The old preachers used to call great sermons that kept people engaged, happy and probably laughing throughout, “Sugar Sticks.” While I will say we all need some sugar sticks in our life, to keep up hope and good mental attitude (this is why God made chocolate in my opinion), we are also in need of being faced with hard truth.
The Bible has this crazy way of doing both for us. The Bible’s words are just enough sugar to make life sweet, but also present us with a sustenance unlike anything else. I love how Eugene Peterson translates Isaiah 55: “Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life- giving, life-nourishing words.”
This is good news for us, we can eat and be satisfied with God’s words. But what makes the good news, so good? The presupposition to the idea that there is good news is that there must be some bad news too.
How do you know good without first understanding what is bad and vise-versa? The good news about the bad news is that God saves us, from God. Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God against a sinful people. Missiologist and missionary, Dick Brogden says, “The love of God, saves us from the wrath of God, for the joys of God.”
The truth is that we are totally empty, filling ourselves with peripheral things that have no sustenance to us if we are not seeking God. We are lost. Lost was an overarching theme in the scriptures.
In fact, Jesus likens humankind to animals and other things that get lost frequently. Coins that get lost, baby chicks that need to return to the covering of their mother’s wings, but the most predominant in scripture is the lostness of sheep.
Now, I hope to be an actual shepherd one day as we now have lots of grass where we moved and I’m already sick of mowing it. But, it seems that sheep have a way of getting lost and are desperately in need of a shepherd to return them to the fold.
Have you ever seen a cow who pushes its head through a fence to eat the grass on the other side of the fence just out of reach? I always think it’s because the grass must be greener and better on the other side.
Inevitably, they push through the fence and enter the realm of the lost because they’re out of their designated pasture, the fence was put there not because the farmer or shepherd wants to keep them away from good things, but it’s there to protect you from things outside the fence. They push through the fence and then they end up totally lost, because they thought the grass was greener over there.
I read an article the other day about economic growth in the world. The crux of the article was that things aren’t really changing in the economy, they’re just being tweaked around or fine-tuned. Innovation is happening, but it isn’t making growth.
What I mean is that as one economist said, the list of major innovations over the last 40 years is pretty short and dominated by tech gadgets. Phones, tablets, dvd players, TVs and video games.
However, the American consumer has basically bought the same things for the last 60 years. Food, cars, radios, washing machines, TVs, air conditioners. People bought these same things 60 years ago, nothing has changed except that now you can get wifi on your car and your refrigerator.
But the one that absolutely blows my mind is that I remember having a car I paid $500 for in Florida. I bought it just to drive to grad school from Palm Harbor to Lakeland, Florida, about 120 miles round trip. This car was a 1992 Toyota Corolla. It had hand crank windows, and compared to modern vehicle styling of today, it was ugly as sin. Baby blue in color, minus where the sun had stripped the paint off of it, and the massive dent in the side of driver's doors where an elderly lady t-boned me, but I just kept driving it.
But, this is the thing that I don’t understand. From 1992 to 2020, which is the new model Corolla, there has been 28 years. My 1992, Corolla got 33 mpg combined city/highway driving, that’s actual calculated mileage, there was no digital readout to tell you. Now, I just looked it up on Toyota’s website, that a 2020 Corolla gets 34 mpg combined city/ highway driving.
In 28 years, all that we know now, all that has changed, all the technology changes, and you can get one more mile to the gallon? This is what I’m talking about. For all that the marketers say is new and has changed and is so great that you have to run out and buy one, your fridge still keep things about 39 degree just like it did 60 years ago. Your car still gets you from point A to point B, and your washing machine still washes clothes whether it’s wifi connected or not.
What I’m trying to say is the exact same thing Isaiah is saying here, nothing that the world has to offer will fulfill you. Solomon said it likewise in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun, Vanity, Vanity, all is vanity, says the preacher.”
So stop groaning and grasping after things that mean nothing and in the end and will never fill you up, stop eating sugar sticks. Be filled with God’s word.
Scott Bowman is the pastor of New Harvest Assembly of God. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.