The Desire for Eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Ecc 3:11)

I came to meet God at Sungrak Church. It was in 1992 that I first met God and sometime later, I went to China where I worked as a missionary. And since returning to Korea I have been serving in the church. Whenever I am asked to introduce myself, I always say, “I have met God”.

When I was working as a salary man, my manager called me. He called me because, when I first introduced myself as a new recruit, I said, “I met God in August 1992” and he had been thinking about what I said and wanted to ask me what I meant by “meeting God”. I got to hear about his background and found out that he had been a Methodist ever since he was young. He was in his mid-fifties at the time so he had been leading a faith life for more than fifty years and yet for him it was strange that I said I met God.

So, I told him, “In the past, I didn’t know God, and at one point in time I was on the side of those who resisted against God”. Have you heard of the philosopher Do-ol Yong-Ok Kim? I had read his books since I was in junior high school. By the time I was in university, I had all of his books at home. I bought them myself and had read them since high school. Under his influence I went as far as to think that Christianity was a social evil. I thought world peace would come if Christianity was eradicated. However, through the course of various events, God made me realize that I was a sinner. And when I knelt down before Him and confessed, “God, if you are really living, I need your help”, He truly met with me. The words promised in the Bible were not just old stories; I experienced those words being fulfilled upon me. Originally, I was a man with a hardened heart, who could not trust the words of others that easily. But since I had received the testimony, it was not about me saying, “I’ve learned about the God that someone told me about” nor saying, “I believe in God”. What I had experienced was not just about believing in God; I had actually met God. I experienced Him.

If anyone asks me about my wife, I would be able to talk all day about her. Because I’ve met her. “What food does your wife like? What is her personality like? When does she get angry? What makes her happy?” I can answer all of those questions. But if a person was trying to obtain a permanent residency to live in the US for example, and conspired with someone to pretend they were partners, they might be able to memorize answers so they could answer questions like, “What is your partner’s hobby? Where did you two first meet?” And at the interview, they may be able to answer the questions that last for 20 minutes or so, but they wouldn’t be able to talk any longer than that. Furthermore, their misconduct could become uncovered. However, when we meet God, we don’t need to memorize anything or learn about anything to talk about it. Of course, to know more about God we do need to learn but what is fundamental is that we have met God.

So, in Jesus’ name I bless you all to meet God. Once you know God, nobody will need to tell you, “You must know God! Know God!” Once you meet Him, no one needs to tell you to know God. Because you yourself have met Him and experienced Him. You know who your child is don’t you? You don’t need anyone else’s testimony about that. In the same way, I hope you will be able to meet God.

In the Scripture that we read, it says “He has put eternity in their hearts”. Eternity. We need to read the word eternity so that it feels real to us. Eternity! Eternity has the meaning of endless and long. In other words, there is no end. And the Bible says that God has put into man’s heart the desire for eternity.

As we got up this morning, countless thoughts went through our minds. We also had desires that passed through our hearts. For example, we needed to get up early but wanted to sleep a little longer. But we overcame that desire to get up. And when I was worshipping in the 1st service today, it was rather cold. So, I thought, “I want to wear a warm outer jacket”, and thus wore my outerwear during the service. Thoughts and desires continue to pass through our hearts and minds. After the service, I was laying hands on and praying for people, and because I had to bend the whole time, my back was hurting. So, I thought to myself, “I wish I could sit down after this is finished”. After that, because it was still quite cold, it came to my mind, “I don’t want to have Gimbap today but something with a nice hot soup.” Hence, I went and had a nice dish with hot soup. After that I wanted a coffee.

In this way, thoughts continuously go through our minds. And when we think about it, our mind (heart) is inseparable from our bodies. Our body and mind are stuck together. When there was no food in my stomach, the thought in my mind was, “I want to eat something”. When my body felt cold, I thought, “I want to get warm”. Likewise, the mind and body are always together.

As I mentioned about feeling cold before, what happens once you warm up your body after feeling cold? Do you still have the thought of wanting to be warm? The moment your body is warmed up, that thought of “I want to be warm” disappears.

To give another example, when I was in the army I was at the GOP (observation post) in Yeon-Cheon. And during winter we were on sentry duty looking toward the 38th parallel. One team would be on duty from 6pm to midnight and then the next team from midnight to 6am. And during those six hours, we had to stand guard moving from one post to another. The wind was icy cold and the wind chill temperature dropped to -25 degrees Celsius. But we had to stand guard without any heaters and only wearing a thick jacket. When climbing the mountains, we would sweat. But when on guard duty, the sweat dries up. And as the wind blows when there’s moisture on our bodies, it feels even colder. In that freezing cold, we had to stand for an hour and our bodies shivered the whole time. So, we tried to move around if possible.

As soon as we returned from guard duty, we jumped into the bath. And I realized something then. For the past six hours, my earnest wish was to have a warm bath. I was missing the warm water. But as soon as I got in the shower and turned on the hot water, that earnest wish disappeared in less than one minute. The thought of it completely disappeared. After that, I didn’t even think about wanting to be warm. That’s when I realized that this body of ours is so easy to please. It is very easy to please.

