Emptiness

woman on bench

We all know the old saying that “money can’t buy happiness.” Although a few may find some happiness through money, no amount of money in the world can buy or bring anyone complete satisfaction. Ask King Solomon—in his time he was (and would still be considered) the richest person in the world. Some have calculated that he was worth over two trillion U.S. dollars in today’s money. And he was not only the richest, but also the wisest person who ever lived.

“…God appear[ed] unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (2 Chronicles 2:7-12).

Did all of this wisdom, riches, wealth, and honor that he received make Solomon happy and satisfied? God recorded his conclusion for us to read: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon was saying that all this world has to offer is actually emptiness. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the Holy Spirit records Solomon’s woes regarding this earthly life. Little by little, he tried everything, and each time he came to the same conclusion—all is vanity or emptiness. Picture a loaf of bread filled with an excessive amount of yeast. It looks full and satisfying—until it is squeezed or sliced. Then it collapses into just a small lump of lifeless, baked dough. It will not satisfy.

Solomon had all the wisdom needed to solve almost any problem. People from all over the known world came just to hear his wisdom. He had untold riches. He lacked nothing—except true happiness and satisfaction. With so much in his favor and at his disposal, why didn’t he have real peace in his heart? Why wasn’t he satisfied? Because he did not keep God first in his life. He therefore tried to find happiness strictly on a human level, living his life on a parallel plane with the animal world.

God created man as a three part being: body, soul, and spirit. When we eliminate God from our lives, then all we are trying to satisfy is the body and soul.

As a result, our spirit remains dissatisfied. So we resort to additional efforts to try to satisfy the body and soul in an attempt to fill that deep longing that is actually from our spirit. Yet, the more we try to quench that longing by feeding and pleasing our body and soul, the worse we feel. As a result, we go through all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, since one third of our self is constantly being denied or deprived.

God never designed us to live our lives without Him. We accepted the lie somewhere in our life that God is not necessary, or even that He is nonexistent. As a result, we have ended up out of balance. Compare this to trying to ride a tricycle missing one rear wheel. No matter how much effort we put into keeping those two remaining wheels rolling, we will never be riding in a satisfactory way. Lacking a third wheel will keep holding us back. We can try to make our own third wheel, but it will never be the same as the original one.

broken chained tricycle

Many try to solve this imbalance, this emptiness and its byproducts, by going for professional help. We see doctors, therapists, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, and so on, and then attempt to follow their advice and solutions. We try following multi-step programs. We take prescription drugs. We may gamble or take in pornography. We may resort to smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs to try to satisfy the void in our life, or to cover up the pain that comes from ignoring that longing. We may seek all kinds of earthly pleasure. Yet none of these things, however beneficial they might seem to us, will ever relieve—much less fill—that emptiness deep inside of us. Just as Solomon plainly declared so long ago, it is all vanity. We can never permanently escape the emptiness this way. Sadly, all of our attempts to cover or fill this void within us only create new imbalances in our life. These result in even more efforts to solve the problems that we created in trying to remedy the original problems. We then end up in a cycle we can never free ourselves from.

The only solution to all of this heartache, pain, and madness is to acknowledge that God exists, that He is real. God loves us more than we ever can comprehend. The primary, essential example and evidence of His love is His willing sacrifice of His only Son. Jesus died on the cross so that we could be freed from this constant turmoil in our lives. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Have you ever heard of a doctor or psychologist or even a close neighbor offering to take all of your problems, as well as all the rest of their patient’s or client’s problems or even the all problems of those in the neighborhood, upon themselves, permanently?

No person on this earth can ever solve the problems that denying God has caused in our life due to sin. This is why we absolutely need Jesus in our life. He was never trapped in these cycles of emptiness that we struggle with continually. He was sinless. Yet He took upon Himself all of our sins, struggles, and problems. He paid the penalty for sin that He didn’t owe so that we won’t have to. Jesus wants to fill that spiritual void in our life. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

But He can only work in us if we let Him. As long as we continue to go about in our own way and deny Him, or try to replace Him in our life, we will never have real peace and satisfaction. All of our own efforts will not bring true fulfillment in our life—only more emptiness. We may cover it up or try to escape from it, but the emptiness will always be there. The worst part is that this emptiness will not end when we die, but will continue throughout eternity. We are only deceiving ourselves if we think death will be the end of it all.

man sitting on ledge

We only have a very small portion compared to what King Solomon possessed. Yet, in spite of his immense wisdom and grandeur, he discovered that all is vanity or emptiness without God. Why settle for a life that is ultimately empty forever, when we can have eternal satisfaction instead? The point must come in our life when we acknowledge the existence of God. What happens to us in eternity rests on our choice now. Right this moment, Jesus can take away our pain and emptiness, if we will allow Him to. We don’t have to have all of the riches and wisdom in the world to find out that God is the answer. He is here right now. Give your heart over to Him and be free from pursuing vanity.

