It All Goes Back in the Box Print E-mail

...Continued from Page 1  "There's a real important distinction." He said, "Jesus was often busy. Busy is an external condition – a condition of the body. Jesus often had many things to do. He had teaching that needed to be taken care of, people who needed healing in his presence. He often had many things to do. He was often busy, but he was never hurried. Hurried is a condition of the soul. It is an inward condition where I am so frantic and preoccupied that I am unable to receive love from the Father, and unable to be present with other people, to give love to them."

Things will never settle down

Things will not settle down. And if you wait to get around to what really matters in life, you will never do what God made you to do. You will never become who God made you to become. Your soul will wither and die. Things will not settle down. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day, and you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. No one else will do this for you – not your boss or your spouse or your kids or your parents. You must do this.

We have an illusion in our society, and it's the illusion that someday more will be enough. That's what this guy thought. If he just kept getting more, eventually, it would lead to contentment. We kill ourselves for more – more choices, more experiences, more successes, more stuff. We're bombarded, every day, by millions of messages that tell us more, eventually, will lead to contentment. And we get stuff we don't even know what to do with. We couldn't even use it all.

We were with friends on the East Coast not too long ago and they had this very expensive TV satellite deal that gives them access to over 200 channels all the time. They could see 71,000 shows a month – 71,000. And then we get terrified we might miss something, so we get a VCR that will record it for us. But, of course, we're too busy to learn how to program the VCR. You know this is just truth.

Show of hands here – how many of you have a VCR? Okay. Second question – this is honesty time. How many of you have not yet fully mastered every detail of your VCR's technological potential? Now, I'll tell you something. You never will – not today, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, not next year, not ten years from now. You will never know. You will die, and you will never know how to fully use your VCR.

And when you do die and the paramedics come to take away your cold, clammy body, they will list the time of death as 12:00, because that's the time that will be blinking on the VCR, because you never learned how to program it. More will never be enough. But we live in this insane world that somehow thinks it will. "If I could just make more."

The writers of Scripture have a very different take on contentment. The Apostle Paul, sitting in a jail cell writes, "For I have learned the secret of being content in any situation when I live with God." Learned contentment. The Bible says contentment is learned behaviour, and it depends on the perspective you bring to life.

It could be worse

Snoopy, one time, was sitting on top of his doghouse, and its Thanksgiving. He's bitter in his spirit because Charlie Brown and the family are having this huge feast inside their house, but Snoopy is stuck on his doghouse with only dog food. And he's kind of grousing about that until this thought occurs to him, and he says to himself, "It could be worse. I could have been born a turkey."

Now, I want to ask you to remember that little phrase, "It could be worse." And if you take nothing else from this message, take that one with you. I want to give you a couple of exercises for this one, for the rest of the day. When you leave this room, you're going to go out in the parking lot and get in whatever vehicle you drove here in. And you're going to be tempted to think, "If I just had another car, a nicer car, a new car, a bigger car, a more expensive car, I'd be content," because we get bombarded with that message all the time.

But today, for once in your life, you're not going to think that. Instead, today, you're going to open the door of your car, get inside, and say to yourself with great passion – with tremendous passion and conviction – stay with me, friends. With enormous conviction, you're going to say to yourself, "IT COULD BE WORSE," because it could be. It is for a lot of people.

When you drive that car to wherever you live – your apartment, your condo, your house, you're going to be tempted to think, when you walk inside the door, "I'd be content if I just had a newer house, nicer house, bigger house, better house," because we're bombarded with that message all the time, but not today. Today, for once in your life, when you come to the door, before you step across that threshold, you're going to stop and you're going to say to yourself with great passion, "IT COULD BE WORSE," because it could be.

Tomorrow morning, when you wake up and you roll over and you look at your spouse, you're going to say…Don't do that one. I want to give you a picture. This is an analogy that comes from the world of games. It was used quite some time ago by a psychologist named James Dobson. I first learned it from my grandmother. My grandmother taught me how to play the game monopoly. Now, my grandmother was a wonderful person. She raised six children. She was a widow by the time I knew her well.

She lived in our house for many, many years. And she was a lovely woman, but she was the most ruthless Monopoly player I have ever known in my life. She understood that the name of the game is to acquire.

The game always ends, for every player

She was a master of the board. And every time I landed, I would have to pay her money. And eventually, every time she would take my last dollar, I would quit in utter defeat. And then she would always say the same thing to me. She'd look at me and she'd say, "One day, you'll learn to play the game." I hated it when she said that to me. But one summer, I played Monopoly with a neighbour kid – a friend of mine – almost every day, all day long. We'd play Monopoly for hours.

