In the movies, treasure is always hidden away somewhere—covered by boulders in a cave, or buried deep in the dirt. Treasure is never found just lying on the surface of the ground in plain sight.
Why have I spent so much time talking about resistance, in a series on true joy? Because happiness doesn't lie on the surface… it's buried under resistance in some form or another.
Beware of anything lying on the surface that looks like happiness. At best, it's probably just distraction; at worst, it could be something deadly to your joy.
As an example, sexual pleasure in our American culture is lying right there on the surface, in almost as many variations as there are people. Right there on the ground for the taking… absolutely no resistance between us and what looks like pure happiness.
For some, this pursuit of happiness will be brief—only a distraction keeping them away from their true purpose. Others however, will suffer lasting effects—disease, moral depravity, or other consequences… the most destructive being neglected children.
Sexual pleasure lying on the surface is not happiness, but destruction disguised as happiness. True happiness from sexual pleasure is hidden, and can only be enjoyed by facing the resistance that comes from creating a healthy marriage and a healthy environment for any children the couple may have.
A true pursuit of happiness is not a pursuit of shiny trinkets lying on the ground, but a pursuit of the things of God hidden behind resistance.
A certain man went on a long trip to a far country. He entrusted his wealth to three of his servants. He gave one five talents (a talent is equivalent to about twenty years of wages based on a $50,000 annual income). He gave one two talents. And he gave the third servant one talent. (See Matthew 25:14–15.)
The first two worked as investors, intent on creating a profit for their employer (master). They dealt effectively with whatever opposition they faced while working to multiply his money. The third servant, rather than face opposition, just a dug a hole in the ground and buried the money. (See Matthew 25:16–18.)
Please note: Don't miss the significance of the responsibility given to these servants. The first servant had responsibility for approximately $5,000,000… the second servant about $2,000,000… and the third servant approximately $1,000,000. To make a profit on this amount of money involves a lot of work, facing and overcoming significant resistance. I am only speculating, but I would assume the first two servants worked at this on a nearly full‐time basis ever day their employer was gone. The third guy however, spent whatever time it took to hide approximately $1,000,000 in a hole in the ground—doing nothing else until his employer returned from his trip.
When the employer returned he commended the productivity of the first two servants, entrusted them with even greater responsibility, and invited them to enter into his joy. (See Matthew 25:20–23.)
The third servant didn't come out as well. Because he was unwilling to put his master's money to work—apparently unwilling to take on the risk and overcome the resistance he would likely face—he was stripped of everything and thrown out into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (See Matthew 25: 24–30.)
The joy of the Lord comes at a price. It is not lying on the ground for just anyone to pick up. It is accessible to anyone who wants it, but it cannot be picked up without overcoming resistance.
God entrusts each of us with something valuable to Him. When we put to work what He has given us—increasing its value—we receive promotion and an invitation to join in His joy. When we hide away somewhere what He has given us, and just go about our own business, we are thrown out of His presence into a place of misery and suffering.
Some of the passages in the Bible talking about weeping and gnashing of teeth are obviously referring to hell in the next life (see Matthew 13:42, 50 and Luke 13:28). But there is a hell on this earth experienced by people regardless of whether or not they have a relationship with Jesus.
When we as Christians are thrown out of the Lord's presence because we refuse to take the risks and face the resistance in putting to work what He has given us, it certainly appears as if we experience the same weeping and gnashing of teeth, in this life, as those who are without God. I know way too many Christians who live defeated lives because they have not put to work what God has given them.
If you are thinking of people who are miserable because they have neglected their God‐given talents and abilities, I agree. But I am going much further that just talent and ability.
Certainly God has gifted each of us individually for our own unique purpose. But He has also gifted each and every one of us with His Word. And this is the place of our greatest neglect. We are much more likely to squander His Word than to squander our talent.
Have you ever considered that whatever Word you do not apply to your life, is Word buried in a hole in your back yard?
You know what Word I'm talking about. It's Word that's just too difficult to understand. It's Word that's just too weird for your comfort level. It's Word that's just too idealistic to fit into your reality.
All of us bury at least some of God's Word in the backyard because we simply don't want to go to the trouble of dealing with it. We'll stick with “The Lord is my shepherd” and other verses that give us comfort without requiring any effort on our part.
But the kind of happiness that comes from having a few “comfort” verses memorized can't stand up to the opposition coming between you and true joy. Addiction, sickness, depression, poverty, unforgiveness, fear, and the rest of their cousins will not move out of your life by throwing Words of comfort at them. You will have to dig up the Word you have buried in the backyard and overcome resistance with all the counsel of God (see Acts 20:27).
Have a good day,