In 2 Timothy 4, Paul gave Timothy a warning about the church,
You don’t have to look very far to see that happening these days. Everywhere you look there is another book, another sermon, another song or message or article. We have become a people who are addicted to encouragement. In our fast paced society of the immediate, we become quickly bored with the familiar and are in constant search for something new and different. It’s like we are constantly hitting “check mail” on our spiritual inbox, hoping for the next big thing to hit and excite us.
A recent study by the World Health Organization revealed that those from the richer countries were more likely to suffer depression. Maybe our wealth and comfort have made us depressed, so we go searching for the next bit of good news, hoping it will lift our spirits.
The promise of “more” – more stuff, more money and more comfort – has left us with less.
We have less time, less connection, less happiness than ever. One of the things that hits me hardest when I visit developing nations is their joy. In spite of extreme poverty, they overflow with joy and love and generosity. I believe this is because they know what is important.
In our pursuit of more we have forsaken our time with God. We don’t pray that much and don’t study His word that much. We have lost communication with Him and with one another. And instead of getting our priorities straight and reordering our lives, we have simply let others do the work. We let the pastor study God’s word and bring the message on Sunday. “Just give me my 3 points to a better life.” We are just like the Israelites who saw the mountain burning and felt the earth tremble at the voice of Yahweh. “Moses, you go hear from God and come back and tell us what He says,” was their response.
Look, I’m not bashing anyone. I know life is hard and we all need help. And I’m not saying we don’t need pastors and encouragement. But the answers are not just around the corner in some new teaching. The answers to life’s problems are where they have always been found. They are in a deeper connection with Jesus and with each other.
You want 3 points? Here they are:
1. Spend whatever time with God you must. Reorder your life. Give some things up. Your idols have promised you happiness and left you empty. Only He can satisfy. So take the time to drink deeply of His water and let it quench your thirst. Other things will grow strangely dissatisfying when you taste of His goodness. Like the late missionary Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
2. Live in community with others. Our modern church culture has made it possible for us to show up on Sunday morning, do our duty, and never have to make ourselves vulnerable to others. Find a small community of believers and live life together. Depression can be the only alternative when we are cut off from others and left to fend for ourselves. You must be joined with others who know you, love you, challenge you, and accept you unconditionally. It’s out there. Don’t give up until you find it.
3. Stop searching for more. I think this is a big reason Christians in poverty seem to have so much joy in spite of their situation. They don’t expect more all the time. They have learned to be content, even in extreme poverty. They are thankful for what they have instead of always reaching for the “elusive next.” Be content. Be thankful. Rejoice in what God has already done in your life, and submit the rest to Him. He knows what is best, and your steps are ordered by Him.
These are just 3 points. They are not the only 3 points. They do not replace hearing directly from God about your life and your direction. I’m not bringing the stone tablets down from the mountain here. That’s your job. That’s the whole point. God wants to deal directly with you. You don’t have to go through a preacher, an author or any other middleman.