It’s quiet, but compelling.
It’s one of the secrets of everything that motivates you – in fact, your deep, abiding happiness depends on it. Yet it’s so hidden, so behind-the-scenes, that if I were to ask you to list your strongest longings, I’m almost certain this wouldn’t make the list.
But it’s there. It’s powerful. And your response to it may well be the difference between addicted and sober.
Between ambition and actualization.
Between frustration and fulfillment.
The desire? You want to inherit the earth. And you want it badly.
I’m not exaggerating or joking. You can trace that desire all the way back to the first man. After all, it’s why we were placed on this planet in the first place.
“Fill the earth and subdue it,” God said (Genesis 1:28, NIV). You were made to manage. To be large and in charge, beginning with your own life. Jesus said that those who inherit the earth are deeply satisfied, genuinely happy.
But something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. As a race, we’re not particularly happy. I’m not so sure we’re inheriting the earth, either.
What, Exactly, Does That Mean?
David also talked about inheriting the earth in Psalm 37, and gave some hints about what it means.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret — it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
(Psalm 37:1-11, NKJ)
Those who inherit the earth have all their needs met. Figuratively speaking, they “feed on God’s faithfulness.” They also receive the desires of their heart as they delight themselves in the Lord. Inheriting the earth means enjoying abundant peace and prosperity – that is, having your needs and desires fulfilled without conflict or insecurity.
You were made for that.
You want that.
Your happiness depends on it.
So Why Not Just Go Get It?
The problem we have isn’t the desire. It’s human to want abundant peace and prosperity. The problem is what we do to try to get it, and how we demand to have it now.
Conventional wisdom says, “If you want it, grab it.” The most logical approach is to achieve through ambition – to do all the mental and relational things the world tells us to do to get what we want.
But those who get the earth don’t do so by capturing it. Not that we haven’t tried. The study of history is usually organized around the next would-be world conqueror.
No, you get the earth by inheriting it. That implies several things: the passage of (sometimes a lot of) time, a relationship to the one giving the inheritance, and a gift that comes by virtue of that relationship.
Do you realize how many people are in bondage because they couldn’t wait to get what they wanted?
Maybe it’s emotional bondage to a dead-end relationship.
Maybe it’s bondage to a chemical or behavior that offered a quick solution to pain.
Maybe it’s financial bondage that couldn’t see past a sale and the magnetic stripe on a credit card.
The common thread in each is that it’s driven by ambition (desire) void of a relationship with the One who owns it all in the first place. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1). If we so deeply want and need to inherit it, doesn’t it make sense to pursue a trust relationship with the One who owns it?
A More Sinister Form of Ambition
There is a subtler, more sinister form of ambition. It’s the ambition of possessing – of clutching something that was intended for our benefit, but not our possession. This kind of ambition takes place whenever we try to package the gifts and blessings that God gives us.
It happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter suggested they package this amazing spectacle in three tents.
It happens in our lives when we selfishly try to clutch or possess something that feels like it adds value. Maybe it’s the heart of a beloved, or the obedient affection of a child. Maybe it’s the dying breath of a parent or the job or the career we have always loved and longed for. God gives it to bless us. But in our idolatrous effort to hold on to that feeling or that experience, we cross lines, we make demands, and our heart darkens.
It even happens in our relationship with God – what the preachers refer to as loving the gift more than the Giver.
I’ve seen it happen in my own life repeatedly. After praying, seeking, knocking on God’s door, He comes through. I’m so excited, so grateful. And so human! My next thought is like that of a spoiled child: “Oh God, would you do that again please”? Or like Peter: “Lord, could we build a tent around this so that I could come back for another dose whenever I want it or need it”?
We also try to systematize the things we did prior to experiencing that blessing. We pray the same prayer, or follow the same steps. We develop systems that have built-in self-destruct mechanisms in them. And when the system fails us, as all systems do, we blame God.
There is another way.
It’s the way of meekness.
The meek inherit the earth. And then they go on being meek. And go on inheriting the earth.
The meek don’t inherit the earth so that they can say, “Good! Now I don’t have to be meek anymore!” And when they taste some of the firstfruits of their inheritance, they don’t get attached to it and try to cling to something they were never meant to possess.
They remain detached.
They hold things loosely.
They remain watchful.
Sensitive to the Spirit’s quiet promptings.
Oh, and if you think by “meek” I’m referring to the local chapter of Sissies for the Savior, think again. And come back in a couple of days. I’ll show you how meekness is the result of a boot camp, not a manicure.
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