The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want. (Proverbs 13:25)
According to Solomon (who probably wrote the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament), the righteous will always be satisfied. Really? That sounds good. But pondering the verse above, it’s easy to come up with a ton of questions about it. What does it even mean?
Who are the righteous? Satisfied with what? We assume that means God will satisfy them. Is that right? Or how about a really basic question… What is satisfaction, anyway? What appetites are we talking about here?
First, we’ve already talked about how to read the Book of Proverbs. We require God’s revelation and some careful discernment to understand how to read wisdom literature like Solomon’s proverbs.
But that said, I think we can all agree that everybody wants to be “satisfied”. In today’s Western culture, “satisfaction” could mean a lot of things… to get what I want, to have that “I just ate the perfect amount of my favorite meal” feeling, to get even with someone who wronged me, or (maybe the most common) to be guaranteed the immediate fulfillment of my desires in real-time and an ongoing easy comfort in which to enjoy them. Wow! That’s a tall order, but if we’re honest, that’s what it takes for some to be satisfied. Or maybe we could just say that to be “satisfied” is to be “happy” or “okay” with life. That’d be nice!
Is God promising us all of that? Any of it? How do we read God’s Word in this matter?
Well, I would submit that Solomon isn’t talking about immediate wish-fulfillment. When he wrote this Proverb, I doubt he was thinking about having enough cars or cookies, comforts or concubines. He had all those things in spades, but repeatedly wrote that a life full of stuff (but not full of God’s presence) is meaningless (Eccl 2:11).
And I don’t think he was talking about getting even or being happy either. The Bible is clear that we should leave justice, even vengeance, to God (Deut 32:35; Matt 5:38-48; Rom 12:9ff) and that the life of a Christian isn’t a life of shallow, easy happiness (Matt 10:16-39; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Luke 9:57-58; James 1:2-4). In fact, these verses sound more like the opposite of worldly happiness — more about suffering than satisfaction.
So what gives? Is God maybe a little unclear on what “satisfaction” means?
The Enoughness of Knowing God
All throughout Scripture — whether in the life of Moses (Exodus 33:15-23) or John (John 17:3) or Paul (Philippians 3:8-11) — the message I see is that we are designed to know and love God, that He is enough for us. This is what I call (from Genesis 3:8), “walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day.”
Peter says that God has already “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us [to become like Him]” (2 Peter 1:3). In all of life, everything we need has been given to us by God through our experience of knowing (knowledge of) Him. So, if you know God, then you a) are righteous (godly), and b) already have everything you need for life (satisfied). You may not have everything you need to be materially wealthy or the bell of the ball or the world’s greatest nobody-will-remember-in-20-minutes-anyway, but God has said that if you know Him, then you do have everything that you need. You (probably) don’t have a Ferrari or an island or hundreds of loyal friends or the perfect spouse or flawless kids or the ultimate church or whatever … but I guess that means those aren’t really what God feels you need. And how much time to we waste pining away after that which we don’t really need (or worse, that which would harm us if we had it)!
God is a good, good father. “Which father, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (Matthew 7:9-11) Don’t you think that God, being a perfect Father, will give you what you need? Don’t you think that the One who created us out of nothing but His good pleasure knows how to satisfy our bodies and our souls?
And what this perfect Creator-Father has given us … is Jesus … who is everything we need for life and godliness.
How does that work?
Knowing God, being with God, bowing before and walking beside God … whether you realize it or not, that is enough for you. Or at least, it’s supposed to be. That’s the way God designed you. The reason we pine after other, lesser, silly things is that we don’t believe God; we reject Him in our hearts, and whore off searching for something else (anything else) to stuff into a hole in our hearts that only He can fill. And that’s why we’re not satisfied. Augustine said it well, that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
Jesus — God wrapped in flesh; God’s perfect self-expression; the only God you will ever see and touch (John 1:1-18) — is the only thing that fits in the hole in your heart. He is the great Satisfaction, the great Enough. Allowing Him to draw near to you is exactly the deep satisfaction of knowing God.
In practical terms, I contend that appropriating the “enoughness” of Jesus — of being satisfied in knowing God — comes down to a few straightforward (but costly, from the world’s perspective) things. This might not be an exhaustive list, and there’s nothing magic about it. But if you make these four things the “hot pursuit” of your life, I believe you will have what Solomon described as the satisfaction of the righteous.
1) Leave sin at the cross
There is no righteousness for anyone other than through the cross of Jesus. No one leaves sin behind unless God invades their life and does for them what they can’t do for themselves. So, there is no righteousness and no satisfaction without first coming to Jesus in desperate need of forgiveness. (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9)
Examine your life. If you find rebellion and sin, repent (which means to change your mind), turn around and go the other way. Ask God to show you sinful choices and attitudes you might not even at first be ware of. Then whatever it costs you, leave those destructive, dishonoring, disastrous ways behind, and ask God to give you a heart that earnestly desires purity in His presence. Confess your sin to others who love God. Don’t be afraid. Ask for their help. Sin is like a poisonous, life sucking vine that grows in the dark but withers in the light of day. As long as it’s still wrapped around you, you’ll never know the life that Jesus died for you to have. And no matter how shiny and enticing it may look, you’ll never find satisfaction in your sin.
