Gratitude

“In everything give thanks.” 1 Thess. 5:18

What is gratitude?  It is an emotion expressing appreciation and thankfulness for what one has.  Regrettably, believers often miss the mark in articulating their gratitude.  We more than any need to be more intentional and thoughtful in our expressions of gratitude to God.

“Gratitude is also getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude by counting our blessings and writing letters of thanks, for example. This proactive acknowledgement can increase our well-being, health, and happiness. Being grateful—and especially the expression of it—is also associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.”[1]

Gratitude can be practiced by both believers and nonbelievers. People, in general, are slow in offering gratitude.  They will sometimes express gratitude when prayers are answered or catastrophes are avoided.  However, even in those special circumstances, individuals are more likely to attribute their good fortune to luck than to God’s benevolence.   Gratitude is the “proper response” beneficence or to the generosity and kindness from a benefactor.

In the busyness of living, people take for granted those things God provides through His grace to all mankind:  the sun and the moon (Deut. 33:14), the regularity with which the seasons change (Gen. 8:22), and the marvels of created life (Rom. 1:20).  They fail to recognize their blessings and therefore fail to express gratitude.  However, those who are in Christ are obligated to express gratitude to God for all things especially His work of salvation.

With salvation, believers experience a multitude of blessings, both now and in the future.  First and foremost is our deliverance from the power and penalty of sin (Rom. 6:9).  This release from our sin nature provides instant access to God the Father (Rom. 5:2).   We are given a new identity in Christ, both as children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17).  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we are gifted with the presence of the Holy Spirit who empowering us with the same dunamis power that raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19).

Eternal life is God’s special gift to believers.  It is a gift that cannot be acquired through works or any other path yet is readily available through belief in Jesus the Christ (John 3:16).  At that moment, the believer can experience eternal life through God’s presence, peace, and provision.  As heirs of God, believers await their final inheritance reserved for them in heaven, when they return to their true home (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

How is gratitude reflected in your daily faith walk?  Do you practice “gratitude” as a spiritual discipline or do you think of it only as Thanksgiving approaches?   As believers, gratitude should be engrafted in our spiritual DNA as we daily experience the blessings and promises of God.  As we express our gratitude, we share with others our appreciation for what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.    That’s why in everything, we give thanks.

                [1]   Psychology Today, “The Benefits of Gratitude”.

Spiritually Fit and Ready to Go!

So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.  Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing.  You didn’t know any better then; you do now.  1 Pet. 1:13-14 (The Message)

If you have accepted responsibility for your spiritual fitness and established intentional strategies that have led you to a richer relationship with the Lord, the next question is “Where do I go from here?”  After reaching a personal goal, physical or spiritual, the next difficult task is in maintaining the new behavior.  How do you continue to do the “right thing”?  The Apostle Peter’s message is both timely and fitting for believer’s who desire to maintain their spiritual fitness in spite of living in the 21st century.

This epistle was addressed to believers throughout Asia Minor (Modern Turkey).  Hostility and suspicion were mounting against Christians.  These believers’ presence was becoming an offense to the pagan world with their life-styles and talk of “another Kingdom”. The stage was being set for greater persecution and even martyrdom in the near future.  Peter encourages these believers to maintain obedience to God and resist the temptation to return to their previous way of living (1 Pet. 1:13-14).  This is still God’s directive to believers today.

As believers become more “spiritually fit”—conformed to the image of Christ—they will demonstrate behavior that puts them in harm’s way with the world, especially as they resist conformity to postmodern thinking (Rom. 12:1).  They will be called “narrow–minded” and “bigoted” because believers in Christ look very different from the rest of the world.   So how are believers, even those who are spiritually fit, expected to maintain their walk of faith?

Align their purpose with God.  Believers are to walk in assurance that their life has changed and that they are following the path God has established for them from the foundations of the world (Ep. 2:10).  There are many good things believers can do with their life, but the “best things” are those lived in humble submission to the will of God.

Walk in their identity in Christ.  As joint heirs with Christ, believers share not only in His purpose, but they also share in His privilege and power.  The believer’s spiritual fitness includes the ability to successfully resist old temptations and tendencies that were part of their “old nature” before becoming one with Christ (Col. 3:1-4).

