Everyday we encounter big and small decisions and circumstances upon with we base our fickle, picky, varying and fleeting satisfaction.

  • Where should I eat today?
  • Should I get a new car (which one)?
  • Who should I date / marry?
  • How many kids should I have?
  • Which job offer should I accept?
  • Which church should I attend (or any)?
  • When should I retire?

We truly ask questions like this all the time, and most of them are completely normal and appropriate questions without a “right” answer (example: we’d be terrible parents if we didn’t care about how our kids turned out; we’d be terrible employees if we didn’t care about our careers). The questions is this: What rests on the answer? The smaller everyday questions simply hold a quick “what will make me briefly happy at this moment,” whether that happiness is what perks up your taste buds or what will garner the approval (and acceptance?) of others, which makes me happy.

But the larger questions that have long-term impact is what we are really talking about. In what and in whom are you finding your wholeness, rest, hope, satisfaction, life?

This is what was happening in Isaiah 55. This is the last chapter written to the exiled-Israel (Isaiah 56 is written to Israel after they had been set free). God’s people had been captive for 70 years and, understandably, have decided that God has forgotten them, or even worse, forsaken them; that his promises and word were void and Babylon was now their permanent home. They had decided to forget the hope, promises, love and relationship of God and get comfy in their Exile. And into this Isaiah makes one final plea:

Isaiah 55:1-2
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

This may as well be (and actually is) written directly to us. While we are sitting at the world’s dinner table, stuffing our faces with treats, the Lord is calling us hungry and unsatisfied children to come to the Real Table; to not get filled up on the debilitating fast-food piled high in front us but to, like baby birds, open up and be treated to the food that will make us whole.

To make this practical, to help us see what other “foods” we are ingesting, think about the big “If Only’s” you have in your life. Every one of us have a laundry list of “If only ___, then I’ll be whole, happy, satisfied, at rest.”

  • If only we win this game.
  • my kids turn out ok.
  • If only this job works out.
  • If only I had more money.
  • If only I could stop this sin.
  • If only he would love me.
  • If only my medical report comes back clean.
  • If only I could get enough sleep.
  • If only I get into that college.
  • If only God wasn’t mad at me.
  • If only I wasn’t mad at myself.

This list is infinite, and personal to each of us. The issue is rarely the thing itself. It’s a gift from God to be loved, to have a career you enjoy, to win a game. The problem comes with what is resting upon those good things, and realizing that their shoulders aren’t strong enough to carry my wholeness. My heart-satisfaction cannot find home in things that are movable and transient; on other things and people; on lives that, by definition, are just as weak and needy as I am.

Into this The Gospel calls us to a place of steady foundation and hope. The very thing we’ve been created for – wholeness with God, manifest in peace with creation and one another – has been offered in the Person of Christ. The highest desire we all have – satisfaction – isn’t far off. In fact, He’s come. And is here.

As our small group was talking about this last night, one of our friends (Grace Hooper) made a glorious and profound prayer, asking that God replace our “If Only’s” with “You Are’s” and God’s sure promises. To see and repent of these other foundations and be overwhelmed with the Truth of Who God Is as our only unfailing and eternal hope.

  • Replace “If only she loves me” with “God is Love” (and loves me personally)
  • Replace “If only I had more money” with Matthew 6:30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
  • Replace “If only my kids turn out ok” with the Truth that our Real and Loving Father cares perfectly for us and our family: “Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
  • Replace “If only God liked me” with “There is therefore now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

God is not a spoil-sport, wanting us to forgo the satisfying morsels of this world, settling for shallow spiritual platitudes. He’s actually trying to save us from the gut-wrenching despair of eating food that will only give us spiritual G.I. issues while spoon feeding us the Bread of Life, Christ himself. Even as Jesus was on the way to the cross he served the Passover Meal to his disciples, passing out Bread (his body) and wine (his blood), but leaving out the necessary and traditional lamb, which would represent the sacrifice needed to cover Sin…because Jesus himself IS the Lamb who finally and fully pays for our sinful pursuits of false satisfaction while finally and fully fills us not just with spiritual wholeness…but with HIMSELF as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, indwells as we now find our life “hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:3), the satisfaction that can (1 Peter 1:4) “never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you” — but not just in heaven so we’ll be satisfied on “the other side,” but accessible now in the person of the Holy Spirit who is our Living Hope.

