When There Is No There – There

The kingdom of God is full of interesting paradoxes. For example, we are saved by grace, but we are called to do good works. We are call to rest, but we are told to labor to enter that rest. The secret to a successful life is knowing how to navigate the tension of seemingly competing ideals. With that in mind, I want to tackle a really important paradox that seems to affect a lot of people. It is the paradox of accomplishment versus experiencing His presence.

The Bible teaches that God puts a desire to accomplish important things on the inside of us, and we will never have complete contentment in life until are doing that. With that said, living our dreams can be an illusion of fulfillment if we don’t live in the presence of Jesus daily. Once the short term sense of accomplishment is gone, there is nothing deeper left and our soul will be left crying for more. We’ll still end up in heaven one day if we know Jesus, we’ll just be empty while on the earth.

This was illustrated to me through the death of Luke Perry a couple of weeks ago.  His death shocked me like it did so many others and I watched quite a bit of the news coverage of his passing.  As I watched a show that documented his life and rise to fame when “Beverly Hills 90210” exploded, he described the emptiness of his success.  He said, “It was kind of like I opened a box expecting a present and there was nothing inside.”  He then said, “there was no there – there.”  The there he chased was accomplishment and he found it to be an illusion. He realized he needed more than fame and money (accomplishment) to have fulfillment.

Luke discovered at a really young age what many have still failed to figure out. Accomplishing a lot of stuff, even God ordained stuff isn’t enough to bring peace.  Solomon put it this way in Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  The word vanity simply means to be empty.  Life is empty apart from Jesus.  This is true for the unsaved, but it also true for the saved who are accomplishing a lot of great things for Him. This is because we were called to be human beings and not human doings.

Toward the end of the Apostle Paul’s life he wrote the book of PhilippiansHe had already accomplished a lot when he wrote the book including seeing thousands saved through his preaching, planting multiple churches, and writing a large portion of the New Testament. After spending the first part of Philippians 3 talking about all his accomplishments he then shared his life goal:

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection

After all Paul accomplished, all he wanted to do was know Jesus!  Sure, he still wanted to accomplish things for him, but never at the expense of his relationship!  When we pursue Christian accomplishment above His presence, we are trying to experience God’s kingdom without spending time with the king. We should learn a lesson from Paul; never substitute our high calling of a passionate relationship with Jesus for just doing a bunch kingdom activities. I want to encourage each of you reading this to spend time with Jesus each day. Take time to let Him talk to you personally and not just about the stuff you are trying to do for him. We were created for His pleasure and our highest sense of fulfillment will come from experiencing His pleasure with us each day!

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