his from nothing. Today, his family still benefits from his decisions.

Yet, when asked, “How much money is enough,” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

At the height of his wealth and power, Rockefeller basically owned America. Yet, even at the height of his wealth and power, Rockefeller neither found happiness nor peace. At least, he didn’t find it in his wealth and power.

The fundamental fact of life is that, if you can’t be happy where you are, with what you have, then having more will not make you happy.

That’s why James 4:2-3 says:

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James addressed discontentment among early Christians by pointing out two things. (1) They didn’t engage God in prayer about their needs and wants, and (2) their motivation was suspect.

The first situation addressed here is discontentment. The Christians to whom James wrote were not happy. They desired things that they could not have. They wanted more. They struggled for more, yet they failed. The harder they pressed, the harder the world pressed back.

The first reason those who read James experienced this torment dealt with their worldly attitudes. They wanted, and fought to have, but failed to obtain, because they didn’t ask God. They neither asked God for the blessings they sought, neither did they ask for God’s permission and direction.

These Christians lived a carnal, worldly existence. In doing so, they excluded God from their day-to-day lives. That’s an important detail to remember. When we live in the carnal, day-to-day world, without seeking God through prayer, Bible reading and meditation (deep thoughts on the scriptures), we are excluding God from our day-to-day lives.

These Christians, having excluded God from their lives, received no blessing from God. Why would He bless and reward His children who avoid His presence.

James then addressed another problem. Those who had approached God in prayer about their desires did so with impure motives.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Those who had gone to the Lord in prayer to request specific blessings did so for the sole reason of pleasing their flesh. They wanted that which they could consume, not that which they could use to bless God and others.

A good example of this would be the man who prays for the new convertible, the beach house, or for the winning lottery numbers.

So, while they did follow Biblical directives to pray, their hearts were not right. Instead of having a heart for God and His people, they were selfish. Therefore, their prayers went unanswered.

That brings us to a very pointed question. “What’s my motivation?” Are we self-focused, or focused on others? Do we see others? Or do we only see ourselves?

Happiness is defined as confidence and security. Do you feel confident that the Lord will do great things in your life? And are you secure, knowing that He will provide, protect and care for you? If so, then you are happy, whether you feel joyful or not. If you do not feel confident and secure, it might be because you are searching for confidence and security in the wrong things. At that point, nothing will provide happiness for you, regardless of how much of that nothing you have.

As for John D. Rockefeller, you might be surprised that amassing wealth and making money wasn’t his primary motivator, as he is quoted as saying, “I had no ambition to make a fortune; mere moneymaking has never been my goal. I had an ambition to build.”

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Consider your ways

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Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.

-Haggai 1:5

In Haggai 1, the Lord points out how the people of Jerusalem who had returned to the city to rebuild the Temple became reluctant to do so, possibly fearing political retribution. Yet, despite that fear, the people continued to build their own houses. That prompted the Lord to respond with, “Consider your ways.”

When the Lord told the people of Jerusalem to “consider their ways,” He was telling them to check their Spiritual status, their motivations, and their choices. On that note, it’s a good idea that we all “consider our ways.”

First, let’s consider our Spiritual status. Growing up in the American South, Christianity was the assumed religion among our friends and neighbors. Nearly everyone went to church somewhere on Sunday morning. People lived a basic moral lifestyle, identified as Christian, and gasped at anything that appeared “unChristian.”

One of the most dangerous things a person can do is assume the status of being a Christian without actually having the faith that makes you a Christian. Some call this, “professing the faith without possessing the faith.”

What makes this dangerous is that a person can delude himself into thinking that he is a Christian and is going to Heaven, only to be told on Judgment Day, “Depart, for I never knew you.” Thus, the Lord warned in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

In that passage, you had people who thought they were going to enter into the Lord’s Kingdom, only to be reckoned with the fact that they lacked the one key thing required for salvation, Faith.

They pleaded with the Lord, noting the many wonderful things they did. Notice how the Lord did not argue against that. They had the works, but they lacked that personal relationship with Christ that comes by faith. So, the Lord rejected them.