And that summer, I learned to play the game. I came to understand the only way to win is to make a total commitment to acquisition. I came to understand that money and possessions, that's the way that you keep score. And by the end of that summer, I was more ruthless than my grandmother. I was ready to bend the rules, if I had to, to win that game. And I sat down with her to play that fall.

Slowly, cunningly, I exposed my grandmother's vulnerability. Relentlessly, inexorably, I drove her off the board. The game does strange things to you. I can still remember. I looked at my grandmother. She taught me how to play the game. She was an old lady by now. She was a widow. She had raised my mom. She loved my mom. She loved me. I took everything she had. I destroyed her financially and psychologically. I watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat. It was the greatest moment of my life.

And then she had one more thing to teach me. Then she said, "Now it all goes back in the box – all those houses and hotels, all the rail roads and utility companies, all that property and all that wonderful money–now it all goes back in the box." I didn't want it to go back in the box. I wanted to leave the board out, bronze it maybe, as a memorial to my ability to play the game.

"No," she said, "None of it was really yours. You got all heated up about it for a while, but it was around a long time before you sat down at the board, and it will be here after you're gone. Players come and players go. But it all goes back in the box." He was a shrewd guy, this man in Jesus' story. He learned to play the game, and he played the game real well. It's not a bad thing to play the game well. He just forgot one thing. He forgot the game would end. He forgot the game would end.

And the game always ends. For every player, the game ends. Every day you pick up a newspaper, and you can turn to a page that describes people for whom this week the game ended. Skilled businessmen, an aging grandmother who was in a convalescent home with a brain tumour, teenage kids who think they have the whole world in front of them, and somebody drives through a stop sign. It all goes back in the box – houses and cars, titles and clothes, filled barns, bulging portfolios, even your body.

What’s worth giving your life to?

So you have to ask yourself the question, "What matters? What's worth giving your life to?" Now, there is an alternative road and you can go down it if you want to. This story that Jesus told has been lived out millions and millions and millions of times. You don't have to believe the Bible to believe the story that he told. You can just see it every day.

This is from a magazine article that Bill Hybels wrote some time ago. See if you can figure out whom he's talking about. "All he ever wanted was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a film-maker and star. He wanted more central pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual fantasy. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world.

"He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favours so skilfully, that two U.S. presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. This man concluded his life emaciated, colourless, sunken chest, fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews, rotting black teeth, tumors, innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction."

Anybody want to guess who this is? None other than Howard Hughes - the recluse billionaire. The world’s richest man died believing the myth of more – a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards. It's the same story. You've got to ask yourself the question: If Howard Hughes had pulled off one more deal, made one more million dollars, had one more powerful politician in his hip pocket, would it have been enough? Would it ever have been enough?

She was the most admired woman of her day. Every man wanted her. Every woman envied her. But Marilyn Monroe died alone – died at her own hand. Ask yourself the question: If she'd have had one more hit film, graced one more magazine cover, had a sexual relationship with one more powerful man, would it ever have been enough?"

"How far do you have to walk down that road?" Jesus asks the human race, "Before you see where it leads?" Surely you understand it will never be enough. You don't even have to believe the Bible to see that.

How much is enough?

You have to ask yourself: When you finally get the ultimate possession, when you've made the ultimate purchase, when you buy the ultimate home, when you have stored up financial security and climbed the ladder of success to the highest rung you can possibly climb it, and the thrill wears off - and it will wear off - then what? What are you going to do with a cold marriage? You've done it all. What are you going to do with kids who learned a long time ago that they are not as important as a briefcase and a meeting and a barn full of stuff?

Moments come and years fly, and you cannot stop them and you cannot control them. And one day, the final moment of your life will come, and you cannot control that either. And Jesus says anybody who goes through life, no matter how well they've played the game, and doesn't prepare for that moment, is not a smart guy. So I have to ask you, are you ready for that moment?

Are you living your life before God in such a way that when that moment comes you will look back on a life of wisdom? Or are you walking down a road that's going to lead to major regret? I just want to give you a moment to reflect before we're through.

I just want to ask you to ask yourself some real deep questions. What game are you playing right now? What road are you walking down? What illusion has its hooks into you? Because things will never settle down in this world, because more will never be enough in this world. And all that will last for eternity is God and the people he loves so much. That's all. And one day, you're going to stand before that God. Are you living in such a way that you'll be ready for that moment?

I just want to plead with you for one second. Whatever needs to get changed – whatever decision needs to be made – whatever you need to cut out or turn around, do it. Do it. You might not get another chance!

- By John Ortberg (Used by permission).