“Mike! Don't spoil your appetite!” Mom would yell, as I ran out the back door with as many cookies as my little hands could hold. But my appetite for cookies, fresh out of the oven, was bigger than my appetite for pot roast, corn‐on‐the‐cob, green beans, and whatever else Mom might be fixing for supper.
As far as I was concerned I could just live on cookies. They tasted good and they filled me up. What else was necessary? But I would have never grown up just eating cookies. I would have never lived to become an adult.
In the same way, we can pursue happiness as if that's all we need to live on. But the pursuit of happiness can just fill up all of our time with stuff that has no nutritional value—leaving us with no appetite for true joy. And we become people who have no real life in us.
In my second year of college, when the hippie generation was still going strong, I moved to Chicago. Maybe something a little bit useful came out of this movement… but precious little. The hippies I hung around were just overgrown kids who wanted to live on cookies.
To be fair, they were only rebelling against a previous generation who wanted to live on cookies also—just a different flavor. Instead of the sex, drugs, alcohol, laziness, and poor hygiene of the hippies, the previous generation flavored their cookies with the pursuit of material possessions and rules (at least that's what the hippies thought).
But don't we all try to live on cookies for as long as we can?
Look around you at what we fill up on, just because it tastes good. Look at all the ways we seek happiness. (I'm not going to make up an exhaustive list because I will offend everybody—including me.)
I want to encourage you over the next few days to take a look at what you're filling up on and see if it's spoiling your appetite for true joy.
God doesn't hide the cookies from us. We have the freedom to eat just as many as we want. And if we want to eat cookies until we get sick, then we have the freedom to do so. It's up to us if we want to spoil our supper by filling up on something with no nutritional value.
One of the unalienable rights in our Declaration of Independence is “the pursuit of happiness.” And boy, do we go after that one. It is interesting however, that a misguided pursuit of happiness ends up stealing the other two unalienable rights: life and liberty. I see people on a regular basis who have lost much of their life and their liberty in their pursuit of happiness.
In our pursuit of happiness we all fill up on stuff with no nutritional value. But it's not easy for us to realize all the ways we are chasing after happiness in our own lives. So I encourage you to watch people over the next few days, and look at what they appear to be doing to have some fun. Then ask yourself the question: “How much of this has nutritional value?”
This is what I see, in general, going on here in America:
First of all, the pursuit of happiness usually requires spending money. And Solomon had plenty of money. In fact, no one had more money and wisdom than Solomon. (See 1 Kings 10:23.) So if money is a factor in pursuing happiness then Solomon should have been one very happy man.
I said to myself, “Come on, let's try pleasure. Let's look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. (Ecclesiastes 2:1–3 NLT)
If spending money didn't help Solomon find any happiness, then why do we think money will help any of the rest of us find happiness? I'm not saying you should stop spending money on the things you enjoy. I'm asking you to consider that much of what you spend money for, in the pursuit of happiness, may have no nutritional value… and may be stealing your life and your liberty. This will become clearer to you as we move along.
Secondly, the pursuit of happiness usually also requires some measure of success at something. All of us want to be recognized for some kind of achievement—big or small.
Again, Solomon comes to mind. He built houses. He made gardens and orchards, and planted all kinds of trees. He built huge irrigation projects. He ruled an entire nation. He managed enough people to administer all his projects, and to serve him and his 700 wives and 300 concubines. (See Ecclesiastes 2:4–9.) If accomplishments alone could bring happiness, then Solomon should have been very happy indeed.
Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. (Ecclesiastes 2:10–11 NLT)
I certainly don't want to discourage great achievements, but they don't necessarily bring great happiness. “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’”—Rabbi Harold Kushner.
And then I see another pursuit of happiness that borders on insanity. It has absolutely nothing to show for it—no material possessions and no achievements. It consists of foolish people doing foolish things just for the thrill of it. It's as if they are possessed by the pursuit of mindless entertainment.
Foolishness brings joy to those with no sense; a sensible person stays on the right path. (Proverbs 15:21 NLT)
There is however, a pursuit of happiness that actually increases both our life and our liberty. But we have spoiled our appetites for this true happiness because of all the other stuff we've been consuming. So the first step in the pursuit of true happiness is a radical change in diet.
Take some time right now to spend with God as you consider these Words:
Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery]. [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins]. Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant]. (James 4:8‐10 Amp Bible)
As we took a young man to his apartment after our Tuesday night class this week, he described the empty hole in his heart and the torment he was experiencing. I listened for some direction from the Lord. When I stopped the car I just reached back and took hold of his hand. I didn't say anything; I just held on to him. And I knew God, in the silence, was fixing something on the inside of that young man. After a few moments I asked him what was going on. He told us how God was touching him. I spoke a short prayer over him and then he prayed a very sweet prayer to Jesus. Now that was fun!
Let's get serious… and have some real fun!
Have a good day,