Why is All the Fun Stuff Bad for Me?
We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God . . . Acts 14:15
Years ago, a couple of friends and I were debating a moral dilemma facing one of the guys. I appealed to my friend’s faith, suggesting that he do what was right in God’s eyes. My other friend counseled that the right thing was the thing that he wanted most, because, God just wants you to be happy. I said that was absurd. God doesn’t care about your happiness. He just wants you to do what’s right.
I was half right. God does want us to do what’s right. Unfortunately, I was half wrong too. At the time, my idea of following God meant that there was a bunch of stuff that I wanted to do, but which was banned by him. The life of faith then, was one of continual sacrifice and drudgery. Sure, I’d be rewarded in the afterlife, but here and now, doing what was right meant sacrificing my own happiness and pleasure.
In today’s passage, Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man and were subsequently worshipped as gods. When the crowd attempted to offer sacrifices to them, they vehemently objected, insisting that the people abandon their futile pursuits and turn to the living God. Paul and Barnabas knew what the crowd didn’t. True life couldn’t be found in their vain attempts at fulfillment, but rather, could only be found in the one true God.
Through my addiction, I’ve come to understand that God does indeed want me to do what’s right, but that living right is also the only path to a joyful life. God doesn’t forbid sin because he wants me to lead a miserable life. He forbids it for my own good. God wants me to know a life of joy, but he made me to find that life only in him. In blindly following my own appetites, I inevitably make myself miserable.
We all have a desire to know joy, happiness, and peace. That’s not wrong. Where we go wrong is in how we try to attain those things. We want joy, but we settle for the immediate gratification and fleeting pleasure found in our self-destructive appetites. Our happiness is often derailed by the cheap distractions of the things we think we want. If we truly desire to know life, joy, and happiness though, like those in today’s passage, we must turn from these vain things to a living God.