Manage their expectations of the world.  The Apostle Peter encouraged his readers to prepare their minds for action, discipline themselves, and set all their hope on the grace of Jesus Christ.  Believers know that Jesus has overcome the world, God is still on His throne managing the events of the world including His Church, and our inheritance awaits us in eternity future.

Believers, whether living in the 1st or 21st century, are to live as “lights shining in the world among a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).    Spiritually fit and ready to go, we move forward in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), “proclaiming the mighty acts of Him who called us out of the darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet.2:9).

Strategies for Spiritual Fitness

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.”  1 Cor. 9:24 (NRSV)

In the beginning of this series, I shared that I have been using an activity tracker to improve my overall physical fitness.  The results I am achieving with the tracker are evidence that it was the perfect addition to my strategy for improving my personal health and wellness.  Similarly, I am confident that believers who develop intentional strategies for spiritual fitness will be able to successfully navigate in the 21st century.

My Fitbit monitors several indicators of good health.  They include number of steps made in a day, heart rate, number of steps climbed, sleep time, and finally, water and food consumed.  If one looks at these indicators individually, they might question the benefit to be gained from their tracking.  However, when viewed collectively, this monitoring provides useful information on vital human body systems that work cooperatively to keep us “physically” fit.  These include our nervous system (sleep), our muscular system (steps climbed), our cardiovascular system (heart rate), our respiratory system (steps taken), and our digestive system (water and food).

Our inner man is a “spiritual system” designed by God (Gen. 2:7).  It consists of not only the believer’s spirit or eternal nature but it also is comprised of the soul—the mind, the will, and the emotions; these work cooperatively, much like our human body system, to accomplish God’s purpose (2 Tim. 1:9).

Once we become believers, our spirit becomes one with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).  Agreement, however, between the spirit and the soul will not happen “on its own” (Rom. 7:18-20) but requires the development of intentional strategies that will combat forces—Satan, the world, and the flesh—that move believers away from God.  Is your spiritual system working to accomplish God’s purpose in your life?  Spiritual fitness works to insures that these spiritual systems, the spirit and the soul, are working cooperatively (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness requires not only a change in “habits and routines” but it also requires a change in “mindset”.   With the help of my Fitbit, I am encouraged when I see progress in areas that support good health, like an increase in the number of steps I make in a day.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit directs, instructs, and corrects believers so they stay on the “path of righteousness” (Prov. 12:28) while glorifying God (John 16:13-14).   What feedback is the Holy Spirit giving you on your habits, routines, and mindset?  Like “eating clean” leads to a healthier physical body, spiritual fitness leads to a God-honoring, Christ-centered life (Matt. 5:16).

The believer’s responsibility in this “spiritual fitness” process is to strengthen their personal relationship with God.  This includes spending time with Him studying the Bible, in prayer and meditation, and in individual worship, just to name a few.  Time spent with the Lord will become periods of renewal and growth as God provides the believer “real time” feedback on their spiritual progress.  How much effort and time are you devoting to your personal relationship with God?  When spiritual fitness habits are faithfully practiced by the believer, their thoughts, behaviors and ultimately, their life style will reflect the image of Christ to the glory of God (Phil. 2:9-11).

Becoming World Class Believers

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”   1 John 2:15-16 (NRS)

It is truly inspirational to watch not only the various sports events, but to also hear the athletes’ stories as to what it took to reach this point in their career.  Many had shown a natural “gifting” in their particular sports field, apparent even as young children.  However, the trait that had brought them to success was their acceptance of the reality of what it would take to become world class athletes.  It would take mental focus, personal sacrifice and physical discipline, just to name a few.  Believers must be continually aware of the realities that tend to “bend them” toward the world’s view of life versus God’s expectations of Christian behavior (James 1: 13-15).

The first reality believers must face is that the world is a hostile environment for the believer.  Persecution and suffering are inevitable for believers (John 15:18-21).  Remember the sharp looks you received when you blessed your food at your favorite restaurant?  What about those scowls you experienced from friends when you refused to watch that “questionable” movie with them?  How were you perceived by your coworkers after the last staff meeting when you challenged their use of racial slurs or questioned that unethical business practice your manager recommended for the company?  The reality is that the believer will encounter resistance as they move away from the influence of the world and daily become conformed to the image of Christ.

