This is Part 4 in a 12 Part series. The premise is this: "Two men in their in their late 20’s walk into a coffee shop around 7:00 a.m. In college they had been good friends, but over the past few years had gotten out of touch. Having lived in the same dormitory for three of their four years at City Christian College, they still had many fond—and a few not-so-fond memories—of their time together in college. Just by accident (or so Michael thought) they had run into each other in a hardware store and had set up a time to talk over breakfast. This is their fourth breakfast together.
If you want to read this series of conversations from the beginning (you don't have to start at the beginning), please see Part 1.
Michael: You’re late.
Jim: Sorry. It’s sometimes hard to drag my body out of bed in the morning.
Michael: I can see why (smiles). I think I’ll have one of those Colossal Omelets today.
Jim: Sounds good.
(Waitress takes the order and leaves.)
Michael: Do you remember last week—one of the final things you said to me was, “I hope that you’re able to take hold of the life that the Lord has planned for you”? I think I responded with an “I hope so, too.” I’ve been thinking about this all week and I have another question I want to talk about. This one’s really nagging me.
Michael: Don’t start that again!
Michael: Do we ever actually get what we’re seeking? We’re told many times in the Bible that we’re supposed to seek the Lord. Is the Christian life all seeking, or is there any finding involved?
Jim: Interesting question.
Michael: Doesn’t it ever seem to you that God has put a carrot on a stick? Jesus talks about an “abundant life” and makes us want to obtain it. But though we seek and strain, do we ever actually get it? Do we ever really find it?
Jim: We sure dive into these questions fast.
Michael: Our mornings are short.
Jim: Maybe if I weren’t so late they’d be longer. Let’s look at it. You’re wondering if we ever reach what we’re aiming for. Do we just seek or do we find? You brought the question—what do you think?
Michael: Actually, this is no theoretical question for me. I really do wonder about it sometimes. Even when I’m much more at peace in my walk with the Lord—that is, when I’m doing better—I feel like I’m grasping but not obtaining, striving but not finishing. Do you understand at all what I’m getting at?
Jim: Sure. I think a lot of us have wondered about this.
Michael: So, what’s the answer?
Jim: I doubt that there’s a single, simple answer. We need to look at it together, one part at a time. Is seeking important?
Michael: Of course it’s important. It’s ludicrous to think that someone will learn something unless he desires to know it.
Jim: Seeking is simply the desire to know?
Michael: Actually, I think in our Christian lives we would have to say that seeking is far more the desire to live the way God has planned for us. It has to do with our relationship with God.
Jim: So it’s not simply getting knowledge. What we’re seeking is relational.
Michael: But do we ever obtain it? That’s what I want to know.
Jim: In relationships it is rather difficult to say whether you have or have not arrived. I think that we can pretty much say with confidence that seeking of some kind will continue forever. Since God is infinite, it will take us all of eternity to delve into his person and explore the vast and endless reaches of his character.
Michael: Fine. I can accept that. In fact, I do accept that seeking will go on forever. But does this mean that you never obtain what you’re seeking?
Jim: Before I answer that, let’s clarify something important. We have to know what, in fact, we are seeking. A couple weeks ago we discussed the idea that joy cannot be obtained if you’re seeking the joy itself. This principle generally applies to much of spiritual life. We need to focus on bringing glory to God in our practical lives, in our thoughts and in our actions. To the degree that our focus is upon God’s glory lived out in our lives, we will experience much more fully what we’ve been calling the “abundant life.”
Michael: But is it reachable? Even for those who live with God’s glory in view—are there any of them left on earth?—is there any sense of arrival in their lives? Or do they keep pressing on, only to learn that “abundant” wasn’t a very good description of what they found?
Jim: In answer to that question, two things come immediately to mind.
Michael: What are they?
Jim: First, there is an inward peace that the person who walks with God experiences. This peace is very stable. The person who has experienced this peace has obtained something—something significant.
Michael: What about you? Do you have this peace?
Jim: I don’t spend much time asking whether I’ve got it or not. But I think for the most part, yes. It seems to depend a lot upon where I’m looking. When my heart is set on the Lord, by all means, the peace I’m talking about is there.
Michael: If you claim peace and joy, why not claim all the fruit of the Spirit—love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control, too?
Jim: Fine. Those all are the more-or-less constant features in the life of the Christian who loves God and seeks to follow his Word. The Christian who experiences this “fruit” has certainly found something. Such a Christian can’t and won’t complain about always seeking but never finding.
Michael: Is that all?
Jim: No. Two things came to mind a minute ago when we were talking about whether we ever reach what we’re seeking. One of those was a solid inner peace. The other is different. Sometimes, we experience special encounters with God, times when God meets us in a profound way, unforgettable moments in our spiritual lives. Though these encounters are not the end, or a final arrival, they do have some important practical benefits which, in retrospect, appear to lead to a type of arrival itself.
Michael: When you’re talking about special encounters with the Lord, you’re talking about what are sometimes called “mountain-top experiences,” right?
Jim: Those are probably the best examples.
Michael: You mean to tell me that it’s OK to have lots of “mountain-top experiences”? I thought it was bad to have too many of those.
