The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Better than Heaven: Pursuing What Really Matters

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Look around at this world you live in. Read the news. Watch people interacting with each other. Ponder historical accounts and realize that everything you see, hear about, and read about is God’s choice. We are living in a reality which God created—a reality which He is currently controlling and outworking to go exactly as He wants. Both the good and the bad—they are all being selected by Him. Consider everything you love and everything you hate and realize that none of it would exist if it weren’t for God. From adorable kittens chasing their own tails to lions ripping the flesh off of creatures who are still writhing in pain—it’s all God’s choice.

God’s choice is a vastly different concept than human choice. We humans are created beings who can only ever choose between a very limited set of options. Those options are placed before us by our uncreated Creator—a Being who has infinite possibilities at His disposal. The more you understand about who God is, the more you realize how impossible it is to argue that anything goes on in this world apart from His will. Can a pen write on its own? No, it can only write when you pick it up and begin running its tip over some writing surface. In the same way, God’s creatures can scheme and dream about all the things they’d like to do, but none of their plans will come to fruition without God’s approval and help.

Human plans are like a pen that wants to scribble on a paper. The pen is so focused on getting to make its mark on something that it doesn’t think beyond that goal. In the same way, we humans get obsessed with very shortsighted goals. We just want to get that one job. We just want to marry that one person. We just want to accomplish that one task. We are very shortsighted creatures with extremely limited intelligence. Our brains simply can’t conceive of all the ramifications a single action will have on the rest of the world. Even when we try to plan carefully and assess risk ahead of time, our conceptual processes are a joke. We ignore so many critical variables because we’re simply not aware of them. Our judgments are always flawed because we’re never looking at the whole picture. Would you want to move into a building that was constructed by a team of blind men with no knowledge of architecture? No, you wouldn’t, because you’d know that it was only a matter of time until the ceiling crashed down on your head. In the same way, if we humans were ever left to experience the full consequences of our own plans, our existence would be a true misery. Our plans are always riddled with flaws and guaranteed to result in disaster. So why are we still here? How have we survived our own company for thousands of years? The answer is a God who never leaves us alone.

Human plans are like a pen wanting to scribble on paper. But the execution of those plans is like God picking up that pen that just wants to scribble, and using it to write out some intelligible, meaningful message. God is always messing up our plans. He’s always adjusting them and improving them and causing them to bring about changes that we never could have accomplished on our own.

Suppose you post an article on the internet. Someone writes in and tells you that the article changed their life in some amazing way. If you take the credit for this, you’re an arrogant blowhard. You know very well that you had nothing to do with words on a screen affecting the soul of a complete stranger. Sure, maybe you were hoping to “reach somebody”, but what the heck does that mean? Your words might have just as easily upset someone or depressed them or gone completely ignored. In this world, you choose to act, but you can’t control how other people will respond to your actions. Your personal intentions don’t determine the way that the universe runs.

God is always messing up our plans. We set out to do one thing, and He makes sure we accomplish a thousand other things instead, most of which we are totally unaware of. And as for that one thing we wanted to do—so often He says it was a bad idea and blocks it from happening. That’s when we go into our corners and pout because God isn’t blessing our brilliant ideas. Well, no, He’s not, because our ideas weren’t brilliant, they were lousy. His ideas are the brilliant ones, and His ideas are always happening. So often we’re right in the middle of the action, but we neither see nor appreciate the absolute genius of what God is doing through us. You drop what you think is some random comment and it becomes lodged in someone’s brain for the next five years until it eventually becomes the key that helps them grasp a whole new level of understanding about God. You weren’t trying to change someone’s life—you were just making casual conversation, yet God turned your verbal scribbling into some strategic, soul changing message. Such is the genius of God: He uses blind, bumbling creatures to build incredibly complex and beautiful designs. This is just one of the ways He glorifies Himself, and yet what do we humans get out of the process? Each man is blind and only aware of his own bumbling movements. No one can see the beauty of the design that is being constructed right in front of him—a design which each of us are constantly contributing to. There is something so sadly ironic about this, but it’s where we are all stuck. The question now becomes: are we doomed to stay here forever, or is there another option?

If you’re a Christian in God’s eyes (and not just one in name only), then you’re going to Heaven. But what does this mean exactly? What is Heaven? Is it just some place where we’ll sit around enjoying a pleasant experience of reality? This is how Heaven is depicted in the Bible. Whenever He’s addressing large groups of people, God always paints pictures of a Heaven that is filled with carnal perks. We have lots to eat. We have nice homes. We get along with each other. We’re always happy. Well, whoopee.

