1 Corinthians 9:19-27
At my daughter’s baby shower, we received a pink ceramic piggy bank inscribed with the word joy. A crisp two-dollar bill flared from the slit in the top, the first investment deposited.
As I write this Journey Study, the significance of that piece of pottery, and its message resonate with me.
In our western culture (and likely in many others as well), an emphasis is placed on money and the future from an early age. How many commercials or ads are there for financial planners, banks, money-saving apps, ways to make money, or ways to save money?
At the same time, we are bombarded with messages encouraging us to indulge ourselves, to spend that money on what brings us pleasure.
Yet the Bible challenges us, “Don’t store up treasures for yourself on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
What exactly does that mean?
The Lord calls us to invest intentionally with our eyes towards heaven and our hearts bent on joy, rather than pleasure.
But what does this look like in ordinary life?
Let’s start with the reality we will not live on this earth forever. (Thankfully!) We are here for an appointed time and our lives are like vanishing vapors (James 4:14) in the timeline of this planet.
The common phrase regarding material possessions, “you can’t take it with you”, is acutely accurate! In the piggy bank analogy, investing solely for the sake of storing up money on earth will result in a full piggy bank, but it will be left behind when I pass away.
Alternatively, suppose I take Jesus’ words to heart and spend my time on earth intentionally investing in the eternal life still to come? The guaranteed result is true joy now and unimaginable rewards later!
…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart (read: deepest joy and delight) will also be.”
Joy is a naturally produced “fruit” of the Holy Spirit living, working, and breathing inside our surrendered souls. (Galatians 5:22-23) Therefore, true joy is a result of an ever-deepening walk with the Lord, one which grows over time with dedicated discipline to focus or hearts on the unseen and eternal.
Conversely, what enemy deadens our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice?
A heart and mind satiated with the pleasures of this world.
How quickly our hearts are cut with this realization!
Pleasure is not inherently negative but putting it before our relationship with the Lord is a pattern for destruction of true joy.
One of my pleasures is reading and watching movies. Being caught up in a storyline and learning from the characters is one of my favorite ways to relax. However, I allow this pleasure to hinder my walk with the Lord when I use it to avoid processing my emotions with Him. Rather than taking my thoughts to the Lord in prayer, I sometimes pick up a book or hit play on a movie in order to disconnect, effectively barricading my passageway to true joy.
Surrendering earthly pleasure to the Lord in those moments would enable me to gain the Lord’s wisdom, comfort, and perspective. Additionally, I may gain time to further His kingdom because I am more aware of my surroundings, rather than lost in the midst of a good story. Regardless of our individual lusts to satisfy ourselves with personal pleasure, the clarion call remains for every heart to draw near to the Lord, finding Him to be our fullest Sustainer and Satisfier!
Daniel knew the value of looking to the Lord to fulfill him in the face of pleasures. Instead of eating the rich food the king provided, Daniel ate what the Lord had outlined as valuable. (Daniel 1) His surrender of fleeting, vapor-like pleasures resulted in far weightier benefits and favor from the Lord God.
When the Lord asks us to trust Him and forego pleasure, His benefits always outweigh the cost, even if we don’t see immediate results.
With stunning beauty, Jesus demonstrated this as He surrendered Himself to death in our place. He denied Himself the pleasure of commanding His authority in the situation and allowed Himself to be crucified because of the joy set before Him: eternity with us.
Jesus knew the value of investing in what was eternal, in what would bring true joy.
And it was anchored in His humble surrender.
May we each be quick to surrender temporary pleasure for enduring joy!
“You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (Psalm 16:11)
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