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Life Principle 16: When Plans Turn to Ashes

Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.

November 1, 2019

Sermon Outline

Some people think that God’s refusal to grant them some cherished wish would be the worst thing that could ever happen to them. They believe they will be truly disappointed and devastated if that deep desire continues unmet.

So they pursue their desire, either in opposition to God’s will or in disregard of it—and end up truly disappointed, even if they get what they thought they wanted. They are like the Israelites in Moses’ day, who complained to God and insisted on having meat (Num. 11:4; Num. 31:1-54; Num. 32:1-42; Num. 33:1-56; Num. 34:1-29; Ps. 78:27-31). Psalm 106:15 tells us, “He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them.” The desire becomes a curse.

G. K. Chesterton said, “There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.” While you can always collect additional possessions, relationships, success, etc.—there will always be room for more. And when there’s room for more, there’s room for wanting more. The cycle never ends.

If you choose the second route of Chesterton’s advice, “to desire less,” the likelihood of living a fulfilling life increases. But how does one want less?

By going back to the deepest desire present in every human heart—the one thing we’re truly longing for: to know God. Once we satisfy ourselves with His presence, we require far less of what the world has to offer.

You may not understand the longing within you to be a desire for God—in fact, you may simply feel dissatisfaction with your life. Maybe the relationship you wanted and attained isn’t everything you thought it would be. Perhaps you have everything you’d ever wanted and yet still go through periods of longing, sadness, and loneliness.

Dissatisfaction, unfulfilled expectations, and feelings of dejection and isolation originate from the same place: a raging hunger for God. Centuries ago Augustine wrote, “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

There is always more we can learn about God—we will never fully know Him while we live here on earth (1 Cor. 13:12). But once we enter into a relationship with the Lord, He promises to reveal more of Himself to us as we fellowship with Him. Hosea 2:19-20 says, “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord.”

To fellowship with God—to talk to Him and listen to Him as you study the Bible, pray, and worship Him—is to get to know Him better. He has “betrothed” (or engaged) His people to Himself for one reason: to let Himself be known.

When you develop your relationship with God and discover more about His holy character, He illuminates your heart and mind, giving you a greater desire to know Him more intimately—leaving your fleshly desires behind in the process. Your worldly desires simply cannot compare to the deep comfort, joy, and fulfillment that God offers you. Rather, you see the things that you acquire outside of His will turning to ashes, while the blessings He gives you endure and satisfy your soul.

This process deepens:

  • Our humility. As we see God’s sovereignty unveiled, we more deeply understand our need for Him.

  • Our gratitude. Knowing that God’s lovingkindness motivates His forgiveness, deliverance, and guidance gives us a thankful heart. Instead of coming to God with complaints about our unfulfilled, selfish desires, we come to Him with adoration and praise.

  • Our purpose. As the Holy Spirit sheds new light on verses we’ve read many times before, our quest for a relationship with Him becomes stronger, deeper, and more personal. Our appreciation of God’s Word gives us a more profound delight in studying and applying His truth.

  • Our reverence. Learning something new about our Creator reminds us that we don’t know everything about Him. As we come to terms with the depths and heights of God’s love, power, and wisdom, our awe of Him grows.

  • Our desire to please God. When we have a holy, respectful fear of the Lord, our desire changes from satisfying ourselves to serving our God. Pleasing Him is not a chore; rather, it becomes a joy done out of humility and thankfulness.

Amazingly, as we pursue our desire for God, He fulfills the other desires He has given us (Ps. 37:4). And so we learn afresh that while acquiring anything outside of His will ultimately disappoints us, He fills us with truly satisfying “pleasures forever” (Ps. 16:11).

Adapted from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, © 2009.

This post is a part of the series Life Principles to Live By.

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