Therefore, it is imperative that we all take stock of our Spiritual lives to see whether or not we are truly Christians, whether we truly know the Lord as our Savior. After all, it would be tragic to spend a lifetime in church every Sunday, hosting youth camp-out events, donating to missions, and participating in the annual prayer breakfast, and wind up facing the judgment of God.

Therefore, 2 Peter 1:10 says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? Was there a moment when you made the conscious decision to turn from your sin and trust the Lord as your Savior? If that moment never happened, then your salvation is in question. Make that decision today. Reject the sin in your life, and trust Christ to save you based on His work on the cross.

Secondly, we are called to consider our motivations. Why do we do the things that we do? What drives us? What do we hope to gain?

There are many people who are motivated to make their world a better place, whether that is to be accomplished by volunteering in the community, mentoring youth, or donating to charity.

There are many people who are motivated to accumulate wealth. They seek success in their careers or businesses.

Others seek accomplishment. The money, and the impact on society is irrelevant. They just want to become a household name.

And others are motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. Such is the case of a man I saw on TV living in Appalachia, who could care less about his bank account or the state of the country, as long as there were beers in the fridge and the satellite TV service was working.

What is your motivation? While we all tend to gravitate toward one of these, scripture teaches us that we are to be motivated to glorify God.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

As noted by Bro. Jim Finch, who taught Sunday School at Life Point this past week, we glorify God by reflecting His glory, which is accomplished when we do the things God would do, when we do what He tells us to do, and when we love people the way He would love them.

Finally, we are told to consider our choices. Hopefully, after the previous considerations, you have found that you have faith. If not, hopefully you found faith. Then, hopefully you’ve evaluated your motivations and realigned yourself accordingly. Now, we are to look at our choices.

Do our choices reflect the faith we profess? And do they fall in line with our motivation? If not, we need to re-evaluate our choices and make better ones.

It’s always a good time to “consider your ways.” Hopefully in doing so, we can learn, and grow as we continue to live this Christian life.

Meet God

 

When Moses approached the burning bush, God called out to him from the midst of the bush, telling him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground.

At that point, Moses met the God he had trusted since childhood. All throughout Exodus 3, Moses sees the attributes of God on full display.

First, Moses saw the awesomeness of God, as He appeared in a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire.

Secondly, he saw the life of God, as God described Himself as the eternal “I AM” who was still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they had entered eternity with him after passing on this Earth.

Thirdly, he saw God’s deliverance, as God told Moses that He had come down to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt.

Lastly, he received God’s call, as God directed Moses to be the one to lead the people out of Egypt.

From this, we learn that God is to be revered, that He is the source of our life (both eternal, and Earthly), that God delivers His people and responds to their prayers, and that God works through His people to accomplish His mission.

Want more? Check out the above-posted podcast.

Wrestling with God

The last time Jacob saw Esau, Esau vowed to kill him. Now, Jacob is returning home, and he receives word that Esau was coming out to meet him with 400 men. Would God make good on His promise to bring Jacob safely home? Or would Jacob and his family be slaughtered by Esau?

As he struggled through the scenarios, Jacob wound up wrestling with God.

This can happen to us if we don’t trust the Lord, and if we focus on our problems instead of our blessings.

Seeking the Lord

Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, couldn’t have children. She was barren, which was a mark of shame on young women during Old Testament times. In order to restore her honor, Isaac “entreated” the Lord, meaning he had a time of worshipful prayer where he poured his heart out to the Lord. The Lord heard, and the Lord responded, and Rebekah conceived.

Rebekah became pregnant with twins, who fought within her womb. Rebekah, keenly aware of the blessing God placed on her family, wondered what the fighting meant. So, she “inquired” of the Lord, meaning she followed, learned from, studied, and then asked the Lord for understanding. The Lord gave her understanding.

Jacob understood that God had given his family the blessings of Abraham. Jacob wanted that blessing. Esau was first in line for the blessing, but could have cared less. Therefore, Esau sold the birthright to Jacob in exchange for red bean soup.

All three sought out the Lord in one way or another. In this episode of “The Point,” we learn why their prayers were powerful, and why Esau’s sin was so grievous to God.