The second reality believers must face is the influence of Satan on the believer’s life.  Although Satan is not as powerful and mighty as God, he is a reality that believers must acknowledge and understand if they are to become spiritually fit.  Satan seeks to destroy (John 10:10), is the father of lies (John 8:44), and seldom changes his strategies.  When I think of Satan, I liken him to Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip who is relentless in tempting Charlie Brown to kick the proverbial football.  She uses no new distractions to humiliate him—the same old football and the same old promise, “I won’t move the ball”.  And guess what, poor old Charlie Brown cannot resist.  He will trust Lucy one last time.  He kicks!  Lucy moves the ball.   Charlie Brown is lying flat on his back.  What is the football that Satan uses to entice and tempt you away from God’s purpose?  What is the promise that Satan keeps making that you know is a lie?

Finally, we as believers must face the reality of dealing with our own “unredeemed” flesh (Rom. 7:18-20).  Hebrews 12:1 encourages believers “to set aside every weight and the sin that besets or entangles us”.  “The sin” may be prayerlessness, unbelief, or even failure to trust God.  “The sin” might be that you’re a gossiper or you tend to judge people.  “The sin” may be fragments of your “old nature” that you have refused to “let go” (Ep. 4:25-31).   It is usually “the sin” versus sins that keeps believers from reaching their full spiritual potential.  Do you want to know what your “sin issues” is?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you.  He will not condemn you but He will convict you by revealing God’s truth about you including His purpose for your life.

Believers in Christ must deal with the realities of living in the 21st century with its trials and temptations.  Spiritual fitness will require godly focus, personal sacrifice and spiritual discipline.  Sound familiar? Believers must also remember they are not alone on this journey to spiritual fitness.  The Holy Spirit is our PST—Personal Spiritual Trainer—to insure that “He (God) that began a good work in us is able to perform it in us” (Phil. 1:6).  Our part in developing spiritual fitness, in becoming “World Class Believers”, is to “press for the prize of the high calling of God” (Phil. 3:14).  If we are successful, there is a crown of glory at the finish line (James 1:12).

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

For whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,

that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

This week we will continue our teaching on spiritual fitness by describing what it looks like in the believer’s life.

Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.    In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God” (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his perseverance in completing the daunting task of building the Ark.  Job was designated as “perfect and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil” (Job 1:1).  Job proved himself spiritually fit for the challenges placed in his life by Satan.  In the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.   

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is not a destination—it’s a journey.  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer. (1 Thess. 2:13-14)

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 2

How did you do on your spiritual fitness assessment?  Are you spiritually flabby?  Do you need to add a few more exercises to help build up your spiritual muscles?  Like physical fitness, if you want to grow stronger, spiritually, you’ll need to be intentional in your “workouts”.  But why?

 Why should believers care about being spiritually fit? 

Because we live in a postmodern world.  Postmodern or post modernism is a philosophy that says there are no absolutes (no rules / no truth) and that all viewpoints are equally valid.  Such thinking reduces all religion to the level of opinion.  With that thinking, the basic tenets of the Christian faith are dismissed and rejected including the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.  And what is left to guide the human soul?  Truth is determined by the individual’s viewpoint or “spiritual bentness”—the degree to which one ascribes to the worldview on how life is to be lived  and away from God’s instructions for holy living.  It’s a matter of personal belief and personal choice.  But remember Jeremiah’s warning:   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

 Why do believers need to be spiritually fit?

First, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outlook on life.  The cry of believers living in a postmodern world dominated by materialism, sexual immorality, and wickedness is “how are we to live?” (2 Pet. 3:11)  The Apostle Peter describes us as “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9).  That means we don’t look like the world.  Our worldview is shaped by “who we are” and “whose we are”.  Believers live according to the authoritative Word of God—every “jot and tittle” and we know that by no other name, under heaven or earth, can one be saved but by Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12).  Bottom-line, the believer’s outlook is shaped by God, from whom we derive our meaning and our reality.

Secondly, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s output in life.  As believers we know that our lives were purchased for a price and we live as the redeemed of God (Ps. 107:2).  We no longer live for ourselves, existing only to gratify our fleshly needs like the world.  Our purpose and all our efforts are directed by the Holy Spirit.  It is in Him that we live and move and have our meaning (Act 17:28).  We know that the things of this life are fading away.  Therefore believers focus their energies on those things that have eternal value and benefit (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Matt. 7:24-29).

