“ ‘Even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it [a land that sins against God by persistent unfaithfulness], as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.’ ” Ezekiel 14:20
There is coming a time when no human being will be able to save you.
Children look to their parents for security, for deliverance from trouble, for help, for salvation, and that is not wrong. In fact, Ellen White says that parents stand in the place of God to their young children (see The Adventist Home, 293).
But there is coming a time when your parents are not going to be able to help you, and it could be sooner than you realize. Have you ever been in a situation where you wish more than anything else that you could just die? The Bible records a number of such instances. Numbers 11 describes how anxious Moses was being burdened by the complaints of the Israelites over the manna that God had supplied for them. He told God, “If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now” (verse 15, first part). Moses would rather die than face the situation with the people.
After the miraculous display on Mount Carmel and exhausted from his flight from Jezebel, Elijah also found himself in a situation where he no longer wanted to live. However, probably the most outstanding character of the Bible who felt this way was Job. The situation he found himself in was not just for an hour or a day, but for many days. It says in Job 3:20–22:
“Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they can find the grave?”
Zephaniah 2:1, 2, literal translation, says, “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you!”
One of the main ways that young people are being lost today is because of their desire for happiness which, in itself, is not wrong. The framers of the Declaration of Independence believed that every human being had inalienable rights. They had a right to life, they had a right to liberty, and they had a right to the pursuit of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is not wrong, but unfortunately what most people think will make them happy doesn’t work.
God created man for happiness so it is natural to want that. Those who will have eternal life will never again experience unhappiness. They will have happiness that will continue to increase for eternity.
Ellen White wrote, “He [God] desired that the earth should be filled with joy and peace. He created man for happiness, and He longs to fill human hearts with the peace of heaven. He desires that the families below shall be a symbol of the great family above.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 290.
God not only wants you to be happy as an individual, but He wants you to have a happy family. It seems as if happy families today are in the minority. The majority of people fill their lives with those things that cannot satisfy. Let’s look at just a few quick examples.
Do you know anybody who thinks that if they had a lot more money they would be happy? The Bible has a lot to say about this. The wise man says in Ecclesiastes 5:10: “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver.” Silver and gold have been used since ancient times for money. The one who loves money will never be satisfied because he thinks that he never has enough.
While pastoring in North Dakota, one of my church members shared the story about one of the local farmers there who owned many sections of land along the Red River and was one of the biggest farmers in that area. In winter, while things were quiet, farmers maintained their equipment, and this farmer had a building as big as a warehouse where his equipment was maintained and repaired and readied for the next growing season.
The farmer was one of the most successful and richest farmers in that entire region. However, one Sunday morning he did not come home for breakfast. A search began and in a very remote place on his farm, he was found. He had taken a pistol, put it to his head and pulled the trigger. He may have had wealth but he was devoid of happiness. He had found out that no amount of money could buy him happiness.
Yet somehow the masses of people continue to strive to find happiness with the pleasures of this life: television, movies, video games, concerts. The devil has something prepared for all tastes. The problem with all of those activities is that while they are fun, that fun is only temporary. Once finished, we immediately begin looking for the next source of fun.
The Bible tells us that Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25, KJV).
The second chapter of Joel describes a time that the young people need to become alarmed and a warning needs to go out to them. Joel 2:16 says, “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.”
A time is coming when sin is going to be destroyed and all who are attached to those sins will also suffer with them. The devil deceives both the old and the young into believing that if you become a Christian and forsake these worldly pleasures, then you will not experience any happiness. The temptation to believe his lie is so powerful because for some the only pleasures they know are sinful pleasures. From their point of view, if those sinful but pleasurable things are taken away, there is nothing left that is enjoyable. That is a lie, of course.
There is one standard to enter heaven, not one for adults and another for young people. All who are engaging in sinful pleasures must be willing to leave them aside and substitute them with something wholesome.
Consider some of the following things that I have found to give me great pleasure that do not involve sin:
Gardening – Gardening is a lot of fun and I am often astonished when I meet young people who are 30 years old and have never grown a garden. They may live in an apartment but it is still possible to grow some things in a small way.
The book The Apartment Farmer describes a person who lived in New York City on the 30th floor in a high-rise building. He had no yard but wanted to be a gardener. There was a small patio allowing him to grow a small variety of crops in containers: corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and about every garden vegetable. If it is possible to grow a garden on the 30th floor of a high-rise building in New York City, you can do it just about anywhere.
When I was 9 years old, my mother gave me a 20 square foot patch in the garden to care for. She was a nurse working at the local hospital and also had a garden much bigger than mine. In my garden I planted several rows of green beans. The planting, watering, and weeding them was easy, but harvesting was not so easy. Those beans produced more beans than I’d ever seen in my life. After I picked them my mother would help me by taking them in apple boxes to the hospital to sell. At that time I was playing trumpet in the Yakima Junior Academy Band with a borrowed instrument. I really wanted a trumpet of my own but my parents couldn’t afford to buy one for me.
