By Greg Laurie
The pursuit of emptiness
I am a member of the baby boom generation. My generation thought the problem with the world was low self-esteem and that people needed to learn to love themselves more. There was a lot of emphasis on this so-called problem, but it didn't turn out so well.
The offspring of the baby boomers are the millennials, or the Me Generation. They received so many participation trophies growing up that, according to a recent study, 40 percent believe they should be promoted every two years on the job, regardless of performance.
They do not believe they have to work hard or be resourceful; everything should be given to them because they are so wonderful. It is called a sense of entitlement, and it is a big problem in our nation today.
Consider these statistics from a cover article entitled "Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation" for the May 20, 2013, issue of Time: "The incidence of narcissistic (love of self) personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older."
If you're still sceptical, just watch a few auditions of "The X-Factor" or the various renditions of the "Idol" TV shows. Contestants with no vocal ability whatsoever are completely oblivious to that fact. And when a judge has the audacity to suggest that a professional singing career is not what they ought to do with their lives, they of course get upset.
When a recent poll asked 18 to 25-year-olds what their life goal was, 51 percent said they wanted to be famous, 30 percent wanted to help people, and 22 percent wanted to be leaders in their community. Ten percent said their goal was to be more spiritual.
Few think their number one goal should be to know God. If we chase after fame and fortune, then we will end up like all the others who have done so. Just take a look at a man called Naaman, whose story is told in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. He was rich and famous and powerful. But he had a problem – a life-threatening problem that all of his money and fame and power could not fix.
Naaman was an important general in the Syrian army, at a time when Syria was a great world power. He had everything the world says you ought to have to make you happy: power, fame and great wealth along with the trust and friendship of the king himself. Imagine the day when Naaman noticed a little spot on his skin.
The next day, he saw four or five more spots and his doctor tells him, 'You have contagious and incurable leprosy'. Leprosy not only shortened your life, but it would mean dying alone with other lepers. Despite all of his power and fame, Naaman knew there was no cure for his disease.
So who did God hand-pick to offer hope to the great Syrian war general? A young, unnamed Jewish slave girl, who trusted in God and had heard stories about the miracles of an Israelite prophet named Elisha. While in a foreign land, waiting on Naaman's wife, her heart went out to the general. She said she wished that he could go and meet that prophet in Israel. Through the kings of Syria and Israel, Naaman found out where Elisha lived and went to his house, looking for a healing. Elisha's servant Gehazi simply delivered a message from the prophet: Naaman was to go down to the Jordan River, immerse himself seven times, and he would be healed.
Naaman's pride was wounded. Initially, his leprosy was the enemy of his personal happiness, but then his pride became the greater enemy. So one of his officers reasoned with him; "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" (2 Kings 5:13 NLT).
Naaman swallowed his pride and followed Elisha's instructions. Among foreign commoners in the Jordan River, he removed his armour and immersed himself seven times. Sure enough, the leprosy was gone. In fact, the Bible says that his skin was like that of a baby's.
There is no life without its share of problems. If you do not own much, you always think about how to have more. If you have a lot, there will always be someone who has more than you. If you have the most, you are worried about how you are going to keep it. You can have it all and still have something missing in your life.
Yet this is what so many people aspire to. They want to be like the rich people, the famous people, and the successful people. But the rich, the famous and the successful have their troubles too. Everyone feels empty, lonely, guilty and afraid to die. The problems of humanity are effectively the same wherever you go.
The remedy for Naaman was to go down to the Jordan River, peel off his armour and immerse seven times in the river. The solution for us is to realise that we need God's forgiveness. Just because God's forgiveness is a free gift, it doesn't mean that it came cheap. God had to send his son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place so we could be forgiven of our sin. And we find eternal life by believing in Him alone.