(I can’t get no)

Guitar Silhouette 1
rock music!

[Guitar riff]

da daa

da da daaaa da daa da da da

da da daaaa da daa da da da

da da daaaa da daa da da da

da da daaaa da daa da da

So begins one of the iconic openings of a song: (I can’t get no) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. (Now you know what that da da da stuff represents and you won’t be able to remove that earworm anytime soon). Immediately you hear the opening few bars you know the song.

For a while I had it as a ringtone on my phone. I changed it after my phone had rung in my bag when the bag was tucked away at the front of a church (the church service had finished). There was a couple in the church who were very surprised to hear this song start playing and couldn’t work out where the music was coming from!

I find it interesting that the song title is ‘(I can’t get no) Satisfaction’. Setting aside the linguistics for a while, I wonder how many people know the song as ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ and don’t realise that originally it was just ‘satisfaction’. The bit in brackets has become part of the title now because it is an integral part of the song.

I think that this song ought to be the anthem for Western consumer culture. Our whole economic system depends on the (unwitting) acceptance of the premise that we are dissatisfied. What we have in not sufficient. It does not satisfy. We have accepted that there is more to life than we currently have. But we have bought the lie that we can buy satisfaction. And because we are kept dissatisfied we therefore need to buy new, improved versions of what we already have; we need to buy the latest fashions; we need faster, more powerful, safer, stronger, cleaner… and our manufacturers and retailers sell more goods and make bigger profits, some of which is used to develop and promote new versions of what we have bought which we will buy because we are made to be dissatisfied with them… phew, it’s exhausting isn’t it?

I think that the song also ought to be the anthem for our ability to become addicted to things. Why do people take drugs, drink alcohol, overindulge in food, become obsessed with pornography and go to extremes to get more and more money? One of the reasons is that they are not satisfied with how things are – they have accepted that there is more to life than they currently experience but have bought the lie that it can be found in a pill, at the bottom of a bottle, on a plate, on the seedy side of the internet or in their bank balance. There is no such thing as ‘enough’.

Contrast that with Paul’s attitude in the letter he wrote to the Philippians (chapter 4 (NIV)):

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Did you notice how much joy, peace, contentment, sufficiency and satisfaction there is in this passage? Paul discovered that people are right when they are dissatisfied with life as it is – there is more to life. But he found contentment when he found that missing extra element – focusing your attention on Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “Above all else try to ensure that God’s will is done and done well and you’ll gain the right perspective on the rest of life.”*

It’s not something we can do on our own, but he gives us his Spirit to help give us the desire to do it, the opportunities to do it and the will to keep on.

In those circumstances you could happily take away the phrase in brackets from our theme song!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*My iffy translation of Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

looking for the impossible

searchToday I spent time and effort searching for something. It was an important document. It was my tax return. I had found ones from previous years but needed this year’s. I file my returns online but was sure that I also printed out a summary of this year’s return. Yet I could not find it anywhere.

I had used some tax return filing software specially designed for Ministers of Religion and thought that I would have the document I needed in the backup folders. But then I realised that I had filed the return on a different computer and, not so long ago, I had removed my profile from that computer because I had not needed it. I thought I had made copies of everything and put them on an external hard drive, but when I checked it I did not have a tax return for this year.

My heart sank. It was gone. My tax return for 2014-2015 had vanished.

And then I realised something. I have not yet filed a tax return for 2014-2015 because that financial year has not finished yet! And the return I needed was for 2013-2014 and I had that in my hand.

D’oh!

Do you ever search for what does not exist?

No?

So you have never looked for the perfect partner, job or house – where there is nothing wrong with it at all, it is flawless – so that you will be happy?

You have never bought a lottery ticket (or raffle ticket) or entered a competition and had a feeling that ‘this time’ you would win and life will be better?

You have never caught yourself imagining a different life where ‘the grass is greener’ and you never have any problems?

I think that part of the way that we have been designed is to seek the best, to have ambitions, hopes and dreams. I that is one of God’s fingerprints that is left on us – a desire for improvement, for progress, wanting something better. But it is not intended to be focused on ourselves, it is intended to be focused on others.

But we distort that through selfishness to become wanting to improve our life, make progress for ourselves, wanting something better for us. When we want more, better, perfect in order to make our life easier, better, happier, we find that we will be striving for what doesn’t exist and lose a sense of satisfaction.

Paradoxically those who seek to serve others often find greater satisfaction than those who seek others to serve them (my loose paraphrase of things Jesus said).

Be blessed, be a blessing