The Rolling Stones had a hit way back in 1969 that reminded people “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” I’m sure Mick Jagger and company didn’t exactly have Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in mind when they wrote this song, but the lyrics do have some truth to them.
Ours is a consumer driven society, one where lives are driven by competition, wants and desires. All too often we look for happiness in material goods, security in a well-rounded pay check, and love that keeps us immersed in such luxuries. We know what we want in order to live a complete life and we say we will do anything to get it. The difficulty is that none of these things are able to truly keep us happy. None of these items can satisfy our desires long enough that we feel we have what we need. One day we will want more.
When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he preached to a crowd of people who lived under the oppression of an occupying government. They were a society that knew poverty all too well, yet they were also a people who looked to God to deliver them from their daily strife. Some of those who heard Jesus’ teaching believed that he just might be the one the prophets foretold of long ago; perhaps this Jesus was the Messiah of God. Certainly God’s anointed would free them from oppression, and usher in a time of peace and prosperity. However, the deliverance Jesus spoke of was ultimate freedom, liberation from the consequences of sin and the powers that defy God, not simply freedom of choice, freedom from a tyrant ruler or freedom to do whatever was wanted.
Jesus taught the people, as he teaches us today, that God is generous and loving. Our Father in heaven loves his people fully and unconditionally. By God’s grace, through the death and resurrection of Christ, the people of God have all they need to live a god pleasing life, a life of abundance. The problem so many have today is that we want so much of this world that we forget just how much we have with God. We get too caught up living as people in a world of want, that we often lose sight of the fact that we have a God who promises to abundantly provide for our every need.
Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you.” He teaches us that God’s blessings are many and plentiful. All too often we sinful people don’t even realize what it is we need. Jesus says, “Seek and you will find.” God’s blessings are not hidden. We need only to remember God loves us so much that he would give his only Son for our sake. Then Jesus says, “Knock at it will be opened to you.” Keeping this in mind, it isn’t long before we realize God’s presence and power in our lives each and every day. God’s promises are true and they are eternal. Throughout the history of God’s people, our Father has promised to provide all that is needed in this world, and to deliver us from our sin so that we may inherit his kingdom forever.
Jesus teaches us to pray with faith. Jesus teaches God’s people to ask as if they have already received. Indeed we have! Because of Christ Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, we know that we will one day live in the glory of heaven. We don’t need to worry about the wish list we have here on earth, those things we think we need or those we simply want. Instead, as we ask for forgiveness we know we are forgiven. As we pray to live a God pleasing life, we have the assurance of the Holy Spirit as our guide. And when our time on earth is over, we know that by God’s grace through faith in Christ, the gates of heaven are flung wide open and we will enter into God’s glory forever. We don’t need to search for fleeting happiness in this world; we have eternal joy as God’s redeemed people in Christ.
It is true; in this life you can’t always get what you want. But because God loved the world so much, he gave his only begotten Son. In his life, his teaching and by his example of love for all people, Jesus teaches us that we can and do have all we need. Ask, seek and knock in faith, pray as if you have already received, found and entered. Jesus doesn’t give as the world gives; the promises of God are abundant and they are eternal. For this we give our thanks and praise to God.
Photo – 1 BIG Mission grocery distribution at St. Barnabas Lutheran Church, Charleston, SC. – Thanksgiving 2010