By Lynn Jones
A small boy visited a farm in Vermont where they were making maple syrup. He was fascinated by the whole process, especially by the way the farmer drilled holes into the sugar maple trees and hung buckets beneath the holes to collect the sap. A couple of days after the boy had returned home, his father discovered him at work in the front yard. He had drilled holes into two utility poles and had buckets attached to each of them.
Of course, there was one small problem with his project. He had drilled holes into two objects that had no sign of life in them. The chances of his extracting sweet sap from two utility poles were slim and none.
The story reminds me of the advice given to a young preacher by an older colleague. The veteran preacher said, “When you get up to preach, if you haven’t struck oil within 30 minutes, quit boring.”
A lot of people are looking for happiness. In fact, there are entire industries dedicated to making people happy. Despite this, many are still lonely and unhappy. Try as they might to find happiness and meaning in life, they keep coming up dry.
One of the problems is that many are trying to extract happiness and meaning from very unpromising sources. It is about as futile as getting sap from a utility pole.
An ad for a sports car featured a picture of a sleek new model. Beneath the picture, there was this line: “You can’t buy happiness, but for $800 a month you can lease exhilaration”.
There is exhilaration and excitement in getting a new car, but the thrill is generally short-lived. The payments outlast the exhilaration.
What we need is a vibrant, life-giving source of joy and meaning. The ultimate source is Jesus Christ. He said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).
When people are irritated with someone who is off on what they judge to be a tangent, they will say, “Why don’t you get a life?” That is a very good suggestion. The question is, exactly where do you get such a life? The Bible gives a clear and unmistakable answer. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
On the final night of His life, Jesus told His disciples that He was like a vine, and they were like the branches. To live and bear fruit, they must remain attached to Him. He concluded by saying, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
Where are you looking for joy? Beware of pursuits that are as doomed to failure as drilling for sap in a utility pole.
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: email@example.com.