All That Matters in Life
2 Chronicles 7:11-16
Dr. Jim Denison
While you have been listening to great preaching and enjoying wonderful worship services, I’ve been “across the pond” in the land where it rains nearly daily, trying to figure out cricket on the “telle” and enjoying British hospitality immensely.
And I’ve come back to discover that John Bolton is at the United Nations. Rafael Palmeiro, the man who condemned steroid use in baseball, is on suspension for steroid use. Our space shuttle astronauts are repairing their space shuttle so they can come home this week. But while the news changes, human nature does not. We still want our lives to matter–we each want to be successful with our time on earth.
That’s why some of you are caught up in football practices, band camps, cheerleading and drill team drills, finishing (or starting) summer reading.
It’s why others of us are back from summer trips to the pressure of fall performance. It’s why our church is gearing up for fall programs, the garage opening, preparations for the Community Life Center to open in a year, and all that is ahead of us.
None of us wants to fail. All of us want to succeed. Here’s how. Here’s what the Lord has said to my heart during my time away: what God wants is all that matters in life. Not what I want, or what you want, but what he wants.
His word is clear: if we save our lives, we lose them. If we lose our lives to his purposes, we save them (Matthew 16:25). If we try to make our lives matter, they don’t. If we give all that up and seek what God wants, he does far more with us than we can do with ourselves.
Rick Warren, speaking to the Baptist World Alliance in Birmingham, England, said it well: “Stop asking God to bless what you are doing, and ask him to help you do what he is blessing.” If you want to be blessed, to be successful, do what he is blessing.
So, what is he blessing?
Choose to seek God’s face
David wanted to build a temple for the Lord, a permanent place where God would meet with his people, receive their sacrifices, and hear their prayers. But his will was not God’s will. He had shed too much blood, and his son Solomon would build the temple in his place (1 Chronicles 22:7-10). Not the greatest king Israel ever knew, but the son of his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba. A man who would win no battles and accomplish nothing of significance first.
How would such an untested leader accomplish the greatest building project in Israel’s history? Where God leads, he provides.
The king had accumulated 100,000 talents of gold (3,750 tons) and a million talents of silver (37,500 tons; 1 Chr 22:14). I ran the numbers this week: at gold and silver prices as of last Tuesday evening, that’s a total of $60,504,000,000. Solomon would inherit a net worth 25 percent greater than Bill Gates’. And that doesn’t count the “quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone” (v. 14). With this disclaimer: “And you may add to them.”
Who would use all these riches? His father had enlisted tradesmen in every kind of work (vs. 14-15). Who would help him organize this massive effort? David had enlisted “all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon” (v. 17).
So it was that a man who had never won a battle, never built a kingdom, never built anything that we know of, was called to build the most important structure in human history. And succeeded. When God calls, he provides–always.
Now David’s son is finished with his task. It would seem that he has achieved success for the ages. But success in his eyes or that of his nation’s is immaterial. God is clear: only “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chr 7:14a) will he bless this Temple.
“Humble ourselves” means to submit ourselves to his plan, his will, his glory. It’s not about us–it’s all and only about him.
“Pray”–turn to his power and purposes, not our own.
“Seek my face”–no perfunctory prayers, these; honest, heart-felt, intentional, intense, soul-giving prayers. Seek a personal, daily, intimate relationship with him.
When we do, we must “turn from our wicked ways.” The closer we draw to him, the more our sins are exposed by his light. You don’t see the dirt on your hands in the dark.
Only then will he “hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (v. 14b)–the purpose of this Temple. Only then will his eyes be open and his ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place–the purpose of this Temple. Only then will he use the efforts of men for the eternal glory of God. Only then.
Only when nothing matters but what God wants. Not what I want. Not what you want. Only what he wants. Then he gives our lives more joy, power, purpose, abundance than we could ever have imagined or accomplished for ourselves. Here’s the paradox: when nothing matters but what God wants, we get more than we want. Every time. When we seek first the Kingdom of God, all these things are added to us (Matthew 6:33). Every time.
Adopting the motto, “It’s not about us,” is the best thing for us. The best way to redeem your life is to ignore it. To ignore any definition of success but his. And he says the successful people on this planet are the people who humble themselves and pray and seek his face and turn from their wicked ways. The people who decide that what they want doesn’t matter; what the world wants doesn’t matter; what God wants is all that matters in life. I want what God wants–that’s best for God and best for me.