One of the great names in American literature is Earnest Hemingway (1899-1961). He is remembered as a novelist, shirt-story writer, journalist, and sportsman. His style of writing influenced many writers in the 20th century. Most of his writings were created during the mid-1920’s thru the mid-1950’s. He wrote seven novels, six short-story collections, and two nonfiction works. His writings included: The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, To Have and to Have Not, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and many other classics. For his labors he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His personal life was complex and larger than life. He was married four times, known to be a heavy drinker and large game hunting. He owned homes in Key West, Cuba, and Idaho. He seemed to have it all. That is why is suicide was so shocking. He used his own shotgun. When he died in 1961, Hemingway was worth $4 million. Today, that $4 million would be worth $35 million. He seemed to have it all. That is why his suicide was so shocking. Let me state the obvious. Something was missing in Hemingway’s life. Let me ask you this question.
What do these famous people have in common?
Prince Alfred of Edinburgh
The answer is each one of these rich and famous people took their own life. I am not sure Rommel should be on the list. Rommel was forced to commit suicide in 1944 for getting involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler (1889-1945). Let me state the obvious. Something was missing. I am aware suicide is a complex topic, but it is safe to say none of these people were satisfied with their life. Here is the question you must answer: how satisfied are you? That takes us to the scripture reading for today.
We find ourselves today in the Gospel of John. It was written by the apostle, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” approximately the year 85 AD. Prior to our reading in the sixth chapter, Jesus had fed the five thousand, with five barley loaves and two small fish. It is one of the great miracles in the Bible. How great was the miracle? The story is found in all four Gospels. We looked at it last week. There is no way of overstating Jesus’s popularity. The crowd was wild about Jesus, and they followed him to the other side of the sea. Their question for Jesus was how he got there, but Jesus saw the real issue. The crowd was consumed with the issue of food. There is only one problem with food. Food, and the feeling of fullness, does not last long. Have you ever eaten a big meal and pushed yourself away from table proclaiming, “I will never eat again!”, only to find yourself hours later standing in front of your refrigerator looking for a snack? Jesus has nothing against food, but he knows there is more to life than food. The crowd wanted more loaves and fish, but Jesus offers himself, the bread of life. There is more than this temporary world; there is the eternal. Do not miss the next line. In many ways we play the part of the crowd. Many pursue fullness, not satisfaction. The things of this world may fill us up, but they will not satisfy. Only the things of God will satisfy. How many people do you know who are pursuing fullness?
In the fifth century, a man named Arenius was determined to live a holy life. So, he abandoned the comforts of Egyptian society to follow an austere lifestyle in the desert. Yet, whenever he visited the great city of Alexandria, he spent time wandering through its bazaars. Asked why, he explained that his heart rejoiced at the sight of all the things he did not need. There are many in our society who need to ponder those words. Many are preoccupied with the things of this world.
We live in a society flooded with goods and gadgets. Each one promises fullness. They are things we can live without, but we must have them. This is the problem: Very few can afford everything. That is one of the reasons credit card debt has become a national problem. How many credit cards do you own? How much credit card debt do you carry? Did you know the average American holds four credit cards? Did you know the average American is $6270 in credit debt? On average, Americans pay 19.62% in credit card interest. Americans owe a total of $14.9 trillion in credit card debt. (Those statistics came from Business Insider.) Do not expect it to get better. Our televisions, radios, mailboxes, newspapers, and internet are filled with advertisements or suggestions on what to buy. Each one promises to make you and your loved ones happier. Like the crowd in the Bible story, many buy to make themselves full. Can I ask you a question? How long does your purchase keep you happy? Just like the crowd in the Bible story, there is nothing wrong with buying things. But do not expect those things to make you satisfied. They are all temporary, not eternal. Our society is chasing fullness, not satisfaction.