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Trusting Your Way

old library

Trapped of his own accord, he suddenly found himself captive in a strange world of literature, caverns, and old, scratched tile floors. While this new world would seem very warm and humid to others, he found it quite pleasant, no different than the land he had become detached from. He determined that an extremely tall, thin, flexible mesh obscured his passage to freedom. He carefully crawled across to another panel of the same mesh. Was there hope for freedom there? Of course not! In fact, this side harbored even less of a chance of escape—if only he had known it. He observed the world that lay on the other side of this flexible surface, a world he had once been part of. He breathed in its fragrance and longed for more, but with less hindrance. Making a sudden glance in the opposite direction and a quick maneuver, he sprang back to the other side. Seeing no improvement in his situation there, he pondered some more and made his next move to the painted wood surface adjacent to his current position.

Inch by inch, he scaled the towering white wall. Upon reaching a small landing, he carefully traversed it while surveying his newfound domain. It was a vast (and not necessarily inviting) continent with odd structures in the center. Did he find any part of this unusual world appealing? No. But he did ascertain a need to explore the odd cliffs and caverns just a crumb’s throw beneath where he was stationed. His appetite and thirst beckoned him to find some means of satisfaction. After lurking around and behind the works of Lescroart, Macomber, Meltzer, and Patterson, he grew dissatisfied and returned to his post to observe the world below him again. It seemed little had changed in his brief absence. Oh, how he longed to be in his own familiar world again, with its abundance of delectable morsels and refreshing afternoon showers!

Then he descended back along the narrow painted wall and onto the mesh surface again with exquisite agility. Had there been any improvement in detecting a means of a retreat from this land of captivity? Following another routine search, he came to a negative conclusion. Think. Think. Think, he told himself. There must be a way to return to the joyous land of no restraint. His sharp eye spotted a small hole in the mesh. Could it be? He knew he was of the lesser variety in terms of size and diameter, but definitely not that much. Disappointed again, he turned, and with much haste, journeyed back up to his elevated observation post on the top of the towering wooden wall that lay next to the great bulwarks of Coulter, Crichton, and Cussler.

This time, he realized he was not alone. But the huge living creature he spotted seated in the center of this vast land was not of a variety that he would choose to enter into fellowship with. His monitoring of both the strange surroundings, as well as the strange, almost motionless giant proved uninteresting. Yet he sensed that he was being observed as well. After an extended period of lingering, he concluded that this immense territory needed to be explored in areas far beyond what he had previously investigated, not to mention the fact that he was now quite hungry. After a momentary pause, he quickly returned down the wooden tower and rechecked the mesh surface for any changes of its impenetrability. After seeing that it was still not possible to make an easy exit, he then proceeded to scale the vast caverns and corridors of the opposite side of this challenging (and very dry) world of paper, ink, and wood.

Meanwhile, back in the center of this “vast land,” the “giant” continues to write his narrative about a little gecko lizard that managed to slip in through an opening in the frame of a window screen of a warm, cramped library. He noticed how easily and innocently the lizard managed to get himself into the room, but could not figure out how to get himself out again. Then the “giant” pondered how easily people also get themselves into a predicament, and then try to figure out on their own how to escape. He noted that, like this lizard, they often search and search for the exit, never realizing it is only a short distance away from where they had been looking. How often they travel all around the exit, but never actually to the exit itself.

gecko on computer mouse

The lizard tried to find its way out, yet all it did was retrace its steps over and over again. When it branched out into what it thought was another way out, it only moved farther from its entry point and a way of escape. It would very likely never escape if left to its own devices. When someone makes a commitment to God, they have chosen to follow and obey only Him. They have no right at that point to chart their own path, because they now belong to Him and have come under His direction and care. Those who surrender their life to God cannot go off into just any place on their own initiative.

Many people seem to think that they can agree to surrender their life to God while continuing to chart their own course without Him.

This is what happens when people refuse to seek God for direction in their life. They let self be lord over their life, and not God, through His Son, Jesus. While they may not do this intentionally, they still hurt Him when they want to continue on without Him. It is not that God desperately needs them—God doesn’t need anyone! Rather, everyone needs God. What is the point of having a relationship with someone else if one person goes off in his own direction while the other goes the opposite way? When a person surrenders his heart and life to God, then God wants love and companionship and obedience to Him and what He says in His Word, the Bible. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him…” (Psalms 37:5).

arrows graphic

This lizard thought it knew where it was going. How right it seemed, yet it was still trapped and could not find the way out. How many times does this happen in your life? How often do you simply let go and let God order your steps? When was the last time that you determined that you were going to trust in God, and then actually trusted in Him? You need to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The more you trust in God, the less you will want to trust in yourself. Then you will begin to see just how helpless you really are and how helpful He is. This lizard may never find his way out, but this does not have to be the end result for you. It did not have the means to have a personal relationship with God and His Son. But you do! Put your trust in God and keep it there. Let Him be your guide to lead you in the right path, instead of yourself.

