Satisfaction in Christ
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and by the age of 15 I developed a strong drug addiction. For much of my teenage career, I was told I was not allowed to do what made me happy. Judges, probation officers, the police, teachers, and my family all told me that I had to stop pursuing my own desires and start behaving.
To be fair, they were right. My happiness was found primarily in substance abuse and criminal activity. So, they were right to tell me to shape up. But my problem remained: Do what makes you happy or behave, but I couldn’t have both.
There came a day, however, when my sin no longer made me happy. In fact, nothing I did brought me joy. Drugs and alcohol destroyed my life, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live any longer. But then God intervened.
In the Spring of 2007 the Lord saved me, and it was then that I made an awesome discovery. I don’t have to choose between doing what’s right and being happy. In Christ, they are one and the same. If we define doing what’s right as following and obeying Christ, then I don’t have to decide between doing what’s moral and pursuing my own personal happiness, because my highest joy is found in serving Jesus.
I think many people view Christianity wrongly. They see God as holding out two options.
- Follow God’s way. You can choose to follow my ways and be obedient; or,
- Follow your way. You can go your own way and do what you want.
Follow God or follow your own desires.
It’s true that some people wrongfully choose their own passions over the will of God thinking it will make them happy. But what isn’t true is that you must either choose between supreme happiness or following Jesus, because supreme happiness is found in Jesus.
To choose anyone or anything other than Jesus is to, as C.S. Lewis said, settle for lesser things. Not only are we rebelling against God when we choose our sin over Christ, we are settling for lesser joy. Lewis likens us to children who would rather play in the mud because we don’t know what is meant by a holiday at the sea.
God commands us to honor and worship Him, knowing that when we do, we will find total satisfaction for our hearts and souls. Consider what the Lord said to His exiled people in Babylon.
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.”
The language in this passage isn’t literal. These are metaphors. The Lord isn’t offering actual water, wine and milk. Neither is He referring to physical thirst. These are spiritual terms. He’s saying come to Him to satisfy our thirsty souls.
Imagine a man walking through the desert for days and dying of thirst. Suddenly, though, he finds an oasis. It’s a fountain of fresh, cold, clean drinking water.
That’s what the Lord offers to His people. Our souls are parched. Just as Psalmist said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). Our souls crave satisfaction. We desire joy and fulfillment, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s how God made us.
The problem is when we seek satisfaction in worldly things and our sin and not God. This, the Lord calls evil.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Consider what’s being conveyed here. In ancient Israel, not everyone had a well. So, the people often had to create water cisterns. These cisterns were underground water containers that caught rainwater. They were made of rock and covered in plaster. When the people needed water for drinking or food, they went to the cistern. But if the cistern was broken, it became worthless because any water that ran into it would just drain out. The cistern would be empty. And so, imagine that you’re an ancient Israelite dying of thirst, and you have two options. You can have an unlimited source of clean, cold, refreshing water from a fountain or you can have a broken cistern. The choice is obvious. You’d choose the fountain. You’d be crazy to choose broken cisterns.
Yet that’s what we do when we choose our sin over the Lord. Our souls are parched and dying of spiritual thirst. And the Lord offers us Himself, the fountain of living water, but instead of choosing life, we choose a dirt-filled hole in the ground.
Going back to Isaiah 55, this is why the Lord chastises His people. Their problem isn’t that they seek satisfaction. Their problem is that they seek fulfillment in “that which is not bread” and they “labor for that which does not satisfy” (55:2). The Lord invites them to “eat what is good, and delight [themselves] in rich food.”
This is what Jesus meant in John 6:35 when He said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus is doing the same thing Isaiah did. He’s using bread and water metaphorically. Except this time, He explicitly says, I am the bread. I am the living water (John 4:10). If you come to me, you will never be hungry. If you drink from me, you will never thirst. He says this because just as bread satisfies your belly when you’re hungry, Jesus will satisfy the hunger in your soul. Just as water quenches your thirst when you’re thirsty, so Jesus will quench the thirst of your soul.
This is what I didn’t understand when I was lost in my addiction. I was constantly going from one source of pleasure to another. It was drugs, then it was sex, then it was drinking and gambling, and sports, and on and on it went. I could never find satisfaction—until I found Christ.
You and I were made for God, and He made us to desire Him. But sin has distorted everything, especially our desires. After the fall, we don’t stop craving satisfaction, but we seek it in all the wrong places. I did this until it nearly killed me. I finally hit rock bottom, and then nothing I did could bring me happiness…until I feasted on the bread of life. And now my whole life is one big fight to constantly go back to Him instead of worldly pleasures.
You don’t have to choose between being supremely happy and following Jesus. But you do have to decide whether you will go to Christ, who is the bread of life and fountain of living water, or broken cisterns.
Brandon is the Associate Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN and leads the TJC RE:GENERATION ministry for the church. Brandon is married to Sherrie and has a daugher, Emma.
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