The culture in which we live tells us that we should have whatever we want.1 As a matter of fact, if we are unable to get what we want then some injustice has been perpetrated against us. As a Christian, I have to fight against the weight of this temptation. It has become so pervasive in our culture that we have begun exporting it around the world. The craziness is that there is a secular and a religious version of this message. As an American, we call it the American Dream. As a Christian, it takes the form of “name it and claim it” theology. In either form, it is harmful to the human soul and detrimental to our societies and local communities.
Because we live in a world that says if we try hard enough we will get want we want, it becomes increasingly more difficult see and seek our satisfaction in God. The problem with this “consumer” mindset, both in our daily lives and in our understanding of faith, is that we may end up losing sight of God in the process. And the reason we lose sight of God is because we have turned our eyes to something else. The pull of the things of this world is real. They are not imaginary. And, when we underestimate their draw upon our minds and hearts we lower our guard.
When I feel this pressure to turn my head away from God and look at something else I recite (and even hum) to myself the short chorus Turn Your Eyes of Jesus.
The Tenth Commandment
In the book of Exodus, God gave Moses what are known as Ten Commandments. The last of the commandments tells us that we should not covet. What does that mean exactly? Webster’s dictionary says that to covet is “to wish for enviously.”
This brings up another word that we have to define. What is envy? Envy is “a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.”
Covetousness or envy is the result of not being satisfied with what God has already provided or given to us. I want to make an important distinction here. I know there are times when we want more than we have and there is nothing wrong with wanting more. The problem and the real issue that we are discussing becomes the way that we get it.
If our attitude comes from a jealousy that overcomes in wanting what someone else has, at that moment we have broken the tenth commandment. When we will stop at nothing to get it; if we are willing to lie, steal, and cheat; if we would take something from someone else for selfish reasons, we are coveting and sinning through the entire process.
Like I said, wanting to improve our situation is not the problem. The problem is how we do it.
To put the issue is its most pointed contrast we have to see coveting in its proper context. And, that context is in our relationship with God. We may not like to think about it in this way, but when we covet what others have we are telling God that we are not happy with him. And the reason we are not happy with God is because we want to give us what we want when we want it.
When we desire to have what is not ours, we are telling God that he has failed us in some way and that He has to make it up to us.
The Bible tells us something very interesting in Matthew 6:24-33 about coveting. Jesus tells us that the source of covetousness and envy is anxiety over how we will make it into tomorrow. The irony of Jesus’ analysis is that no one can control what will happen tomorrow. So why spend so much time worrying today; robbing today of its opportunities, looking into a future that is not guaranteed to anyone?
The story of Jacob and Esau is a perfect example of what happens when we covet. What happened between these two brothers created an incredible rift between them. And why did it happen? Because Jacob wanted what his brother had. Jacob couldn’t do anything about being born second. But instead of waiting on God, instead of allowing God to take care of him, he decided to take what was his brothers through deception.
We have to be aware of those times in our lives when we may be tempted to take from or trick others into giving us what does not belong to us. God will never be pleased with that.And that is not the way that someone who is following after Christ behaves.
3 Decisions to Facilitate being Satisfied with God
In the end, we have to remember, or better yet, we must never forget, that our satisfaction in life will not come from anything that can be found in this world. When we understand this, we are in a better position to fight against the temptation to look to other sources for our fulfillment.
We are satisfied with God by making three decisions.
1. Trust God
What does it mean to trust God? The simplest way to answer this question is by saying that we trust God when we take God at his word.
When God says something that is all we need to know. Now, I know this is easier said than done. And that for some people this is an oversimplification of the issue. But, why should it be more complicated? Why can it not be this simple?
I willingly grant that there are obstacles to our trust in God. However, we have to make sure what these obstacles are if we are going to remove them. We have to understand the root cause before we start assigning blame.
One of the principle reasons trusting God is hard to do is that we blame God for things that he did not do. When we do not understand who God is or how he works in the world, and in our lives, we can accuse God of committing a wrong against us, when he had nothing to do with it.
Our trust in God is the first step in our finding satisfaction in life. When we trust God to do what he has promised, we become less fearful. We start to think differently and behave differently.
2. Obey God
The second decision we have to make is to obey God. If we can trust God to do what he says, then we should move to doing what he says. If God requires something of us, there is a reason for it, even when we do not know it. This is why building our trust of God is vitally important.
One way of trying to understand what it means to obey God is to ask: How do we obey God? We have to start by knowing what God demands. When we know what is expected of us, we can then begin to determine what we are supposed to do.
Obedience on any level, but especially when we are talking about God, is about conforming our lives, including our behaviors and thoughts, to what we are being asked to do. In the case of the Christian faith, we are trying to conform our lives to the character of God as it is displayed in the life and example of Jesus.
Therefore, when Jesus says to his disciples that we should love our neighbors, we have to first ask ourselves, who is my neighbor? Once I know who I am talking about, then I can begin to make sense of what I am supposed to do so that I am loving them. This process of identifying what we are supposed to do and then how we are supposed to do it is repeated over and over again. And, this process is repeated until our lives reflect the conduct and attitudes that are in line with the command.
Obeying God is challenging. However, it is complicated when we do not know how to obey. Our obedience is complicated even more when we continually question what we should obey. If God has given a command we should strive to obey it.
Our obedience brings satisfaction because it fosters joy in our lives. When we live our lives in line with God’s commands we are fulfilled. We are living with purpose and on purpose. This alignment produces satisfaction in our heart and brings peace to our minds. The greater our obedience the deeper our satisfaction.
3. Wait on God
The third decision we have to make is to wait on God. This may be the most difficult of the three. While trust and obedience may not come easily to some, waiting is something few people can do naturally. I find that I am naturally impatient, and that most people I know are as well. Particularly today in our modern culture, the ease of access that we have to what we want makes waiting on God simply incomprehensible. And yet, this is one of the keys to finding our satisfaction in God.
As I thought about this third decision, what came to mind was the difference between being delayed and being strategic. To wait on God is not to be delayed. Delay implies that an external force has hindered our plans. This is not what it means to wait on God. God is not trying to keep things from us. And yet, this is exactly how some have come see this idea of waiting. God is not trying to delay our satisfaction. God is not trying to deny our satisfaction. God is trying to increase our satisfaction in him. But, in order to do it, we have to wait on God.
God has a plan. And that plan is strategic and intentional. When we are unwilling to wait on God’s plan, we deny ourselves the full expression of what God is trying to do in our lives. It takes times but we have to learn to wait. Patience is a vital attribute of those who understand that God will never fail to accomplish his will for our lives.
As a Christian, my greatest joy and deepest satisfaction is found in God, and God alone. If I want to see this joy and satisfaction increase even more, I have to make some choices about how I will live my life; and how I will relate to God.
When I learn to trust God, to obey God, and to wait on God, then I will see my satisfaction as a byproduct of my relationship with God, who is loving and gracious toward me. More than I can describe. And definitely more than I deserve.
- This was a sermon originally preached on February 18, 2007. It has been edited and expanded. ↩