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Driven to Despair

Greetings All,

This week's 'thought' comes from Os Guinness, and is found in his book "The Call." Guinness was born to British missionary parents in China during World War II. His family remained there until 1951 when the communists forced most foreigners to leave. He was educated at Oxford, is a devout Christian, and a scholar with few rivals. He is an expert on social trends, and has published 24 books.

His purpose in writing "The Call" was to help "all who long to find and fulfill the purpose of their lives."

This selection speaks of "seekers" (both true and false) and the two main ways people seek happiness and fulfillment -- the way of eros and the way of agape. The path of the one leads to a dead end, the other to the ultimate goal of their search. Thus, if you are in the midst of seeking, or know someone who is, his words can save you (or your friend) a lot of heartache and needless travel time spent on the path that leads to nowhere but despair. Enjoy.

"'We all want to be happy,' as Cicero said in Hortensius, and reasonable thought would indicate that the greatest happiness comes in possessing the greatest good... True seekers [as opposed to the uncommitted, restless, drifter who merely seeks different experiences ad nauseam -- without ever settling anywhere] are different... They become seekers because something has spurred their quest for meaning, and they must find an answer... They are people for whom life, or a part of life, has suddenly become a point of wonder, a question, a problem or a crisis... They do not come to believe in the answers they seek because of a need. That would be irrational and make the believer vulnerable to the accusation that faith is a crutch. Rather, [true] seekers disbelieve in what they believed in before, because of new questions which their previous beliefs could not answer...

All human beings are alike in seeking happiness. Where they differ is in the objects from which they seek it and the strength they have to reach the objects they desire. Jesus way (the way of agape) says, 'By all means love, by all means desire, but think carefully about what you love and what you desire.' Those who follow the way of eros are not wrong to desire happiness, but wrong to think that happiness is to be found where they seek it [in the desire or appetite aroused by the attractive qualities found in the object of its passion and pursuit]. The very fact that we humans experience desire is proof that we are creatures. Incomplete in ourselves, we desire whatever we think is beckoning to complete us.

God alone needs nothing outside himself, because he himself is the highest and the only lasting good. So all objects we desire short of God are as finite and incomplete as we ourselves are, and, therefore, disappointing if we make them the objects of ultimate desire... Because true satisfaction and real rest can only be found in the highest and most lasting good, all seeking short of the pursuit of God brings only restlessness. This is what Augustine meant in his famous saying in Book One of his 'Confessions': 'You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.'

Considering the distance between creature and Creator, can any seeker... hope to bridge the chasm? The answer, realistically, is no. We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God -- which is another way of saying that our seeking will always fall short unless God's grace initiates the search, and unless God's call draws us to him and completes the search. If the chasm is to be bridged, God must bridge it. If we are to desire the highest good, the highest good must come down and draw us so that it may become a reality we desire. From this perspective there is no merit in either seeking or finding. All is grace.

The secret of seeking is not our human ascent to God, but in God's descent to us. We start out searching, but we end up being discovered. We think we are looking for something; we realize we are found by Someone. As in Francis Thompson's famous picture, 'the hound of heaven' has tracked us down. What brings us home is not our discovery of the way home, but the call of the Father who has been waiting there for us all along, whose presence there makes home home...

But for those drawn [to the search] by lives like Leonardo da Vinci's, yet sobered by the tragic impossibilities of finite unaided human searching, the truth of 'calling' holds out comfort and promise. We not only have Jesus' explicit promise that seekers will find ('seek and you will find'), but we also have his direct example to show that seekers themselves are sought. Indeed, from the seeking wise men onward, Jesus is the greatest magnet for seekers in all history. The words given in Mark's Gospel to Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who desperately sought healing from Jesus, are God's encouragement to all who truly seek: 'Take Heart. He is calling you.'"

Around the time that Os Guinness was born, A. W. Tozer had written a similar statement in his classic work, "The Pursuit of God," where he started off his entire book by stating: "Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which, briefly stated, means that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man... We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. 'No man can come to me,' said our Lord, 'except the Father which has sent us draw him.' (John 6:44)... The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after God."

Can such statements lead to despair? In one sense, yes they can. They were intended to do so. For only when one is driven to despair in their own attempts to control their own destiny and salvation, will they discover the One who really controls their destiny and salvation -- and in finding Him they will find their purpose, calling, fulfillment and true happiness.

In His Service, Pastor Jeff