A Strong Tower

scrabo tower

You are in a bad predicament. Your enemy has you surrounded and is closing in quickly. What should you do? Run!

Me, run?

Yes, you! Run. Run to the nearest fortified protection.

But that’s retreating. I don’t retreat, I fight!

So you are going to fight an enemy that is always more powerful than you are? An enemy you can’t always see?

Well, if I try and apply myself hard enough, I’ll surely make some kind of headway and then I’ll round up some reinforcements.

But you will not be retreating in defeat and you won’t need any reinforcements if you’ll do what I just said!

But where do I run? I don’t see anything but some tower nearby.

That’s it, exactly!

It looks so isolated and I’m sure I’m going to be trapped when I get inside! Oh, now I see—a trap! Some help you are, sending me into a stuffy old tower in the middle of nowhere with an impossible enemy bearing down on me!

It’s not a trap. Are your plans any better? How are you going to fight with nothing but your bare hands?

I’ll make some kind of weapon with whatever is around me. I’m really a very resourceful person, you know. Look, rocks and pebbles! Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll gather up lots of these and pelt the enemy in the eye, the face, or wherever I can do some harm. That’s it! I’ll be like David in the Bible, where he took some stones and knocked the life out of a giant! You know, I do have a rag in my pocket that would make a perfect sling.

Well, you could do that if you were relying solely on God first.

Oh! that is so difficult and complicated, and, besides, I’m pretty sure my aim is sharp, and I can throw really fast and… and…just how strong and secure is that tower up ahead?

Stronger than anything any enemy could use to come against it. In fact, no enemy will ever be able to overcome it. Period.

It doesn’t look that secure. Who designed and constructed it?

Jesus.

Jesus? You mean the One who died on some beams shaped like a cross thousands of years ago and miraculously rose from the grave a little while later? The One I accepted into my heart and surrendered my life over to sometime ago?

He’s the one! He not only is alive, He now sits at the right hand of God His Father in Heaven victoriously! You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only made it possible for anyone who believes on Him to have eternal life, He also took away the legal right for the devil to have control over them as well.

OK, so now how do this tower and I fit in with all of this?

stone tower

Well, when you put your faith and trust in the victory that Jesus won over the enemy (the Devil) through His sacrifice on the cross, then that victory becomes your victory. He is that strong tower that keeps you safe. The Bible says in Psalms 61:3, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” And in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Wow, you mean that all I have to do is just put my trust in Jesus to shield, protect and care for me?

That’s right. When you try to fight the enemy in your own strength and effort, defeat and failure result. There is nothing about you that will overcome the enemy. It is only in Jesus Christ that you can have victory.

But aren’t there some procedures, some rules or requirements that I have to follow first?

Just one. Believe (have faith) in Jesus, that He will take care of your enemy or problem. If you worry about the problem at hand, you doubt God. When Jesus was on this earth, He could have touched many more lives than He did if there had not been so much unbelief among the people. Even His own family and the people in His hometown refused to believe in Him.

Um, could we finish this conversation inside that tower? The enemy seems to be getting awfully close now, and an intense storm is brewing overhead too!

Well, do you believe that Jesus has the power to protect and shield you by that tower? Do you believe that His sacrifice on the cross has not only saved you from eternal punishment in hell, but has also set you free from the control of sin as well?

OK. OK. Yes, I do believe that, and I even believe that I can overcome the enemy only through Jesus and His victory at the cross. Now, can we go?

Don’t panic—we are already there!

Wow! This tower isn’t bad at all. I can feel peace, even though the storm is raging above and the enemy is charging all around us!

Let’s take a look outside.

Are you nuts? With all of the fury going on out there? Stop! Don’t push—I’m moving! Let me just look out this window here. Wait! Where is the enemy? What happened to the storm?

Jesus handled everything. Remember that He already fought the enemy and won the victory once and for all at the cross. We are to just rest in Him. Our victory over the enemy is only as good as the faith we put in Jesus Christ to take care of the problem for us.

This is amazing! So, by putting my trust in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross, He will be as a strong tower, a place of refuge? Yet, if I try to fight the enemy or solve the problem at hand on my own, then I will be like a deer in the midst of an open field with predators lurking all around?

That’s about the size of it!

Well, watch out world, because I’m looking now in faith for that strong tower whenever I find the enemy trying to overtake me!

————–

How about you, reading this right now? Have you put your faith in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross? Are you anxious over the problems overtaking you, or overwhelmed by the size of the enemy approaching? Is your worrying and lack of faith in Jesus Christ limiting God? The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, 7 “Be careful [full of cares, anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition, asking in earnest] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not a nice suggestion, but rather a command by God.

