FINDING OUR THRILLS FROM GOD
In a TV-Saturated culture
My wife Nelun and I spent two days at the beach at the beginning of this year (2008). It was a great break after the rush of Christmas. We try to do this at the start of each year. And we have found a holiday place for locals in Panadura, just south of Colombo, which we can afford. One of the things we do during this break is to look at my calendar for the year, so that Nelun is aware of what I will be doing and where I will be travelling. We also watched the fabulous film about the life of Christian social reformer, William Wilberforce, “Amazing Grace”—truly inspiring!
But I found I was struggling to have my devotions as I was taking things easy and not following my usual routines and disciplines. This happens to me often even during my weekly off-day. One thing I do when I struggle with devotions is to try something new for a change. I decided to read Charles Spurgeon’s exposition of Psalm 24 from his book, The Treasury of David, which I have in my computer. What wealth! How richly Spurgeon comments on the treasure that David left us. I was struck by his comments on a statement in verse 4:
…hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity. All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with the husks will be reckoned with the swine. If we suck our consolation from the breasts of the world, we prove ourselves to be its home born children. Does the world satisfy thee? Then thou hast thy reward and thy portion in this life; make much of it, for thou shalt know no other joy.
I began to pray to God to give me a thirst for his beauty and for the pleasure that comes from him.
In my computer I have a wonderful hymn programme “Steve Green’s MIDI Hymnal.” It has the words and audio keyboard accompaniment to over 2000 hymns. I went there and began to sing. Soon I was experiencing an ecstasy greater than anything the world can give.
We live in an entertainment-oriented society, with entertainment being one of our biggest industries today. And we are being offered a lot of options. How easy it is for us to let those who entertain from a worldly perspective influence us to forget that the greatest thrills come from God. How easy it is for us to think that if we do not have the type of entertainment peddled in the world we are not enjoying life to the full.
The entertainment industry seems to be concentrating on making a dose of sex outside marriage and violence part of the staple diet necessary for people to relax and be entertained. This week I listened to an interview on BBC World Service radio with no less a figure than actor-director Richard Attenborough who bemoaned the fact that we are no longer shocked by violence and extra-marital sex when we see it in the media.
We seem to be bombarded by the idea that we need a regular dose of sex and violence via the media in order to have a fulfilling life. Therefore we need to give deliberate, purposeful and careful attention to battling this message that is being aggressively marketed to us in very powerful ways. We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are too noble to find real satisfaction from the husks that the world provides. We are created to find fulfilment from more deeply satisfying and longer-lasting means. To do this we must constantly purify ourselves from the fog of the media hype which keeps us from seeing the value of true satisfaction.
May we all learn ways of finding our thrills from God! May we thirst for these thrills and seek after them. May our dry times be opportunities to fuel this thirst for more of God! And may we never get deceived into thinking that earthly thrills can even come close to the thrill of being in the presence of God: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psa. 16:11).
Three days after I wrote the above I was in Bodelwyddan Castle in Wales to speak at the British Youth for Christ staff and volunteer conference. I went for a walk and was blown away by the breathtaking scenery of the Welsh countryside. My heart was lifted to delight in God and praise him for the beauty of his creation. I realised that enjoying the marvels of creation was another way to overcome the pervasive influence of the media and of our activity orientation which blinds us from deeper realities such as enjoying God’s Creation.
Hard work, high pressure responsibility and the numbing effect of the media can combine to form a deadly cocktail which can destroy our spiritual sensitivity to the voice of God. Tired out after a hard and stressful day of work, we put on the TV for relaxation and go into another world which numbs our feelings of tiredness and gives some relaxation. But this keeps us from focusing our thoughts so that we can contemplate those things which give us the greatest amount of refreshment—the truths of God. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy television! But I also know how it can keep me from those things which truly satisfy my soul. So I need to go on frequent TV fasts—to clear the fog that comes from its pervasive influence on my soul.
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Creation is a way to see God’s glory. Then the psalm says, “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (19:2). Sadly, we are often so rushed and preoccupied with things that mask our thirst for God and cloud our vision of the beauty of God that we cannot hear this message that God is giving daily through creation. May God open our eyes.