Jim: If you mean by a “mountain-top experience” that you have an encounter with God that stirs you to love him or obey him more, what’s so bad about them?
Michael: But I thought mountain-top experiences were something for weak and immature believers.
Jim: Mountain-top experiences are only bad when you become dependent upon the emotions of those experiences to carry you through your daily life. If you’re always seeking to feel good in your walk with the Lord, then you’ve missed what it means to walk by faith rather than by sight.
Michael: Are you saying that mature believers have mountain-top experiences, too?
Jim: I hope they do. Because if mature believers aren’t having regular encounters with God which stir their hearts and help them to worship and love their Lord more, they probably are mature only in the sense that an old stone is mature. They probably won’t have much of a sense of worship or sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s inward promptings.
Jim: The Old Testament altars are a good example of this.
Michael: I suppose this week you’ve been doing a comparative study about altars.
Jim: Nope. I did this one a long time ago. Altars were often built in the Old Testament after a significant meeting with God to remember what God had done. Remember Abraham after his almost-sacrifice of Isaac, Jacob after he saw the vision of the stairway to heaven, and the children of Israel after they had crossed the Jordan into the promised land? Altars were built to remember. They were built to remember encounters with God. If those special meetings with God hadn’t been important, they certainly wouldn’t have built altars to make sure they remembered them.
Michael: So, back to our question. How does all this altar stuff affect our question of whether we reach what we’re seeking for?
Jim: A special encounter with God is in a sense an arrival at a place of closeness with God, though it isn't a final arrival.
Michael: I don’t get it.
Jim: Jesus had the transfiguration, Moses encountered God on Sinai, and Elijah met God in the gently blowing wind. Even in their lives there were higher points and lower points, though they certainly knew and understood the “peace which guards our hearts” in daily life.
Michael: I see where you’re going. You’re talking both about a general inner peace and about special encounters with God. Both of these, you’re saying, are in a sense a “finding” in our spiritual lives.
Jim: I’m thinking of an illustration. It’s not all that dramatic but I think it might explain some of this more clearly.
Michael: Go for it.
Jim: The issue of seeking and finding in our Christian lives is like eating. The general peace we’ve mentioned is like the general satisfaction that comes from being nutritionally healthy. It’s something that is constant. But every day you have periods in which you long to eat. This longing to eat—or hunger as we usually call it—can be compared to seeking. It is a seeking which is both healthy and one which does get satisfied—again and again. We satisfy our hunger either through mundane daily food—shall we compare it to our daily devotional lives?—or exciting food like pizza or ice cream—let’s make that kind of food represent mountain-top experiences. Our hunger gets satisfied, just as our seeking gets satisfied. But we get hungry again—and then we’re satisfied again! In our lives, we experience both the elements of seeking and finding.
Michael: It’s a good illustration. But I still don’t understand why God wants us to keep seeking and finding, and then keeping seeking and finding again.
Jim: You’d never know the joy of scratching if you never itched.
Michael: Huh? Let me think about that one for a minute ...
Jim: (pause) Are you done thinking?
Michael: If you never itched, you would never know how good it feels to scratch …
Jim: And if you never felt hungry, you’d never appreciate the joys of eating.
Michael: OK. I’m with you. You’d never know the joy of encounters with God and you would never appreciate the importance of constant peace, if you hadn’t first longed for it and felt the need for it.
Jim: That’s right.
Michael: Seeking helps us appreciate what we’ve obtained.
Jim: So when we truly seek God, he satisfies us through a deep inner peace that is constant. He also gives us daily satisfactions when we open the Bible and listen to him. And every-once-in-a-while he grants us a special encounter that deeply affects us. We don’t have pizza and milkshakes every day. If we had pizza and milkshakes every day they wouldn’t be special. But sometimes they’re great!
Michael: Pizza and milkshakes? Do you eat those together?
Jim: What’s wrong with that? It’s become a Saturday night tradition in our family.
Michael: To each his own …
Jim: Why don’t you and Betsy come over on Saturday and give it a try?
Michael: It’s your turn to come over to our house. We’ll get the pizza.
Jim: OK. Then we’ll bring the milkshakes.
Michael: Are you sure you eat them together?
Jim: There’s nothing like it!
Michael: Then we’ll plan on getting together Saturday night. How’s 6:30?
Jim: Fine. Did we finish our discussion?
Michael: For now, we’ve suggested that we will continue to seek the Lord throughout our lives and we will be satisfied time and again by the Lord over the course of our lives. It’s not that we only seek and never find, or that we find something once-for-all and never have to seek again. We will continue both to seek and to find the Lord.
Jim: Let’s not forget what I mentioned earlier—the focus of our seeking should be God’s glory. It’s actually much healthier to focus on glorifying God—to give our all in loving him in thought and action and in seeking to draw others into such a relationship—than to focus on what we obtain. Sometimes it’s useful to speak of what we obtain—what we “find” in our Christian lives—but we do ourselves, and the Bible, a huge disservice if our main focus is upon what we can get out of the Christian life.
Michael: Well stated …
(They both stand up to leave; Michael takes the bill.)
Jim: Then I’ll see you on Saturday night!
Michael: We’ll be there!
 Phil 4:7.