One of the devil’s tactics in the temptation of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, intrigues me. In this story, Satan takes Jesus to the holy city of God, into the house of God, and uses the Word of God to distort the truth of God and oppose the will of God.
The devil essentially takes Jesus to “church” and recites Bible verses to tempt him. This should be a warning for us today. Just because we’re looking to the church and to the Bible for answers, doesn’t mean we aren’t being misled.
Human beings tend to find the answers they’re looking for, rather than the truth they’d prefer to ignore. This is because the ultimate goal of a person’s pursuit of truth is rarely the truth. There are almost always deeper motives and desires at play.
I’m convinced that the majority of human beings are confused about what they really want and need in life. We consistently pursue unnecessary things that tragically cost us the very things we truly desire, value and need. In our seeking after success, achievements and prosperity, we often sacrifice the priceless treasures we already have, such as our relationships, time, energy, integrity and peace of mind, to name a few.
Tony Campolo, an American pastor and sociologist, once said in a sermon, “Adults spend all their health chasing after wealth and then spend all their wealth trying to get back their health.” That sums up the absurdity of our life pursuits quite succinctly.
I’ve walked alongside enough accomplished, successful and wealthy people to know that even if they get what they’re chasing after, most of the time it doesn’t bring the fulfillment they hoped it would. A wealthy man once confided in me that he had everything anyone could want, but none of it mattered. When I asked him why, he simply said, “Because I’m still not happy.”
One of the greatest tragedies in life is never discovering what your deepest desires and longings are. We all have to chase after the wind for a few years—or decades—to discover that most of our pursuits are meaningless. This is part of the process, it’s par for the course. Yet to never come to a moment of clarity, realizing what your soul truly desires, is the epitome of being lost. A tragedy of tragedies and vanity of vanities. As Jesus says: “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world, but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
For many years I chased after the truth in vain. I thought I wanted to know the truth, assuming truth was objective knowledge. I finally realized that, after two decades of pursuing this objective truth, it was something else I was really after. What I truly desired was wisdom and connection with “divine spirit.” Finally, I knew what I was looking for. Now, where to find it?
Another thing I’ve observed about the human condition is that even when we are clear on what we desire and need, we usually don’t have a clue how or where to find it. Many of us are “looking for love in all the wrong places,” to quote an old country song.
I began seeking God’s Spirit and divine wisdom with the assumption they would come to me from above, that they were out there somewhere. So I looked for a leader, group or theological system to serve as the mediator of divine wisdom to me. I studied the Scriptures, and the writings of saints, mystics and spiritual thinkers, trying to find a reliable channel of divine wisdom. To no avail. It was in a moment of silent prayer, being still and listening to God, that the location of divine wisdom was revealed to me.
The moment reminded me of a 1979 horror film, When a Stranger Calls. The movie is about a sinister man repeatedly calling a babysitter who is alone at night with three sleeping children under her care. She calls the police and a terrifying revelation comes when the police tell her, “We’ve traced the call. It’s coming from inside the house!”
As crude and unsettling as this analogy is, the revelation I received in response to my pursuit of divine wisdom was identical. “The call of wisdom is coming from inside the house! Your body is the house where divine wisdom lives! The Spirit of Christ abides in you! Listen to the voice of wisdom within.”
To be continued . . . .
Troy Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford, Ont.