Finally, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outcome after life.   Whether people believe in God or not does not dismiss the reality of existence beyond our life on planet earth.  It is called eternity. The choices made in this life will result in where one will spend eternity.  As believers become more spiritually fit and mature, they realize that the time in which they currently live is set in the framework of eternity.  As we become daily transformed by the Word of God and conformed to the image of Christ, our priorities and desires shift from this passing world to things above where Christ dwells (Col. 3:1-2). We proclaim like Paul, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Join us next week as we answer the question, “What does spiritual fitness look like?”

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 1

“For, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  1 Timothy 4:8   (NRS)

For the last 90 days, I’ve been on a journey to wellness.  It began as a result of a minor physical irritation that eventually developed into a major restructure of my diet and exercise commitment.

One of the new tools I now use to assist me in developing a healthier lifestyle is my FitBit, a wireless, activity tracker that continually monitors and measures data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal health metrics.

Imagine if we had a “spiritual” Fitbit that would do the same.  What would be the data that could be gathered to indicate our spiritual fitness?

Fitness is defined as the state or condition of being “qualitied” for a specific purpose, physically or intellectually.  This is the definition we’re most familiar with seeing, however there is also an expansion of that definition to include “suitability and appropriateness”.

Spiritual is that which deals with the part of man that extends beyond the physical and is eternal in nature.  It exists forever, even when the physical body ceases to live (Heb. 9:27).

I’d like to use both definitions and put forth the proposition that in order to be spiritually fit, believers need to be both “qualified” and “suitable” for the purpose that God has designated for their lives (Ep. 2:10).  Spiritual fitness is the state or condition of being qualified and suitable for the purpose that God has identified for believers both individually and as the collective Church.  The disciple Peter was spiritually “unqualified” when Jesus identified him as key to the building of His future Church (Matt. 16:18); however, after the testing of the Calvary, the apostle Paul was more than “suitable” for the purpose of Pentecost (Acts 2:14).

Next week, we will discuss why believers should be concerned with spiritual fitness in the  21st century.  In the interim, I have a simple assessment to help you “check” your spiritual fitness.

(1) Do you feel spiritually weak and defeated in your efforts to walk holy?

(2) Do you find your choices and life style inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus the Christ?

(3) Is it becoming increasingly more difficult to living out your walk of faith?

If you answered yes to any of these three (3) questions, then it’s time to work on your spiritual fitness. See you next week.

Discovery While Desperately Seeking

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,

And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

Psalm 63:5  (NKJ)

Our series, Desperately Seeking, has focused on what people frantically pursue yet never seem to acquire.  It is in pursuing worldly counterfeits that a vicious circle of dissatisfaction and discontentment is created.  While these imitations may promise well-being and contentment, they can never deliver on their promises.  So what did we discover while desperately seeking?

The first thing we discovered was that we were desperately seeking in the wrong place.   Identifying with society, men seek to satisfy their heart’s desires with “tangibles”.  Yet each day the tabloids are full of stories of people who by the world’s standard “have it all”, yet still are searching for contentment and peace of mind.  It is in the “intangibles” that true satisfaction can be found.  King Solomon explains the reason for this disconnect in Ecclesiastes 3:11.  It is a matter of the heart: “He (God) has planted eternity in the human heart.”  Created in His image, God has made us restless for that which transcends this world.  It can only be provided by our Transcendent Creator.

Secondly, we discovered that we were desperately seeking the wrong thing.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us of a foundational teaching from Jesus:  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”.  Jesus’ invitation to righteousness was an invitation to a new way of living—Kingdom Living.  Believers are to prioritize and focus on those things which further the Kingdom of God and not their personal agenda.

The Message paraphrase for this text reinforces this understanding:  “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provision.  Don’t worry about missing out.  You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Finally, we discovered that we were desperately seeking for the wrong reasons.  Unfortunately many of us believe our life belongs only to us and we can do whatever we want with it.  For some reason, we believe that our sole purpose in life is to be “happy.”  That is the worldview of purposeful living.

However, for believers, Jesus is the model we are to follow if we are to understand our purpose in life (Eph. 2:10) and our role as citizens of God’s kingdom (Phil. 3:20-21).  In John 6:38, Jesus clearly articulates His purpose and His role:  “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”  We are to seek to do the will of God wherever it may lead us.

