Are you flourishing? Or are you settling for less in life? Is your life one marked by love, beauty, and joy? Or is it one marked by “drama,” toxic relationships, and self-destructive behaviors?
I believe we all want to flourish in this life. It’s an innate desire given to us by God as part of His intent for creation. We want not only to live, but we want to live well. But so often, oddly enough, we find ourselves making bad choices, and settling for lesser things.
Drinking From The Wrong Cup
In the movie, Indiana Jones 3 “The Last Crusade” there’s a scene at the end (spoiler alert) in which Indiana Jones and some bad guys come across a cave full of dozens of cups pretending to be the Holy Grail. But they don’t know which one is the actual Holy Grail. But if they wish to enjoy the eternal life that the magical Holy Grail can grant them, they must choose the right cup to drink from. If they choose wisely, and pick the right cup, they can drink of waters that will give them eternal life. If they choose poorly, they will be destroyed.
The bad guy, not knowing which cup to choose from, chose the one that they think that Jesus Christ as “The King of Kings” would drink from. It was a golden cup, bedazzled with diamonds. Yup… that’s the cup Jesus surely would have dined with during the Last Supper!
Or so the bad guy thought. His choice ended up being the wrong one, and he instantly decayed before everyone’s eyes, being quickly reduced to a pile of dust. And as the guardian of the Holy Grail so aptly said, “He chose poorly.” The real cup wasn’t the pimped out goblet. It was the humble wooden cup that was more in keeping with something a carpenter would drink from. That cup ended up being the one that could grant them eternal life. It’s the one Indiana Jones ultimately drank from.
We are a lot like the bad guy in this movie. So often, we simply choose poorly. So often we drink from the wrong cup. So often we make decisions that seem right to us, but the end of that all is death. And instead of making decisions that allow us to flourish as God intended us to flourish, we do the things that rob us of the life God has for us.
Far Too Easily Pleased
I believe in my heart or hearts that God designed us as human beings to flourish. And by that, I don’t mean some “God wants us to all be millionaires living in mansions” like the Joel Osteen prosperity gospel type nonsense folks preach.
No. When God created the world, He created it full of abundance and beauty. And He placed us in a garden to tend to it all, to be stewards over creation, and to cultivate a world full of beauty, joy, and goodness. A world that radiated the glory of God, as the creator and sustainer of all things.
Of course, we messed that all up. And we continue to mess that up to this day. We are so easily led astray. And our hearts, strangely enough, often cause us to settle for lesser things, even as we desire better things.
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
I really like this quote for C.S. Lewis. “We are far too easily pleased,” pretty much sums up all our stories. We could have a life other than the one God created us to enjoy, but we find our hearts going after things that only distract us and rob us of the abundant life that can only ultimately be found in Christ.
Those lesser things we choose often seem good in the moment. We usually don’t willfully choose to self destruct. “But there’s a way that seems right unto man,” that ultimately ends in death, according the Scriptures. We choose things that seem good, but are ultimately less. Things that ultimately rob us of the ability to thrive.
It’s like when we choose a McDonald’s burger when there’s something better out there to eat. It’s like regularly choosing to binge on Netflix night after night, when we could get out and exercise, read a book, or otherwise improve our lives. It’s like choosing pornography, one night stands, and complicated romantic relationships, over a life of sexual fidelity in marriage.
We choose these things because our desires are weak. We are often happy to settle for the lesser thing, when God has something better for us in Christ.
Warning: God Will Give Us What We Want
We see this story play out in the history of Israel. In 1 Samuel 8 the 12 tribes of Israel approached the prophet Samuel about reorganizing their government and appointing a king over them.
They simply wanted to “be like all the other nations” who had kings over them. Kings who could enact justice on their behalf, to protect them, and to fight their battles and wars. They wanted a king that would bring about the way of life they envied from other nations.
The prophet Samuel grieved over this. While the desire for a king in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing, the choice to establish a king over the 12 tribes of Israel ultimately meant rejecting God as King. And in choosing to no longer have God as king, Samuel foresaw all the problems the nation would have by having a human as their king.
Yet, in making this choice, God ultimately honored the foolish desires of the nation of Israel. He gave them exactly what they wanted. And therein lies the rub. God will always allow us to drink of the fullness of our ways. He will not force Himself upon us. If we want Him, we can have Him. But if we want something else besides Him, He lets us have that very thing. And the history of Israel was never the same.
Making The Better Choice
The ability to thrive and live an abundant life ultimately comes down to a choice. A choice that comes from the orientation of our heart. Look at your life.
What are you choosing? Are you choosing the beautiful life? One marked by love and joy? Or are you choosing a life full of drama, toxic relationships, and self-destructive habits?
Ultimately, the ability to thrive in life is going to come down to the orientation of our hearts and the actions we take. We must be honest with ourselves. Would we wish the drama that is our lives on other people? Or would we wish something better for them?
We must ultimate make a choice.
And sometimes that choice isn’t easy. The ways of Jesus can often involve doing hard things like picking up your cross and denying yourself. But in choosing to follow Jesus, I believe we are choosing to live the good and abundant life. A life marked by beauty.
Let me close with a great passage from the Old Testament:
“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NASB)