Most of you have heard the expression, “no pain – no gain”. Well, today we are going to see why that is true. I have a volunteer who is simply going to hold up these two pitchers of water at shoulder’s height.
As our volunteer is holding up these pitchers of water, his arm muscles are being strained. They don’t usually do this sort of exercise. And as time goes on, what’s happening – as those muscles are being pushed beyond their usual limits – the muscle fibers are actually being damaged. There are tiny tears that are forming. The muscles are literally breaking apart. But don’t worry – that’s perfectly fine. Because God has designed muscles to do exactly that.
I’m actually doing our volunteer a favour by having him hold those jugs of water up, because once his muscles have been damaged by the stress of holding up that water – once the tiny tears in your muscle fibers have formed – over the course of the next 3 to 4 days, his body will repair the damage – and in fact, his body will go overboard and make his muscles even better than they were before. They don’t want to get damaged again, so his body will build up the muscles stronger than they were before – strong enough to handle this kind of strain without being damaged. This is how muscles grow.
Now of course, the negative side to all this, is that damaging your muscles is uncomfortable. It’s not pleasant to tear your muscle fibers. There is going to be a measure of pain involved.
I remember when I started working at a greenhouse out by Penhold about 10 years ago. For the first two weeks of that job, when I came home from work at night, my body was sore. I was using muscles that I didn’t usually use – straining them beyond their usual capabilities. There was certainly pain involved – but after about two weeks, I wasn’t really sore anymore. My body repaired the damage done and built up my muscles so they could handle that strain without issue.
And this is exact where this concept of “no pain – no gain” comes from. Without the pain that comes from damaging your muscles, you will have no gain in strength. We call this exercise – or working-out. We purposely injure our muscles so that we can grow in strength. A certain amount of pain is required if you want to gain muscle.
And the reason that I bring this all up, is because the Bible teaches a similar concept. Over these next few weeks leading into Easter, our topic is going to be “no pain – no gain. Why Easter matters.” Because the principle of “no pain – no gain” is true not just in the physical realm – but it’s also true in the spiritual.
Now I imagine most of you didn’t come here today to learn about body-building, so what is the ‘gain’ that we are looking for (if we’re not talking about gaining muscles) – and what is the ‘pain’ that leads to that gain? What are we talking about here?
Well, let’s start by defining the ‘gain’.
On Tuesday I was teaching Bible class with the High school boys, and we were looking at the book of Ecclesiastes. And in this book, King Solomon writes about all the things that he tried to find meaning in life. Now keep in mind that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. He was also the most powerful and the most wealthy person of his time. He could literally do whatever He wanted.
So let me read for you, just a short snippet of some of the ways how Solomon tried to find meaning in life. This is what He tried to gain! Ecclesiastes chapter 2 – starting at verse 4.
I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7 I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. 8 I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
9 So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. 10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
Isn’t that interesting? Solomon said in verse 8, “I had everything a man could desire…” And yet, he found it all to be meaningless. He claimed he had nothing worthwhile.
I asked the boys, if you had a billion dollars – A BILLION – how long do you think that would keep you happy? They figured maybe a couple of years. I think that’s a good honest answer. It would be pretty exciting for quite a while, but the thrill of having that money wouldn’t last forever.
The fact is, all the money in the world can’t satisfy us. I don’t think Bill Gates or Warren Buffet (some of the wealthiest men in the world) have any more joy in their lives than any of us.
And accomplishments can’t satisfy us. Wayne Gretzky is a hockey legend. He is more famous – has more trophies – is in more hall of fames, than probably any other Canadian. Do you suppose at the end of his day, he feels more satisfaction in his life than you do? I kinda doubt it.
It seems that we cannot be satisfied by money, fame, or fortune or any of these other things. Try as we may! God has provided for us many ‘good things’ in life, but none of them can give us full, lasting satisfaction.
The Rolling Stones wrote a famous song lamenting this very fact. Let me play the first few lines of the song. See if you recognize it…
I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no satisfaction.
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.
It actually sounds a lot like Solomon. He couldn’t get no satisfaction either. He had wealth, he had pleasure, he had fame and fortune, he had women, he had power, he had everything a man could desire, but he still couldn’t get no satisfaction….
So what does bring us satisfaction? Does anything? Is there anything that is worth gaining?
I was reading a book this week by Dr. Henry Cloud and he wrote something that fits exactly what we’ve been talking about. And I think his insight will help us answer some of those questions about what is really worth gaining. He writes: “Our deepest need is to belong, to be in a relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional “home”.
I thought that was so good – that our deepest need is to have a spiritual and emotional “home”. To be in that place where we are safe. Where we are loved – We can just be ourselves and know that despite our flaws, our faults and our failures, we are still loved – no strings attached. We are at home. That’s the one thing we need more than anything else.
Solomon, in chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, comes to the same conclusion, but he comes at it from a different angle. He writes in chapter 3, verse 11…
“He [God] has planted eternity in the human heart.”
In other words, God has planted within us a deep inner longing for home – a deep inner longing to be connected with our Creator, because that is the one place where we find our spiritual and emotional “home”. It’s like we have this internal homing device, that constantly beckons us back to God.