Gospel Butterfingers

Think about when you totally blank on somebody’s name…you know that you know it, but the name is hiding somewhere in a dark corner of your brain. It can be embarrassing to say the least. But what about other much more important bits of truth? Sometimes is it really hard to hold on to Truth, especially in the dark when your hands are shaking, the time you need Truth the most. It’s not Truth that is changing, but our grip on it.

It is this gospel-butterfinger epidemic that spurs Isaiah (and all of Scripture) to perpetually give us hope-reminders. It’s not because we are dumb but because we are forgetful, prone to let situations eclipse the Sun of Righteousness.

Isaiah 40
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah is talking to a people that had been taken into Exile away from the Promised Land and seemingly away from God and His Promise. He is reminding his brothers and sisters that blinding circumstances don’t negate the Truth of God; that he has, is and will always carry his people to completion. We will absolutely grow weary, faint and fall exhausted. Our grip on Truth and Hope isn’t enough. We have to be the ones being held by the One that will not grow weary, whose grip does not grow weak and who is wholly unable to let us fall.

But I so easily forget.

So here are some memory-tools God has given us to remember. They are little “means of grace” that we can utilize in times of forgetfulness, like a cheat sheet on your 8th grade English test, but these aren’t cheating.

Look Backwards

1 Samuel 7:12
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”

These “memory stones” would remind all who walked by that God had indeed miraculously showed up at that place in time, and he would do it again

Look Forwards

Psalm 30:5b
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Whatever we are in, even the most frustrating and confusing times, are only part of our journey. In this life The Author that started us out and is still writing. But when the final page is turned, it turns out that we’ve just gotten through the introduction to our life’s book, the rest beginning in Revelation 21 where there is no weeping or pain.

Look Upwards

Psalm 13
1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The most common genre in the Psalms is the Lament, and almost all of them end in worship. The pain and frustration is real, but turning from darkness to the light of worship helps train our hearts that Hope overcomes Evil.

Look Around

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…

We deeply need each other. As we’ll see in the next step, we get utterly blinded and confused. So I need brothers and sisters around me to speak Truth into me. When I can’t hold onto Truth myself I need others to hold onto it for me, sitting with me as the voice and presence of God.

Look Inside (1)

Psalm 42
Why are you cast down, O my soul,and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.

We all constantly talk to ourselves, telling ourselves what is true, false, good, bad, satisfying etc. Like I said in the last block, we so often tell ourselves (and therefore believe) in the lie that things are hopeless and God doesn’t care (or isn’t real, or is powerless). The Psalmist would have internal arguments as he went along the path of life, speaking to his soul to stop believing a lie and hold on to Truth.

Look Inside (2)

Romans 8:26
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

More importantly than looking to an internal conversation, we can find assurance, hope and even peace that God himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit is literally inside of us, speaking not only to our own hearts but also praying to The Father on our behalf “with groanings too deep for words.”

Look Outward

2 Corinthians 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Maybe it seems impossible, but loving others when we are having a hard time holding onto love ourselves will actually lift us our souls. It helps knock us out of the dark whirlpool as we see that we are not alone; that pain is universal and God has rescued us in order to be His rescuing agents for others.

Look Christward

Romans 8:32
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Ultimately our greatest hope is looking to Jesus himself, and resting in the Truth that if God went to the absolute greatest extent imaginable in order to rescue us (the sacrifice of His own Son) then he will absolutely continue his rescue-operation.

Scripture is brutally honest about the pain of this world, not asking us to minimize or paint the pain with a facade of “just trust Jesus.” We are invited to come to him with out true pain (like Mary and Martha did when their brother Lazarus was sick and dying) while also having expectant and open hands for him to hold as he walks us through the dark.