When the enemy comes at you, do you seek refuge in the strong tower of Jesus in faith, or do you try to fight the enemy, or take care of your problems in your own strength? Are you putting yourself first or God first? Jesus wants to be your strong tower from the enemy and your mounting problems, if only you will commit them to Him and let Him do the work.

Savior or Swine?

pig close-up

“…they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech [beg] thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought [begged] him that he would suffer [command] them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.” (Luke 8:26-39).

We have a two-sided situation here. One side leads to deliverance, victory, and a new life. The other leads to lust for material gain, bondage, and death for all eternity. Looking at the narrative in this manner can alter our overall viewpoint.

Jesus had just crossed over from the west side of the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. They had battled it out with a storm of near-hurricane proportions and Jesus had to rescue them because of their unbelief. No sooner had they come ashore than a man possessed by possibly six thousand demons (an incomprehensible amount, to say the least!) approached them in all of his devilish might.

evil eyes

This man was in real bondage. He had no home, no clothes, no control over his own body. He lived in a graveyard among the dead and was compelled by the devil to go into the wilderness, which was also devoid of any real life. He had been bound by demons a long time. Such are the results when we allow the devil to have his way in our lives. He will not take over just our left hand, nor will he be satisfied with just our left hand and our legs. He will not even quit with just our left hand, our legs and our stomach. If you let him into your life, he will take over all of you—from the hairs on your head to the soles of your feet. And he just might bring along a few thousand more of his devils to help keep you under his control.

The only human help this man received was chains and fetters. That primitive solution was rather useless in his day, nor has it improved in this age. We just give the “chains and fetters” more appealing names. The demons broke all of man’s physical restraints as if they were just made of paper.

Man’s help did no good, since he was suffering from a spiritual problem, not a physical one.

It takes a spiritual solution to solve a situation like this—which is why we must let Jesus take care of the problem. We cannot expect a physical solution to solve what is basically a spiritual problem, like addiction to drugs (legal or not), alcohol, lust, pornography, or pride, adultery, demon possession, etc. Man’s solutions try to control the problems; God’s solutions solve the problems.

Jesus was not deterred the least bit by these demons, because He had authority over the situation. In fact, they knew who He was before He opened His mouth. How sad when demon spirits acknowledge what the religious leaders would and could not! The leaders had studied the Bible most of their lives, yet they refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the promised Deliverer (even after His death and resurrection). The demons possessing this man were truly terrified when Jesus appeared on the scene. They thought He was going to order them to their prison in the bottomless pit. So they begged Him to send them into some swine nearby instead. Jesus granted their request, and then the whole herd rushed into a nearby lake and drowned.

Some may see this as odd and may even sympathize with the pigs. The reason Jesus allowed this lies in God’s laws given long ago when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (Leviticus 11:7). Pigs were considered unclean for the Jews and were forbidden in the land.

These swine owners were violating God’s law, and even making a living off of it.

Now read the real irony: “…the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.” A man had just been delivered from thousands of demons by Jesus. Yet the locals wanted Jesus to leave, because their livelihood had been ruined! They cared not one bit about this man. As long as he remained in demonic bondage, no strangers would dare to venture through that area (and discover the illegal swine being raised there).

Are you like this demon-possessed man, struggling to be free, yet receiving nothing but more bondage? You may not have thousands of demons raging inside of you, but you may still be under the devil’s control. Or are you like the locals whose livelihood was derived from something directly against God’s law? They had no concern about the horrible agony, torture, and bondage the demon-possessed man was going through. But the locals reacted with great fear over what Jesus had done for him. They did not want their sinful livelihood exposed. They valued material gain more than victory over bondage, sin, and death. They rejected the Savior of the world for a multitude of swine. In the end, Jesus left. The Bible never mentions Him returning to that region.

person set free

When Jesus freed this man from all of those demons, he was truly set free. The next mention of him, he was “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind…” (v. 35). No follow-up treatment, no prescriptions, no therapy, and no long-term counseling. He went back to his home city eventually (the city of the swine owners), proclaiming what wonderful things Jesus had done for him. Jesus is also able to set you free, if you will only come to Him. And “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

cross silhouette

Jesus was led by His Father (through the Holy Spirit) to cross a raging sea in order to set one person in desperate need free. Jesus could have remained on the opposite shore and left him that way. But Jesus loved him so much that He was willing to endure a treacherous journey to deliver one man from demonic control. The swine owners and all who came with them to meet Jesus could have been set free from their bondages that day as well, but they refused, and told Jesus to leave.

Jesus also came to deliver you from the bondage of the devil. Which will you choose: the Savior, or the swine?

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