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What is keeping me away from God today?

It had been a good year for John. He had managed to obtain a bonus packet worth a small fortune. It would go towards the purchase of his new beach house. Despite this formidable win, it bothered him that others in his industry made more. After all, he deserved every Benjamin, and then some. Sure, his recent promotion had come by a lot of backstabbing. Good for him. The corporate pie was only big enough to share among the most ruthless sharks, and he wants the biggest slice he could get his teeth on.

John was determined to keep his focus on multiplying his assets this year, and fast. Today is all that matters. Faster, stronger, better. Last week, in the middle of a heated discussion about a takeover bid that was going to earn him that next nice bundle, John had a stroke.

He is now on his hospital bed, slowly recovering. For the first time since he can remember, he has time to think. He is wondering if big money really is all that it is cracked up to be. He loves life with money, but what would money be without life?

Hum. Would you say that John has reaped joy from the money he is accumulating? There’s a French saying: “some people are so poor, all they have is money.” John is plagued with a self-imposed case of greed. Greed is idolatry: it is valuing something—anything—more than God. It’s the “just-a-bit-more” mentality: “if only I had this, then…” The problem is, it is a moving target that never satisfies. Greed is the agony of “never enough.” It makes us ignore or forget God in our pursuit of “more.” Eventually, it slowly brainwashes us to believe that God, like everything else we’ve tried, is “never enough.”

Greed makes us forget about eternity; it replaces our God-given perspective of Heaven with a world-centered focus on today. The change can be so subtle, though, that it is almost never self-diagnosed. Let’s be the exception! Whether the Holy Spirit whispers it to us through our time in prayer, or in the study of His word, or through a true friend, let’s identify any seed of idolatry in our heart.

Greed, like any form of idolatry, never gives. Greed robs. It robs us of joy. The alternative to greed is joy—joy in God Himself. It is joy in our relationship with Him, not for what He can give us, but for the sheet delight of relationship. As C.S. Lewis puts it, joy in God is “unsatisfied desire, which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

This is what I would wish to tell John: God promises to give us a joy that surpasses anything this world has to offer. Scripture challenges us to embrace the universe through the lens of faith. This perspective from Heaven promises us hope and joy.

And yet, how often do we look for joy elsewhere? As Christians, we easily acknowledge that God is the almighty, living, ruling Lord of all. He is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who dwells in heaven, a place of eternal joy. The psalmist says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:1, NIV). But do we really experience this?

Joy has been God’s ambition since Day One—literally. God created the universe for His own pleasure and enjoyed doing it. He created planet earth as our breathtaking dwelling place. He fashioned man and woman in His image to glorify Him, to live and rule in peace and joy. The totality of His creation made Him smile and He called it “very good.” Then something went very wrong. Iniquity appeared, and earth became a place of sorrow, a troubled segment of the universe where idolatry and greed now reign in humans’ hearts.

God knew it would unfold so. The plan was already in place: at the appointed time, His Son Jesus came on a pre-planned mission to free the earth from its curse and return its people to an abundant life of hope, joy, and faith. Nothing could be further from puny greed. “For the joy set before Him,” Jesus endured the cross. It means that He took our sin from us, accomplished our salvation, died, and rose again to everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven. To those who receive Him as Lord and acknowledge Him as Savior, Jesus Christ promises forgiveness, redemption from sin, a new birth, answers to prayer, the outpouring of His Holy Spirit of love, victory over death, and the everlasting joy of heaven.

Jesus lives today at the Father’s right hand in resurrected glory and fullness of joy; He has promised to come back for His church and to take us where He is. That is the essence of joy in God, and it is ours to cling to.

We invite you to listen to this week’s episode of the Gospel Spice Podcast to find out what happened to John, and to unpack the deeper truth of abiding in God’s joy today.

Listen to Episode 88, released May 24, 2021 – “What is keeping me away from God today?”

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