Human beings are spiritual beings. You are your soul, not your body, and yet while you’re in this world, your body seems very important to you. In this world, your body, or earthsuit, feels as critical to your survival as a rocket ship does to an astronaut who is orbiting earth. If something goes wrong with the astronaut’s ship, he’s going to feel very stressed and fearful because he needs that ship to survive in outer space. In the same way, when something goes wrong with your earthsuit, you get very stressed and fearful and you start praying for God to fix whatever the problem is. It is because we humans are so focused on our earthsuits that we end up deciding that what our earthsuits want is what matters most. Our earthsuits are amazing machines with minds of their own, and what your earthsuit wants boils down to two basic principles: feeling good, and being safe. A lot of things make your earthsuit feel good: comfy cushions, nice cars, being popular, being rich. A lot of things make your earthsuit feel safe. So as a human, you want these things very much, and it’s very easy to get so consumed by the thought of having them that you totally lose sight of what really matters.
So what really matters? Pleasing your Makers. Why? Because They control the well-being of your soul, and your soul is the only part of you that’s going to go on to eternity. Now you could say, “Hey, I’m not in eternity yet, so why not live for my earthsuit while I’m here?” This would be a fine plan if it weren’t for the fact that your Creators are going to use your soul choices in this world to determine what They’re going to do with you in eternity. It is because your soul’s response to your Creators now is going to have such a major impact on you later on that putting Them off is such a foolish decision. Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit say that now is when you need to be seriously seeking Them, listening to Them, and fully submitting to Them as the Supreme Authorities that They are.
Here’s the problem with doing things God’s way: the more serious you are about pleasing Him, the more opportunities He creates for you to spiritually mature, and the kinds of experiences you need to thrive spiritually often conflict with the kinds of experiences your earthsuit wants to have. For example, cultivating God-honoring soul attitudes is a critical part of spiritual maturity, and one of the most important soul attitudes we need to develop is that of submission to God. Submission only comes up when you’re doing something that you don’t want to do out of respect for God’s Authority. Well, if you’re doing what you don’t want to do, then clearly you’re not having a perfect life on earth, and your earthsuit is going to find that annoying. It’s the same with trying to develop the soul attitude of dependency. To really get a grip on how dependent you are on God, you need to be pinned into unpleasant situations where you find that you are incapable of doing what you wish you could do. If God were to saddle you with some nasty addiction to drugs or porn, then you’d suddenly be in a fabulous position to feel how incapable you are to just pull self-control out of the air and magically morph into a clone of Christ. Being financially strapped is another great way to learn dependency. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck and you have no savings to fall back on, you quickly get in touch with how dependent you are on God to provide for you. And yet who wants to be poor and penniless? No one.
The kinds of lessons that are best for our souls are often quite repulsive to our earthsuits, and this is what makes living for God such a turnoff to most people. If only God would reward our interest in Him with the kinds of rewards we want to have: health, wealth, and popularity. But He doesn’t. It’s not that God never blesses us materially, but He certainly doesn’t do it in a predictable way, and if we’re seriously seeking Him, we can be sure that He’ll put us through some stressful times. Well, rats, this is a tough truth to accept, and when humans are faced with tough truths, they often decide to just ignore them.
You’ll find a whole lot of tough truths being ignored in the Bible. The book of Psalms is an especially fine example of this as we find psalmist after psalmist trying to declare that if we are loyal to God, God will reward us by giving us trouble free lives on earth. What’s ironic about this is that all of the guys who wrote such guff could look around and see how wrong it was. Moses, Joshua and Caleb were loyal to God, but they got stuck wandering around in a barren desert with a bunch of rebellious gripers for four decades. As draining as it is to be around one human with a bad attitude, imagine being around a million humans who are always complaining about their lives. Then we have the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who were wandering around dirt poor and homeless a good part of the time. We’ve got Jeremiah and countless other prophets getting physically beaten and socially shunned due to their loyalty to Yahweh. And how about Abel? What was his reward for honoring Yahweh with an animal sacrifice? Getting murdered in cold blood by his brother Cain. So much for prospering on earth, and yet this is exactly what the author of Psalm 1 tells us will happen to those who are serious about pleasing God in life.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of Yahweh, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For Yahweh watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Ps. 1:1-6)
This is the entire psalm: short and sweet, yet packed with potential to pitch you into despair if you really think this guy is accurately speaking for God. Because you see Yahweh Himself never promised peace and prosperity to every individual who put Him first in life. What Yahweh did make was a promise He knew that He’d never have to deliver on: He promised that if the entire community of Israel were to honor Him, then He would give the entire community a sweet life on earth. But of course the entire community never came close to honoring God, because obeying God has never been the popular choice among humans. Meanwhile, you’re being lied to by the Church when she tells you that it was God who promised to rain blessings down on your head if you try to honor Him in life. God never makes any such guarantee to all individual believers in the Bible. You only think He does because you’re buying into the absurd notion that just because some statement shows up in the Bible, it must have fallen from the lips of God Himself. Well, no. In reality, the Bible is a mixed bag of right and wrong teaching. And while Yahweh and Jesus do get quoted quite a bit in the Bible, most of the text is just humans passing on their own confused thoughts about who our Gods are and how They operate. In the case of Psalm 1, wishful thinking caused our human author to run amuck by putting out guarantees which God Himself never made. This is why we’re always telling you that you need to ask God for His feedback whenever you come across teaching about Him. If you don’t, you’re going to end up very disillusioned, and that’s a miserable experience to have to go through.
