Summary: God promises great rewards to those who seek Him, and it is a proper motive for obedience to consider these rewards.
Last week, we discussed the topic of "seeking God." We saw that the pursuit of God is a lifelong quest. It’s not merely a phase in our spiritual growth, nor is it an optional activity. Rather, it’s fundamental to our lives as Christians, from beginning to end. You could even say that continuing to seek after God; continuing to draw closer to Him in fellowship; continuing to grow in our knowledge of Him; is what Christianity is all about. Because true religion isn’t just a matter of right knowledge or right conduct; it’s not just a matter of beliefs or morals. Authentic Christianity is a relationship; an ever-deepening experience of God, a lifetime of striving after Him in faith, and obedience, and love.
And so the goal of that sermon was to persuade you that this is something we all need to be doing – that we can’t be complacent; we can’t rest on what we already know and what we’ve already experienced. We need to keep seeking, and striving, and pursuing God, with diligence and perseverance, all our lives. It’s the one thing worth giving our lives to. And it comes with a guarantee of success. For as Moses promised the people of Israel thousands of years ago,
". . . if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him." – Deuteronomy 4:29, NLT
God is not hiding; he is not unwilling to be found. But neither will He reveal Himself to the careless, or to the indifferent, or to the merely curious. God can be known, and He will be known. But only by those who seek.
Well, if last week was the "push," then this week is the "pull". Because this morning, I want to show that, not only do we need to be doing this; but that seeking and knowing God will give us the greatest possible happiness and satisfaction in life, both now and in the world to come. I want you to stimulate you to seek God wholeheartedly – not merely out of a sense of duty or obligation, but out of joy, and hope, and desire. I want you to be convinced that a life devoted to striving after God is the most fulfilling and rewarding life possible. I want you to see it as something attractive and desirable; rather than dull or tedious. I want you to seek God, not reluctantly, but with enthusiasm and relish.
But why? Why does it matter whether we think a life of seeking God will make us happy? Isn’t it enough to know that the Bible commands it? Isn’t it enough to know that this is what we are called to do as Christians? And the answer is no, it’s not enough. For several reasons. First, people naturally choose for themselves what they perceive to be the greatest good; they naturally choose what they think will tend to their greatest happiness and satisfaction. Now, it doesn’t have to be immediate; they may have in mind some future benefit. That’s why, for instance, people who are training to be doctors endure long years of study at great expense, and then work eighty-hour weeks for relatively little pay. Their focus is on the long term satisfaction and pleasure of practicing medicine. But whether the hoped-for benefit is near or far, people naturally choose what they think will make them happy. And "happy" can mean all kinds of things. Personal fulfillment; the opportunity to make a difference; physical pleasure; having control over one’s own life; gaining power and control over others’ lives; respect, recognition and prestige; financial security and freedom from material wants; love; friendship; appreciation. Whatever we find most desirable, personally; and believe to be within our grasp; that is what we will choose.
And so, when Satan wants to tempt someone to evil, what does he do? He presents it to their minds as highly desirable. He tries to convince them that this particular sin – greed, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth, pride – is what will make them truly happy. He plays up the benefits and conceals the costs, especially the eternal costs. And he tries to make that sin look as pleasing, and attractive, and good as he possibly can. Just like he did with Eve. The Bible says that after Satan was done talking to her, she saw that the apple was "good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom." (Genesis 3:6, NIV). She forgot about the fact that it was poison; that eating it meant death for herself and all of her children. Because Satan had made it sound so good. And it worked. Why? Because people tend to choose what they believe will most powerfully satisfy their needs and desires.
And that’s true of us, as well. It’s not a good long-term strategy to just grit your teeth and try to do what God commands, when you don’t believe it will make you happy; when you don’t believe it’s in your own best interest. If you try that, you will fail. Because that’s not the way we’re put together. If we’re not convinced that seeking God is the source of our greatest good, then sooner or later Satan will come along with something that seems more desirable, and we will depart from the path of obedience and holiness. Trying to be godly by forcing ourselves to do things that, deep down, we don’t believe will make us happy, will fail. The only way to persevere in godliness is to be persuaded that seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness is going to produce the greatest happiness and satisfaction possible; that the path of faithful service to Christ is also the road to our greatest joy and pleasure.