Married people want to be single.
Single people want to be married.
Teenagers can’t wait until they’re in college.
College students can’t wait until they’re adults.
Adults reminisce about how they wish they were in college or high school again, as those were the good ol’ days.
Working adults can’t wait until they retire.
Retired folks wish they were younger and envy those who are.
Do you see a problem here?
Consider this statement from Jesus in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” We normally think the opposite of life is death, which is true enough, but another opposite of life is fantasy.
Think about it: if you spend all day fantasizing about how green you want your grass to look, or fantasizing about how you wish your neighbor’s lawn was yours, what’s going to happen to the lawn you own?
It’s going to slowly shrivel up from being uncared for.
Fantasy is a vicious cycle: the more time we spend in it, the less we invest in our real lives, making our real lives more and more unbearable, making us want to spend more and more time in fantasy.
Satan doesn’t have to kill you to take life from you, in fact that would sort of defeat his purpose. He merely has to get you latched on to fantasy, or more accurately, get fantasy latched on to you.
Like a parasite.
Slowly draining the life out of you.
I preached on Numbers 11 this past Sunday (see bottom). The Israelites were around 14 months out from their slave days in Egypt. God had been providing manna for them every day, flake-like bread that miraculously appeared on the ground each morning. This wasn’t good enough for the Israelites though. In fact, it was so bad, they had the gall to tell God they were better off in Egypt! They were better off as slaves than on their way to the Promised Land because at least in Egypt they could eat meat, cucumbers, melons, onions and leeks. Yes leeks. Slave masters’ whips are bearable, even pleasant, if you can have a leek at the end of the day. Or so the Israelites made it sound as they wailed to Moses their displeasure with and rejection of God.
We know in reality that leeks and meat aren’t enough to make slavery bearable, but Satan sure is good at getting us to romanticize our past and fantasize about our future, isn’t he? He sure is good at never allowing us to enjoy our present.
Consider these two verses, they are both from the mouths of the same Israelites…the first one was during their 400 year enslavement in Egypt, the second one is 14 months after they were freed from slavery:
“Groaning” in Exodus 2 and “complained” in Numbers 11 come from the same Hebrew root word.
Do you know anyone like this?
Someone who is never happy? Never content?
Someone who always wants to live in a different city or state, then when they move, they wish to be back where they came from?
Someone who always wanted to be married, then once married, now wants to be single?
Someone who wanted to get out of college so bad but now longs for it, not remembering the tests and exams but only the freedom and fun.
It’s sobering right?
It’s us right?
How do you think God felt when when he miraculously delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery (10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, etc.) in response to their prayer in Exodus 2:23-24, only to have the same people spit in his face and say they’d rather go back to their slavery, the slavery they prayed and groaned to get out of.
How does God feel when we do the same thing with our sin? God delivers us from our sin, yet all we remember is the sweetness of the sin on our lips, not how it turned to ash in our mouth or left 3rd degree burns throughout our bowels.
Here’s the thing: no amount of leeks, or quail, or manna, or sin, or porn, or promiscuity, or money, or power, or status, or selfishness, or approval, will ever satisfy us. None of these are God. When we feed off of them, we will always be left hungry. When we eat fantasy food, we die. Slowly and subtly, the parasite sucks the real life out of us until only a shell of ourselves remain, the rest of us gone in some made-up world that doesn’t exist. Exactly where our enemy wants us.
To break away from this is simple, though not easy.
Simple in that instead of feeding off of fantasy, we have to feed off of what is real. Instead of bowing the knee to what feels best or will make us happy in the moment, we bow the knee to Jesus. We feed off of Jesus. We allow Jesus to be sufficient for everything in our life. Trusting that he is the path to “having life to the full,” as he told us in John 10:10. Ironically, 1400 years after the manna and quail incident, Jesus shows up and tells us we are to feed off of him. He miraculously fed 5000 people some bread, but they didn’t want to follow him, they only wanted more bread. They wanted Jesus to give them bread every day, like their ancestors got 1400 years ago in the form of manna, and if he didn’t, he wasn’t “God-enough” for them. Instead of accepting the present life-giving reality of Jesus, the people longed for their manna-filled past. The past that in reality was grumbled about by their ancestors so much that they chose slavery over it. Jesus knows what we need. He knows we need more than snacks. He knows that we need him. He responds to the manna-hungry people in John 6 in the same way he responds to us…they rejected him, will we?
John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”…57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Andrew Hicks says
Plenty to think about here (fantasize, if you will).
Romantisizing the past has been a huge trap for me. It only sets me up to repeat mistakes over and over and over.
Looking to the Lord to provide what is sufficient in the nitty gritty here and now is challenging when it is so tempting to look at yesterday and tomorrow for validation and comfort.
Thanks Noah, for digging deep enough to keep my brain engaged with your sermons and posts. You are a blessing to me.
You’re very welcome Andrew! Thanks for leaving a comment and for being vulnerable and transparent. Check out the sermon video from Sunday if you haven’t had a chance to yet, I think it will be helpful / encouraging to you. You are definitely in good company! Praise God that He is faithful and that He never gives up on us.
Good post Noah and hopefully a taste of your book. You’ve written other really persuasive posts on dealing with reality and it’s great how you point to Jesus as the answer to unreality.
Your post triggered something. . . there’s this guy I’ve known for 20+ years. We met when he was a photographer and then he got married to this really sweet girl and they had 3 kids. Over time, he left photography behind as his main pursuit as his heart moved to ministry. He was mentored/trained and he and his wife moved away to minister to college kids on various campuses. They touched and changed so many lives. A few weeks ago, received the call that she had taken a gun and killed herself. She had been suffering from depression and some flood overwhelmed her. Sharing this cause when I went to the funeral I had to park a half mile away from the church and stand outside the church because there were so many people there. I stood there thinking, if only she realized and could see how many people truly loved her and how many lives she touched for the better.
Her depression was a medical condition, but it’s sobering to realize how much this world and circumstances and our own thoughts can blind to what’s eternal. Amazing how easy it is to be blind to what’s real when faith isn’t living and active. Find that when I’m not looking to Jesus, almost always find myself in a whirlpool of looking to/at myself. . . what I am and what I’m not, and end up worrying and trying/failing to figure things out and how to make things work out and get past myself. Only way out is looking away/out to Jesus and believing the word that in Christ there is a reality that is that is more than this world or circumstances or me. When heart and soul are all in that Jesus has already dealt with all the stuff and that his power is within to bring me thru, that he started this thing in me and he will complete it, there’s deep rest within, no more whirlpool. Fall short of so many good things God intends when not living in faith.
Wow, what a sad story Alan. My heart goes out to your friend and his family and all who were at that funeral. Talk about a sobering way of being reminded of the fantasy / reality dichotomy. The Scripture that God used to open my eyes to this is Hebrews 12:27-28. That was around two years ago, I then started praying that verse regularly, that God would show me his unshakable Kingdom and that he would show me what was of the shakable Kingdom of the world, and that I’d be able to see these things and invest in his Kingdom. It’s been a very transformative prayer.
That’s a great prayer man. . . He has and you do.