Here’s a useful point to bear in mind: as time marches on, cultures change, but human nature remains the same. Don’t get bogged down with egotistical nonsense like the Theory of Evolution. We humans haven’t evolved into a higher species: we’ve always been just like we are today. Our basic nature is always the same, even though our languages, technologies, art, and cultural values shift around. From the very beginning, humans have taken issue with God not doing things their way and with God refusing to give them everything they want. This is how we ended up with a bunch of psalms which make life out to be a whole lot more simplistic than it is—because people are refusing to accept that God’s methods are a lot more complicated than this. Now and then a guy like Job or Solomon pipes up to gripe about how things really don’t work out this well at all, and how the world actually seems full of injustice, hardship, and evil trumping good. And they’re right: things aren’t as simplistic as Psalm 1 makes them out to be. If you seriously seek God in life, it’s guaranteed that you’re not going to have a sweet time of it, because God will reward your devotion to Him by propelling you down the road of spiritual maturity, and that means putting you through a bunch of trials. Does it mean your life will be one long lemon rind? No, every life has a mix of sorrow and joy. But if you want to get the most out of the specific blend that God brings you, then you need to set your sights on the things that He says matter. God says that knowing Him and pleasing Him are what counts in life—not how much money you make or how many fans you collect on earth. When God created you, it was with an eternal plan in mind, and experiencing His best for you is what you want to go for. As humans, we were designed to find true satisfaction only when we are revolving around our Makers.
The problem with Psalm 1 is that it’s focusing on earthly circumstances instead of on spiritual values. The righteous prosper in this world, while the wicked are quickly destroyed. At the end of this psalm, the author does make a reference to eternal judgement when he says that the wicked will end up destroyed while the righteous get to be in some happy assembly. But all of this imagery is focused on human relationships—what happened to God?
Our Creators do not just sit on distant thrones waiting to pass judgments on us before shuffling us off to Heaven or Hell. We were designed to be in relationship with Them, and it is communion with Them which we want to seek as the greatest prize. Cherishing our Gods for who They are instead of just valuing Them for the earthly perks They can give us—this is the more mature view that we want to go for. It’s the difference between meeting your friend so you can spend quality time with her, or meeting her just so you can gain access to the contents of her wallet. Far too often the biblical writers encourage us to try and view our Creators as dispensers of blessings instead of seeing Them as the totally magnificent, enticing, mysterious, wonderful Beings that They are.
If you had to choose between a sweet life on earth without communion with your Gods or a difficult life on earth with rich communion with Them, which would you choose today? If we’re honest, we often struggle to value our Gods for anything more than the blessings They can give us. This is an immature view, but immaturity only becomes a problem when we accept it as a permanent state of being. We all start off chasing the wrong goals and fixating on stuff that doesn’t matter. We all start off wanting God to fix our problems quickly and being resistant to the idea of learning from them. God doesn’t expect us to be aligned with His values from day one—but He does want us to ask Him to help us get there.
In your life, a lack of love for God is never going to be the thing that holds you back. What will hold you back is a lack of submission: a refusal to say, “Here’s where I’m honestly at right now, God, but I want to go farther. I want to keep growing and keep moving closer to You, so please make me all that You want me to be.” We can pray a prayer like this in any stage of growth—even when we’re feeling totally flat and disinterested in who God is. And when we do pray like this, God will respond to us and draw us closer to Himself. Will we always feel like thriving trees on a riverbank? No, we won’t. Will we look around and see the wicked dropping like flies? No. Plenty of times the wicked will look like the thriving ones while we feel like we’re barely crawling through the day. So why should we bother? Because God is everything, and there is no other way for humans to thrive except for an all-out pursuit of Him. We can either spend our lives wishing God would run His game differently, or we can abandon the simplistic promises of wishful psalmists and decide that, come what may, God is the One we’re going to live for.
In speaking of the value of pursuing God first, Jesus once said:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45)
The merchant was just trying to find high quality pearls, but then he came across one that was so exquisite, no price could be set on it. So he sold everything he had in order to possess it. Why not? Since the pearl itself was priceless, no matter how much the man sacrificed to get it, he would still come out way ahead. This is how it works with the pursuit of God. There is no value you can set on communion with your own Creators, and anything you have to sacrifice now in order to gain a closer walk with Them is going to be infinitely worthwhile.