Also, you become very hungry while on duty. Red bean buns might be very common here, but they are really delicious if you eat them after finishing your duties in the army. So, I’m thinking, “I want to eat red bean buns with milk quickly”. But what happens the moment you eat them? The thought of it completely disappears. It’s truly amazing.

In that way, our hearts are so easy to please because it is all connected with our body. What our bodies desire is not something eternal. Our bodies want simple things that make the body feel comfortable. And the body is so easily satisfied. But then that satisfaction doesn’t last very long either. After I took a nice warm shower and ate that sweet bread I went to sleep. But the next day when I was on duty again, that desire to be warm surged into my heart all over again. And such desires will repeatedly arise 365 days a year. That is the desire of the flesh. That is the heart of the flesh. That is what we desire as those who have a body. There’s nothing wrong with it. It is absolutely normal that one has such desires if he has a body.

Since our minds and hearts are connected to our bodies in such a way, those things that our hearts desire and want may be acquired quite quickly and be satisfied easily. But there is a strange truth behind all this. It is very strange. And it is that we have in our hearts the desire for eternity. We desire eternity. Not something that will satisfy us for a short time but something eternal. We want to have joy but what kind of joy? We want everlasting joy. That is a desire we have in our hearts. What about happiness? Everyone wants to be happy forever. Same for love. Do you want to be loved? Do you want to be loved? What kind of love do you want? One that lasts for 10 years? Nobody would think to himself, “I want to be loved for 10 years only”. Even if a person might have 50 years to live, he is not going to think, “I want to be loved for 50 years”. He would want to be loved for eternity. Nobody wants to be happy for only 50 years. Everyone wants happiness to last forever.

Is this a desire that arises from our bodies? Is it from our bodies that this desire comes? The desires of our flesh are very easy to be satisfied; it doesn’t want something eternal. All that it desires is warm water, bread, having rest, lying down and so on. But there is clearly the desire for eternity in our hearts. We may not need to say, “Please give me eternal love. Give me eternal joy. Give me eternal happiness”, but everyone desires to have them. Therefore, people feel distressed when these do not last forever.

There might be a man and a woman who love each other dearly. But let’s say that one of them changed their heart. When that happens, the other person cannot easily give up on him or her. Why? What did they promise? They promised for their love to last forever. So, the other person cannot accept the fact that he or she has changed their heart so easily. They could become so obsessed with that person that they even take extreme measures saying, “If your love for me is not going to last forever, I won’t let you give that love to anybody else”. This is the struggle and desperation of those that are hurt and disappointed after longing for something eternal.

So why do people long for eternity? Is there a desire in our bodies that longs for eternity or not? There is none in our bodies. The body is flesh. So then from where within us does this desire for eternity come? It is because there is an eternal being within ourselves. We have an eternal existence within us which is why we long for eternal happiness and eternal joy. Because of that eternal existence, we desire to receive eternal love. Though we may always be disappointed by what we see because that love is not eternal, there is a longing cry in the deepest part of our hearts that says, “Please love me forever”.

We come to church to meet God and know God through Jesus Christ all because we want to gain that which is everlasting. If you are seeking something that will satisfy you temporarily, you may be able to find that even outside of the church. At the same time, you may receive true comfort in your hearts by being here too. But is that comfort everlasting? If it is short-lived, then such comfort can be given to you from elsewhere in the world. However, that is short-lived and doesn’t last forever. But what you can receive at church, that is, what God can give you is everlasting.

Even after having faith in Jesus, many people still seek things which are temporary and short-lived. Some of you may have heard evangelists say something like this to you: “Believe in Jesus and your business will grow. Believe in Jesus and you’ll have good health. Believe in Jesus and everything will prosper. Believe in Jesus and your children will find a good job”. Let’s say that someone’s child did get into a good job. Though he seems to have been successful by getting that job now, later down the road, it may turn out not to be a good thing for him. So, from that, people may have been happy for a short time but later feel disappointed. People in our country are greatly disappointed nowadays. At one time, everyone was very happy. But now they are feeling disappointed. Such joy doesn’t last. The world cannot give what is everlasting.

However, God is He who can give eternal joy. This is evident in the history of mankind. Christians who believe in Jesus in the present time believe in the promise that God gave four thousand years ago, and also experience that promise being fulfilled to them. And we find out that it was not just four thousand years but in the eternity past that God had His will and He allows us to experience that. Moreover, we can continue to receive those promises which are everlasting from God.

So, everyone, since you came to church, don’t try to be satisfied with ephemeral and short-lived things that you might acquire from this world. You may be able to find them in the church too so that you receive comfort at church, joy and happiness. However, what is far more important than that is that we receive what is eternal – eternal joy, eternal happiness, eternal blessings, and eternal health. May you receive these things, I bless you in Jesus’ name.

God our Father, we pray for all these souls here. Grant them Your grace so that they can receive the everlasting things given by God and therefore possess eternal joy. Just as God is eternally happy and blessed, help us likewise to have eternal happiness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center