So, what do the experts tell us is the source of true satisfaction or contentment? As I researched that question this week, I found a variety of lists. They were all different, but they were all the same. I decided to condense those lists into my own list. Here are four things personally satisfied people do:
Satisfied people keep investing. I am not talking about financial investing. I am talking about investing in relationships. Sometimes those relationships are family members. Sometimes those relationships are friends. Research tells us, if you have a friend from a different generation from yours, it is a bonus. Our friendships keep us mentally and physically strong. Our friendships help us weather the bad times in our lives. Our friends help us improve the quality of our lives. God never designed us to live in isolation. We are social animals. One of the great fears in our lives is loneliness, so go out and spend time with people. Satisfied people invest their lives in other people. If you have one good friend, then you are a rich person. I would encourage you to invest in a relationship with Jesus. Satisfied people invest in Jesus.
Satisfied people keep learning. What do you still want to learn? The day you stop learning something new is the day you become irrelevant. Lifelong learning helps you prepare for the unexpected and expands your profile. Lifelong learning boosts your confidence and generates new ideas. Lifelong learning will change your perspective and cultivate your leadership skills. The choice is yours. You can be part of the modern world, or you can be as relevant as the Amish. Satisfied people keep learning. What do you still want to learn? I would encourage you to learn everything about Jesus. Satisfied people are always learning about Jesus.
Satisfied people keep dreaming. What do you still want to do? God never intended us to live in the past. God never intended us to worship the past. God designed us for a purpose. God expects us to embrace today and dream of a better world tomorrow. Our dreams or goals build our self-confidence, hold us accountable, and help us live our lives to the fullest. Are you living, or are you just waiting to die? What do you still want to do?Satisfied people dream of spending eternity with Jesus.
Satisfied people keep trusting. How far do you trust Jesus? Go back to the scripture with me one more time. Jesus had just fed the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. It was a great miracle, and it was a great moment in the lives of the five thousand. When they had finished eating, they could not hold another bite. But a short time later they were hungry again. They looked to Jesus to feed them again. Jesus saw the problem. The crowd was preoccupied with earthly food, but Jesus was more interested in eternal food. The crowd wanted to be full again, but Jesus wanted them to be spiritually satisfied. Jesus tells the crowd and us, “I am the bread of life.” In a world that is running after fullness, we long for satisfaction. That is why we will never stop trusting in Jesus. Eternal satisfaction only comes from him.
Recently, a movie was released by the name of Roadrunner. It is a documentary about Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018). I will not watch it. I liked him too much. Bourdain had become part of my Sunday night routine. After a busy morning and a slow afternoon, I would turn my television on to CNN at about 10:00. Kathryn was down for the day, so I would watch alone. Regularly, I would watch Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Did you ever watch it? The show won ten Primetime Emmy Awards and one Peabody Award. It was a travel and food show, but it was more. Bourdain would slide in his own opinions on various human conditions around the world. I found Bourdain’s own story fascinating. He was as diverse as his show. The former cocaine, heroin, and LSD user graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He was considered one of the most influential chefs in the world. Some of his shows were dark, but some of the shows sucked me in. I had been to some of the places he was visiting, and I longed to go to others. This is the truth: Bourdain was living the life I wanted. While I was spending most of my life in the shadows of Youngstown, Ohio, Bourdain was traveling around the world, eating wonderful food, drinking intriguing drinks, talking to bright, insightful people. Through my eyes, Anthony Bourdain seemed to have the perfect life; he had it all. That is why the news was so shocking. You remember. On June 8, 2018, at the age of 61, Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. He hung himself in France. I could not believe it. I still do not believe it. He left behind a young, pretty wife and his only child, a daughter. I was in shocked, and I think I am still in denial. When I tried to watch the reruns after he was gone, I found myself upset. Why would a guy who had everything in this world take his own life? His net worth was $16 million.
The answer is in our scripture lesson for this morning. The answer is everything in this world is not enough. We live in a world that is chasing after fullness. The problem is the state of being full is only a temporary situation. Only Jesus will satisfy you for eternity. Let me end with this question: How satisfied are you? Jesus said it best about himself. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”