Dr. Cloud continues talking about our deepest need by writing this: The very nature of God is to be in relationship: “God is love.” says 1 John 4:16. Love means relationship – the caring, committed connection of one individual to another.”
God has created us to live in community with Him. To be connected to Him. To be in relationship with Him. And having that connection with our Creator, that relationship with God, is the only thing that will bring us true and lasting satisfaction. It is the only thing worth gaining.
This truth is echoed in Matthew 16:26 and in Mark 8:36. Both verses say…
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Mark 8:36-37 & Matthew 16:26
The idea here is that, even if you gain everything the world has to offer – all of those things that Solomon chased after – the power, the fame, the wealth, the pleasure, the status, the… Everything…. But you ignored your deepest need of having a relationship with your Creator, you’ll have nothing.
John Ortberg wrote a book a while back entitled “When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.” And he talks about the game of monopoly. You can be ruthless monopoly player and buy up all the properties, build your houses, build your hotels, take everybody’s money. You can own everything on the board – but when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.
And that principle is true in life. When the game is over, it all goes back in the box. You can have all the wealth, you can have all the fame, you can have all the achievements, you can gain the whole world – but at the end of your life on earth, it all goes back in the box. None of it transfers with you to heaven.
The only thing that counts then is your relationship with God. I mentioned last week how the Bible tells us that each of us must give an account of himself to God. When we stand before God, the rich will have no advantage over the poor. The famous will have no advantage over the unknown. The popular will have no advantage over the out-cast.
God sees Wayne Gretzky, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Billy Graham, the homeless guy on the street and you all on a level playing field. It all comes down to whether or not you have a genuine relationship with your Creator.
So that is the one thing that is worth working for. So to go back to our theme of “no pain – no gain”, this is what we’re trying to gain. We’re trying to gain that relationship, that connection with God that we so deeply long for – the only thing that brings us true satisfaction.
But that leads us to another question: How?
How do we get from “I can’t get no satisfaction” to being completely satisfied in our relationship with God? How do we meet that deepest need we have to belong – to be completely at home? How do we get to be connected to our Creator?
The good news is that God wants this for each one of us. Remember, He is the God who planted eternity in our hearts in the first place. He created us specifically for this. He wants us to find this satisfaction.
Sometimes we get this notion that God is against us – that He’s out to get us. But that is totally contrary to what the Bible teaches. God is for us. He wants to meet our deepest needs and give us ultimate satisfaction.
The problem comes with sin. Sin is the barrier that keeps us from that satisfaction. Sin is what disconnects us from God. We see this right from the beginning of time.
Most of you know the story of Adam & Eve. God created them as the first man and woman and placed them in a beautiful garden. They had everything they could have wanted. Not just physically, but even all their deepest, inner needs like we’ve been talking about – to belong, to be in relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional home – they had all those things. In fact, I believe they were the only human beings who have ever experienced true satisfaction on earth.
But of course, you know the rest of the story too. How Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and they did the one thing He told them not to. And of course, their disobedience had consequences. Usually we focus on how they got kicked out of the garden, Eve would have pain in childbearing, Adam would have hard labor just to survive from day to day. But look at the very first consequences that happened because of their disobedience… Genesis 3 – verse 7
At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.
The moment they sinned, there was an immediate loss of connection, both with each other and with God. They hid from each other with fig leaves and they hid from God amongst the trees. But that’s what sin does. It separates. It isolates. It creates distance between us and God and others.
And this sin issue has plagued mankind ever since then. It’s sin that keeps you and I from finding satisfaction in life. It’s sin that keeps you and I disconnected from God. As long as sin is present in your life, your deepest need in life will go unmet. You will not find satisfaction.
So what do we do? Does our sin condemn us to a life of meaningless existence? Must we go through life chasing after ‘good things’ but never finding true satisfaction?
Thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us in such a state. He wants more than anything to be reconnected with you and I. He wants you to find ultimate satisfaction.
But it comes at a cost. Remember – no pain – no gain. And next week we’re going to talk about the ‘pain’ side of things. We’re going to talk about the price of satisfaction.
But to conclude today, I want you to reflect on the state of your own life.
Do you find yourself singing along with the Rolling Stones and King Solomon? “I can’t get no satisfaction. I try and I try and I try and I try – but nothing truly satisfies. I think even as Christians sometimes we forget where true satisfaction comes from, and we chase after other things trying to find it. But its a chasing after the wind.
Do you find yourself in that game of monopoly, where you’ve worked so hard for so long to gain the whole world so to speak – to gain all those things that you thought were so important – only to find now that soon the game will be over and it will all go back in the box?
Have you been neglecting the one thing that will actually matter in a 1000 years from now – have you been neglecting your relationship with your Creator?
If that’s you this morning, take heart. The game’s not over yet. As long as you’re on this planet, its not too late. You’ve still got a chance to gain that which truly satisfies. And if you don’t want to wait until next week to find out how that’s possible, please come talk to me and I’d be happy to spoil the ending and tell you how God’s pain can bring you the greatest gain!