God says, “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.” (Isaiah 57:14, NLT)
When I look around me, I don’t see a world that looks very much like the one that God desires. I see people scared and harried, angry and untrusting. I see broken promises treated as just a part of living life, and I see people whose self-worth is based on how many people they can step on to get where they want to go.
The weak are ignored or neglected or abused. The poor are squeezed by the greedy. Young and old are driven mad by their animal instincts, but declare themselves free. We are a world of slaves trying to fool ourselves into believing we are the masters.
The bit in the Sermon on the Mount that I never, never, never could read with peace was in the sixth chapter when Jesus talked about not being anxious. “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
I never bought what Jesus was selling.
But — and I may not have to talk you into this one — I’ve come to believe the man knew what he was talking about.
I’ve come to realize that happiness, joy, peace, and contentment are not found in anything the world offers us. For the world offers only things that perish and fade away.
Being a pastor and spending time with people as they cross from life to death helps you see this. In the end, nothing we clutch so tightly to here on Earth will cling to us. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.
This is the road to happiness.
This is what the Bible often calls holiness.
And the problem is that, like me, 99% of the world does not believe that this really is happiness. They have swallowed the lies that the ruler of this world tells them. Be rich. Be famous. Be popular. Be young, forever young. Be smart. Be athletic. Be sexy. Be this and do that, and then you will finally be happy. Buy this or indulge those nerve endings, and you will finally know joy. You will finally be able to lay down your head in peace and sleep.
Lies. They are all lies. Lies told by the king of liars. Look down and see your chains.
There was a time when Methodist preachers were in the business rattling such chains, of holding them up where people could see them and offering the key to unlock them.
But — by and large — we are too cowardly for that any more.