My mother had been the superintendent of nurses at the hospital so knew everyone in the hospital. One day while selling my beans she talked to a nurse who had found out that I wanted a trumpet and was willing to trade a really old cornet that still worked for a box of beans. How happy I was to be able to purchase my own cornet with the fruit of my own labor.
Gardening is God ordained and a righteous pleasure. Adam and Eve enjoyed their work in the Garden of Eden. It is something that the saved will do in heaven again.
Scripture songs – There are some people who get immense pleasure from music. Scripture songs are a way to enjoy and to learn the promises of God in His word. There is nothing evil or harmful about Scripture songs.
Hiking in nature – Though under the curse of sin, this world still has much beauty. When I was a boy, we always lived around mountains. As a young man I would hike into the Rocky Mountains. For the last 45 years, my wife and I have lived in the plains and I’ve learned to hike in the plains. There is so much to see when you take the time to get outside, and there are also great health benefits.
Games – All children should be taught to play wholesome games, not games that are sinful. How do you tell the difference between a game that is wholesome and a game that is not?
Wholesome games imitate life skills or adult work. Children learn by imitating. My 2-year old grandson as he pushes toy trucks and cars around starts making the noise, imitating the engine sounds which is something he has taught himself by playing. He also likes to try on my shoes, which are so big for him that as he starts to walk he steps right out of them.
War games are never constructive for children. There was one war in heaven that will never happen again. Those preparing for heaven have no need to learn about war.
Telecommunications – We live in a telecommunications age and are exposed to television, video, and internet, and all these different kinds of things. I believe that children should have moving pictures to watch as long as they are of a positive informative nature like a documentary on nature, science or history. Any of those categories are educational, interesting and pleasurable.
Music – It is wholesome to learn to play an instrument. Once when I was a little over 20 years of age, I was sick and almost died. While recuperating, there were several weeks when I couldn’t work. I needed something to do to fill my time. My father had an organ that I never before had opportunity to play. I could play piano a little so fiddled with the organ until I learned how to play it. The challenge gave me a lot of fun. For some people, learning to play a musical instrument can give a lot of pleasure.
Manufacture a garment – God gave people the ability to be creative. After God had finished creating each day, He looked at what He had made and said that it was very good! So it can be for those who learn to create a garment. Years ago, mothers passed on to their children the art of sewing garments or at least how to sew on a button or mend a tear in a garment, but today, in first world countries, that art is seldom taught. We live in a throwaway society where there is much waste. Learning how to produce something gives great pleasure.
Cooking and baking – The dinner table was a time where the family was all together to share a home cooked meal and share the events of the day with each other. Life has become so hectic with everyone on a different schedule that many pick and run without sitting down to eat. With much dining out and takeaway food, there are many who have lost the art of simple food preparation and baking. Ellen White wrote, “There is more religion in a good loaf of bread than many think.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 316. Much pleasure can be found in kneading a lump of dough and forming it into loaves for the family to enjoy or give to a neighbor. It takes skill to prepare a variety of wholesome foods, sweet breads, pies or cakes.
I decided when I was very young that cooking was a pleasurable activity; so I started learning to do it. In fact, when I was in college and lived at home, I worked to earn part of my college education by cooking and I enjoyed it.
My father once managed a nursing home that had over a hundred patients and I cooked two meals a day for all those patients. Cooking is fun.
I meet men who can’t do anything much more than boil water. That’s too bad. If their wives are gone from home, all they have to eat is milk and cereal, or a piece of bread. By not being able to prepare healthy, delicious food they miss out on a lot of pleasure.
Visit the elderly – Young people should know how to visit the elderly, the sick, and the shut-ins. By reaching out to add happiness to the life of someone else you will end up being happy yourself.
Be a practical problem-solver – It is pleasurable to be able to solve problems. Some people never learned that. Let me give you just a few examples. I have met people who do not know how to change a flat tire and when they find themselves in that situation, they have to stand beside the side of the road and wait for somebody to come and help them out. That person lacks self-sufficiency. The more skills we have, the more useful we can be in God’s service. Knowing how to solve problems brings great pleasure.
These are just a few ideas concerning exchanging sinful pleasures for other things that can give more joy and be a benefit to both self and others. When Jesus gave talents He expected that they be increased and not just lie idle. This takes time of which we are all given 24 hours each day. It would be beneficial for all to consider just how we spend our waking hours and whether there are many wasted hours spent on useless sinful pleasures that could be exchanged for righteous pleasure.
The Lord is speaking: “There is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven. His greatest happiness will be found in loving Me.” The Desire of Ages, 57.
Dear young friends, Do not be deceived into thinking that if I could just get ……, then I could have …… and that would make me happy. Be assured, as soon as you have what you desire, it will not be enough and you will certainly want something else. There have been many movie stars and successful men and women who have had all that this world could offer and then found that their life is hollow. They reach the same conclusion as the wealthy farmer, that life is not worth living.
If you have not yet discovered the happiness that is to be found in loving the Lord, you do not know what real happiness is. All the things that you think will make you happy will not give you perfect happiness unless you have this. If you do not know the Lord, if you do not love Him, you will never, ever be perfectly happy. Jesus promises “you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.