Honest Seeking, Wishful Thinking

On a jungle-covered slope in western Honduras stands a cement water tank. Long after the rickety house beside it returns to the jungle floor, there it will be.

It was a free tank, provided by the government to help improve the lot of the poor. The govern-ment delivered blocks and cement to the end of the road, and gave it away to those who had signed up and faithfully came to their meetings. But the government stopped at the end of the road, and the individual willpower took over from there.

Secundina had a horse. With that horse, she hauled cement, two bags at a time, three miles up the muddy mountain. With that horse she hauled the blocks. She hauled sand from the creek at the bottom of the steep ravine, two miles away. And weeks later, her “free” pila stood, solid and permanent, outside of her flimsy house. She knew what she wanted, and she got it. It was free, but it wasn’t easy.

Life usually works that way. You can usually get what you want, if you want it badly enough to invest in it. But what separates the wishful thinkers from the honest seekers is the attitude of the heart. The will of the mind. The reality of the investment. Cement pilas don’t happen on jungle mountains by wishing them down.

Paul challenges the Christian with the following words from Col. 3:1, 2. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above . . . Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Notice the “if”. When a man is reborn, seeds of eternal yearning are planted in the once-carnal soul. The being who once lived with his nose to the earth begins to lift his eyes toward heaven. The crumbs that once satisfied him now remind him of a better place, and better things. If a man is reborn, heavenly gravity begins to tug at his soul.

This new birth is a conversion of affection, a refocusing of energy. As physical beings, it takes energy to live, employment to earn, and money to eat. But if we are reborn, the love of our heart draws us to a higher aim. We live in a material world, but we actively seek eternal values. At least we say we do. Israel thought that, too.

As Jeremiah scrolled through God’s list of judgements on them, Israel felt confused. They asked: but what have we done? The Lord was still mentioned, and even worshipped in the temple. God’s answer was swift: “Your fathers have worshipped other gods . . . and ye have done worse than your fathers.”

Mixed worship. Lip service to Jehovah, and life service to a myriad of other things. And God was not pleased. Wishful thinking is nothing but good ideas never carried out. That was Israel.

The true seeker knows what he seeks. He wants “all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” God’s will. God’s approval. God’s blessing. God’s Spirit. God’s solutions. God’s kingdom. God’s reward. All that Jesus meant when he said: “All things that the Father hath are mine . . . he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

The true seeker studies how to get what he wants the most. He finds that scripture isn’t silent about practical ways to reach out and grasp what God offers.

Prayer. Can anything be obtained without it? Fasting. Self-denial is a powerful way to pray. Bible study and meditation. How can we find God’s solutions if we treat scripture lightly? Giving. God loves a cheerful giver and rewards him accordingly. Obedience. Nothing opens heaven like humble obedience. Nothing closes it quicker than rebellion.

“Things of Above” and “Things of Earth” are mutually exclusive value systems. We can seek to excel in one only at the expense of the other. We cannot seek God’s approval while we seek man’s. Kingdom building financial decisions do not guarantee pocket-lining results. “How can you believe, which receive honour one of another?” Jesus asked. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

When spiritual life consists of wishful thinking and not honest seeking, the result is deep frustration. You want maturity, but do you pray? You ask for blessing, but did you spend more on Saturday supper than the Sunday offering? You long for spiritual insight, but are you obeying what you already know? Do you live for God’s approval, or do you secretly compete for man’s?

Like the tiger at the zoo, restlessly pacing his limited space, or the eagle in a cage, flightlessly perched on the highest branch, so is the Christian whose life is lived in contradiction to the upward yearning planted in his heart. Frustrated, not free. Empty, not fulfilled.

Like the pila in the jungle, the best things in life are free . . . but not easy. According to your investment will be your reward. Ask. Seek. Prove with your life the passion of your heart, and testify

~ Brian Yoder

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May/June 2011

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