Intro: What happens when your dreams come true? Rocky Valentine illustrates our problem. Rocky Valentine is the main character in episode #28 of Twilight Zone (airing in the 60s) narrated by Rod Serling. Rocky is an unlucky, narcissistic, small-time thief who dies robbing a jewelry store early in the episode. He wakes up in the afterlife next to a man named Pip (Sebastian Cabot) who he believes to be his guardian angel. Pip promises to give him whatever he desires. Rocky is somewhat suspicious of such an offer, but eventually asks for everything he had sought while living that he could never attain: unlimited luck at the casino, to be desired by beautiful women, for universal acclaim, and more.
At first, the land where Rocky’s dreams come true seems like paradise, but as months go by, the life that Rocky thought he’d always wanted has lost its magic. In fact, it has grown positively distasteful to him. In a moment of rage, Rocky grabs Pip, his “guardian angel,” and says, “If I gotta stay here another day, I’m gonna go nuts! I don’t belong in heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.”
“Heaven?” his guardian angel replies, “Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven. This is the other place!”
Then the haunting voice of the narrator, Rod Serling, comes in and says, “A scared, angry little man who never got a break. Now he has everything he’s ever wanted — and he’s going to have to live with it for eternity — in the Twilight Zone.”
I want to talk about being satisfied. More specifically being satisfied in God.
I. Not Our Happy Place… The truth is that we are terrible at predicting how a particular thing will make us feel. We all tend to overestimate how good we will feel when our dreams in this world come true. Inevitably, we are disappointed and feel duped because it failed to deliver on what we thought it promised. As Ravi Zacharias has said, “The loneliest moment in life is when you receive that which you thought was the ultimate, and it lets you down.”
A. But why is this so? Why does everything around us in this world let us down? In Psalm 16:11, David writes, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The psalmist tells us that full joy is on the presence of God. I am not suggesting (nor is the Psalmist) that we cannot be in the presence of God, in some sense, here and now. God promises us that He will be in our midst (as we sung this morning). But what we are recognizing here is that the human spirit, as God created it, is not satisfied with lesser things. God created us in such a way that our capacity for joy is so large that it can only be filled by himself. He gave us other things for our enjoyment, and they have their place, true and lasting joy is in God alone. Augustine prayed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Someone has said, God is the only One that can fill the vacuum of the human heart.
II. Being Satisfied in God… Having my dreams come true (getting what I want most) is also viewable from the positive side. In the final analysis, True joy IS getting what we want, if what we want is God.
A. My purpose, as God reveals in His word, is to bring glory to God. Paul says it several times in Eph. 1 as he describes the process of our redemption. Eph 1:5-14 – having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. But the fruit of this goes further than just making God look good to others. Bringing glory to God fills up my spirit, or satisfies me in a way nothing else can. And the more satisfied I am in bringing glory to God, the more He is glorified.
B. My grace is sufficient for you. 2 Cor 12:7-10 – 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. These words are a lesson in joy and happiness. Paul was hurting (thorn in the flesh). This may indicate a physical problem with his literal body, or it may refer to a pain of the human experience (emotional or mental pain). He calls this pain a messenger of Satan designed to beat him up him [buffet – kolaphizo (kol-af-id’-zo) means to hit with the fist]. Doesn’t God care? Doesn’t God want me to be happy? As he hurts, he desires for God to take away the pain. So he prays (begs) not once, but three times. Bur God does not take away the thorn. God’s answer to Paul is “My grace is sufficient for you.”
1. What grace was He talking about? The word grace here is charis (khar’-ece). It means an act of graciousness, a gift. Interestingly it is from the same root as the word for joy (chara – khar-ah). The foundation of our joy is the gift (grace) of God. But what is the grace (gift) in 2 Cor. 12? It is NOT the removal of the thorn.
2. It might easily be applied to Paul’s salvation – the gift of his forgiveness. What a gift that was! Eph 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Paul even described his apostolic ministry as a gift: Eph 3:7 – I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To be saved is enough, isn’t it?
3. But let me point to another occurrence of the word grace (charis) in this very book. 2 Cor 9:8-15 – And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
a. Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to give of their money to help other Christians. He tells them God is able to make all grace abound toward them. This grace is not salvation, but, as he goes on to tell them, it is the provision of everything they need to get God’s work accomplished. Seed to the sower. God provides for the spiritual work he commands. Knowing this I can give freely and cheerfully (insert joyfully here). When these Christians trusted in the grace of God and gave, those who received their gift would thank God for it, and God would be glorified (v. 12-13). So God’s spiritual provision (grace) is sufficient to give me what I need to do the work of God, provides joy, and results in bringing glory to God.
4. So Paul, in 2 Cor 12 comes to understand, through the experience of his own pain, that God’s grace (gift) is the source of true joy. In fact, his joy is rooted in the fact that God will be glorified the most when Paul is satisfied with God’s grace. As Satan was punching Paul in the face, God was being glorified, and Paul was glad about it. He took pleasure in it!
a. Go back to 2 Cor 12:9– Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Paul uses the word power (dunamis) twice here. Christ power rests upon me, and I am strong in my weakness.
III. Reoriented Values… The scriptures we just considered are more than just a lesson God answering our prayers, or dealing with when God does not answer our prayers as we had desired. But it is about a reorienting of our entire value system to coincide with God’s value system. Does doing the will of God bring me joy? Is His grace (gifts) sufficient for me? Does bringing glory to Him satisfy me?
A. More precious than gold… God is righteous, and thus not indifferent to his glory. But the good news is that He is also not indifferent to our joy. His laws are designed to facilitate our greatest joy. One author called this the secret code of joy. Once we put these lenses on, we begin to see this code is contained in all of God’s commands. Faith-filled obedience leads us to joy. God only commands his people what will bring them ultimate happiness. That is why John can say… “his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). David discovered this secret and broke out in a love song to God’s commands: Psalm 19:7-11 – The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. The reason we can desire God’s law more than gold is because they will bring more joy than gold.
B. Until I develop a heart that is made joyful in spiritual things, the world will continue to disappoint me. That was Rocky’s problem. He thought he knew what heaven would be like if he ever got there. But even when he thought he was there, he was disappointed. He came to find out that it was not heaven at all. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Conclusion: There is an underlying truth that sustains the joy of obedience. It is not that I can do enough to earn my way to heaven. But the truth is that if I am in Christ, not only is God no longer against me in omnipotent wrath, but now he is for me — in every way. He is for me in forgiving my sins and making me righteous, so I can go to heaven. He is for me in providing deep and enduring joy in this life. God wants what is best for me, and finds joy in doing me good. His promise through Jeremiah comes home to us in Christ: “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).