2) Spend time in God’s presence
You can’t know someone you never see, talk to, or interact with. Take time to be with God. You make time for your wife, your kids, your friends, your job, your hobby, your favorite team, your sleep, your TV shows, etc. Here’s a thought… Give your first and best time to the One who is of first and highest importance, and see what happens. If you have to quit something, do it. Even if you have to change jobs (which I contend you likely don’t need to do). Whatever it takes, your time with your Heavenly Father should be a) first and b) unassailable / immovable / non-negotiable.
Read God’s Word. It’s what He would say to you if He were physically sitting at your dinner table tonight. It’s a love letter from the God of the Universe. It’s the source and grounding of all knowledge God has chosen to reveal about Himself. You can’t know Him without knowing His Word.
Pray. It’s not a ritual. God won’t hear you because you speak the right incantation or repeat something enough times or say it passionately or piously enough. It’s a conversation. Reflect back to God how amazing He is and ask Him for what you need like a 3 year old asks her father for her needs. Don’t try to be grown up about it. Just run to God. And here’s a great prayer… Ask God to change your “wanter,” so that you increasingly believe that you need what He already knows you need. Then hold on for an amazing ride!
And make sure you listen. What friendship is deepened by a person who babbles on endlessly? Like any human relationship, make it a two-way street. Especially given that you have no human friend who even approximates God’s unfathomable wisdom. That’s worth listening to, right? Maybe God has more to say to you than you think!
3) Study and obey God’s law
Few things will draw you closer to Him than to delight in knowing and keeping God’s commandments. John makes it clear that to know God is to obey him (1 John 2:3-6). You will be amazed what it will do to your desires to study God’s word and train yourself to do what it says, even in small ways. If you read Scripture and you don’t understand it, ask God for help. If you understand it and find it hard to obey it, ask God for help. And find some men or women (same gender as you) who love God and want more of Him too … ask them to walk with you down this exciting road!
4) Depend on God’s word
Whatever God asks you to do, do it … even if it’s hard. You’re right to think that you’re not smart enough or strong enough or good enough, but God will be your wisdom, your strength, and your righteousness. There’s no adequate way to explain what that means, but anyone who has experienced it knows exactly what I’m talking about. Step out in faith, and watch Him act. Make it a habit to put yourself in places where God has to show up or it’s not going to go well. Then ask Him to show up in power. You’re better off erring on the side of being a little crazy for God than being cozy and safe for yourself. Soul satisfaction will never be found in nursing your fears or reinforcing worldly security.
The dissatisfaction of being full
One more thing I think it’s important to understand about satisfaction — about pursuing God and being filled by Him, in contrast to chasing idols and continually being left wanting…
The more of something we have, the more we want it. Every time we gorge ourselves (even on healthy food) and feel like we could bust and never eat again … it takes a little more to fill us up at the next meal. That’s why sin escalates — bigger and riskier, higher highs, stronger drugs, sicker perversion. The nature of the human heart is to always want more.
Because we were designed by God for true satisfaction — the filling of an infinite hole in your being with the presence of an infinite God. Said another way, only the infinite, endless pouring from God into man can complete us, make us whole, satisfy us. So there’s an odd dissatisfaction in being filled by God. The more we have Jesus, the more we want
But this is a different “dissatisfaction” than what results from the addictive pursuits of earthly life. Knowing God is like never wanting to leave the hot sudsy water of a soaking bath or to break up rich conversation with friends after a good meal. Wanting more of Jesus is like feeling, “I’m so satisfied that I never want this to end.” And the great news is that the soul satisfaction God offers never will end. Anyone who wants Jesus will be poured into and totally satisfied by Him for all eternity. Only God can do that!
In contrast, the world’s filling brings leanness, not satisfaction (Psalm 106:15). For the one who loves money, there will never be money enough. Perversity begets deeper perversity. Anger, bitterness, jealousy (and a thousand other vices) all entrench and escalate over time. Worldly dissatisfaction is like feeling, “I have to have one more of these to be satisfied.” It’s the endless digging in an tar pit for a clean rag to wipe the tar off your face. The deeper you dig, the less likely you are to find what you’re looking for.
Your loving Father would satisfy your soul with:
- Freedom from slavery (redemption)
- Adoption as sons
- Inheritance of His kingdom
- His presence
- Eternal life
To stare all that in the face and proclaim it’s not enough is wickedness. Think about it. What would you buy in this world, even if your resources were endless? Jesus asked, “What would a man give in exchange for his soul?” What would you trade for even one of these five things, and think to yourself, “What a great deal!”? Even if the love of this world didn’t cost you these things — and Jesus is clear that you can’t possess both the things of this world AND the things of heaven — how deeply satisfied could the things of this world ever really make you, especially in comparison to the stuff on this list?
So as we embark into a new year, let’s be honest in evaluating our desires. What do we want and why do we want it? Let God’s word drown out the demonic voices which call like sirens perched atop every trinket or earthly treasure, and reserve the search for fullness and soul satisfaction for the only place it will ever be found… In walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
And he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
Trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
Over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:3-7)