The closer you get to God, the more miserable the biblical descriptions of Heaven will seem to you because they have two very disturbing aspects. First, God is always distant from the people who are in Heaven with Him. He’s usually sitting on some throne emanating a blinding light that keeps everyone at bay. Sure, there are multitudes worshiping Him, but always from a safe distance.   The second disturbing aspect of these visions is that the people in Heaven are completely out of touch with the Divine perspective. Take the folks in Revelation, for example. In that book we find many descriptions of believers in Heaven hating their enemies on earth, and not seeing any value in the trials they went through. Martyred Christians in Heaven celebrate when their enemies get trampled, but they never have their eyes opened to appreciate the many gifts God gave them by putting them through hard times on earth. They never see the brilliance of God’s plan unfolding. They never see the value of having all of those Roman soldiers running around persecuting the Church. In the Bible, the humans in Heaven are so shortsighted—they are still assessing the value of God’s plans through the grid of their own foolishness. If it hurts, it must be bad. If it was inconvenient, it must be a mistake. If it doesn’t appeal to their flesh, it must be repulsive. This is a very sad way to view things.

God uses evil to enhance good. He is a master Architect who weaves together intricate, flawless designs. A truly heavenly experience would be one in which we are up close to God and having our eyes opened to get at least a glimpse of how He sees reality. It is being tuned into the Divine perspective that is the truly great reward. It is being able to see the beauty and brilliance of God’s decisions that causes us to experience ultimate peace and joy. Yet will any of us get to experience this kind of Heaven on the other side? Or are we going to be hampered with the same limited perspectives that we have now and be unable to appreciate or even recognize God’s genius at work?

It is the pursuit of intimacy with God Himself that leads us to the greatest treasures. All of this pining for a cushy life after death is a result of setting our sights way too low. When we talk as if the value of Heaven rests entirely on how comfortable and happy we are there, we’re missing the whole point of our existence. It isn’t our current circumstances which define how great life is, it is the depth of our communion with the One who made us. To know God, to be invited closer in, to have these blinders removed so that we can see and appreciate the perfection of His work—these are the true rewards.

The closer God draws us to Himself, the more content we become, and the less we need things to be going according to our warped definition of “perfect.” God’s ways are far better than our own, and the closer we get to Him, the more we realize how useless our own wisdom is compared to His. His methods, His judgments, His choices—they are all so brilliantly chosen and so flawlessly executed. God teaches us to stop obsessing over the one detail that isn’t going our way today and to instead broaden our focus to see the big picture. Of course we can’t see anything without His help, and at first we all obsess over details without being able to see beyond them. But the longer we pursue God, the more aware we become of the grand masterpiece He is constructing in our midst. At first we only sense its reality, even though we can’t see it, but then the day comes when we catch our first little glimpse of it. Suddenly we’re able to see how a particular period of suffering in our lives has radically changed us for the better. Suddenly we get a whole new perspective of some series of negative events in the lives of those we care about and we realize that while we were busy griping against God, He was setting a glorious plan of redemption in motion.

God is constantly using evil as a catalyst to intensify good. While we are choosing between submission and rebellion, He is weaving all of our choices together to create a master product which is utterly perfect. Our limited minds can’t begin to fathom how He does what He does, but with His help, we can see and appreciate the beauty of what He is accomplishing. The more we see things from the Divine perspective, the more heavenly our own existence will become. We were designed to thrive when we are living in alignment with our Maker. We were designed to feel the most joyful when we are marveling over how good and perfect our God is. It is closer communion with God that we should all be pursuing. God says that we must pursue Him on His terms and hold nothing back in our submission to Him if we want to be invited closer in. But He also says that the rewards of wholeheartedly seeking Him are indescribably great.

What will your experience of Heaven be? Will you spend eternity stuck in your own frame of reference and never seeing beyond your own warped value system? Will you always wonder what God is doing and constantly find fault with His work because you can’t see even a glimpse of the bigger plan? We aren’t going to be turned into robots when we die. We will still be creatures of choice in Heaven. What a waste it would be to find ourselves with some distant, glorious Stranger when we could be with our Greatest Love and Closest Friend. God says that He delights in drawing us closer in. But He also makes certain demands of us before He will extend certain invitations. We must pursue Him above all else. We must fully surrender ourselves into His hands. If you’re not there yet, ask God to get you there. There is no excuse for not asking when God is so willing to meet us at any point in the process. If our love for Him is sadly lacking, He will help us. If our desire for Him is less than all-consuming, He can get us there. He offers us so much, but He doesn’t force any of it upon us. He merely says it is available, but He demands that we show sincere interest in pleasing Him before He will gift us with the great privilege of knowing Him better. It has nothing to do with external works, it has everything to do with soul choices. God created you with the ability to decide how serious you’re going to be in pursuing an intimate bond with Him. So what’s it going to be?

FURTHER READING:
The Price & Privilege of Knowing God
Why did God create sin?

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