So what have we discovered in our desperate search?  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we are to no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh for the lust of men, but for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2).  It is in Him that we live, and move, and have our meaning (Act 17:28).   We no longer need to “desperately seek” for we have found in God more than we can ever hope for.  Only God can satisfy those desperately seeking because God is the only True Source of Satisfaction.

Desperately Seeking Happiness

“Then He (Jesus) began to speak, and taught them.” Matthew 5:2 (NRS)

At the top of the list of things people desperately seek is happiness.  Kirk Franklin, gospel extraordinaire, several years ago shared this need in a song that expresses the frustration people feel in their attempt to find happiness.  Exasperated with their situation, they sadly cry out, “I just wanna be happy.”

Happiness is defined as a state of well-being and contentment.  Happiness is truly a function of one’s personal perception, circumstance, and desire.  For the person who is lonely, happiness may be experiencing true friendship and community.  For the individual who feels powerless, happiness may be wealth and influence.  Regardless of the need behind the pursuit of happiness, the quest to find it has been and continues to be man’s greatest quest.

During the mid-20th century, the pursuit of happiness was found in the discovery of self.  “Self” became the surrogate for happiness—self-gratification, self-satisfaction, self-actualization.  With the dawn of the 21st century, man has now “turned his ear” (2 Tim. 4:4) to the sciences to help him find happiness.   Positive psychology is the study of how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.  In examining the different paths to happiness, there is one obvious way that is missing. That way is Jesus Christ—He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

In Psalm 18:2, David describes his source of well-being during his deliverance from King Saul and his enemies:  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  David looked to God to insure his well-being and in exchange received security, safety, and health.

The Apostle Paul exchanged his earthly power and position for the contentment that only Jesus Christ could provide.  He proudly boasted in Phil. 4:11-13 (NRS):  “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Paul’s secret to contentment was not tied to his circumstances but to his God.

Like these and other biblical witnesses set your sights on that which transcends the promises of happiness that is tethered to this world.  Seek the intangibles that provide true well-being and contentment.  The only one that can provide what “transcends” is our Transcendent God.  He alone knows our needs and how to satisfy them.  It is our responsibility to trust God for our happiness.

Desperately Seeking the Will of God

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 (RSV)

In our initial teaching, Life Lived Desperately Seeking, we identified those things that people wanted out of life but couldn’t seem to obtain.

In examination of this list, it was observed that the top items were “intangible, internal, and subjective”.  It was obvious that the “things people wanted” in actuality were those things that are matters of the “heart” and not the “hand.”  That heart is missing a piece that only God can fill.  God has placed “eternity” in our heart and it cannot be satisfied with the things of this world (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  God alone satisfies.  Knowing this should calm restless hearts and direct those who are still desperately seeking what they want out of life.

We should also look at Jesus for our model as to what we are to seek in life.  If we were to look at the list of things Jesus sought while on earth, it could be summarized in four (4) words—the will of God.   Jesus often emphasized to both His inquisitive disciples and His devious opponents that the only thing that He sought in life was to accomplish the will of His Father.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”  (John 4:34)

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”  (John 6:38)

And what was the will of the Father?

“…that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40)

Eternal life is not only a place with God in the future but it is also a state of being, right now, that makes available spiritual blessings for living victoriously in this present world (2 Pet. 1:2-4; Gal. 5:22-24).

When we seek the will of God, we no longer live for ourselves or for the things of the world (1 John 2:17).  A life that seeks the will of God is lived pursuing those things that are above (Col. 3:1).

“Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Paul describes this “no longer living” for self as being “crucified with Christ.”

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Gal. 2:20)

Peter advises those who “no longer live” to themselves to “be armed” with the same thought or motive as Christ.  To arm ourselves is both strategic and intentional.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.  Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.  (1 Peter 4:1-3)

The motivation for “seeking” is no longer self-gratification, self-serving, self-aggrandizements, or self-satisfaction.  Our motivation…our life style…our mindset should be directed at understanding and seeking the will of God.

The scriptures used today were chosen so that we as believers will fully grasp where and who our focus is to be on.  Our satisfaction is to be found in the will of God.  Living in a materialistic society, we may be tempted by the alluring promises of possessions, power, and privilege.  But as attested by those who are “still” desperately seeking, the world often falls short of delivering on its promises.

Only God can give what we truly need.  Within God’s will is the “missing piece” for our heart; therein lies God’s provision, peace and joy.  Stop seeking satisfaction from worldly counterfeits.  “Set your minds on things that are above.”