The Desire of Your Soul (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.

(Ecclesiastes 3:11) 

Can you please raise your hand if you are joining us for the first time today? Pleasure to meet you. Some of you may have been to the church before, while for others, it might be your first time today. Since you are in an unfamiliar place, it might be challenging to fully understand everything you hear. Initially, its’ like an exploration phase, getting used to the new environment. And from what I have heard, someone recommend that you make at least 7 friends on your first day at the church. That will make it much easier for you to come again next time. They suggest shaking hands or saying hello to at least seven people.

So, you have come to church. Regardless of the initial reason that brought you here, you probably came with the intention of gaining something. You’ve found the right address, but you can’t seek hot water under cold ice, can you? There is something you need to discover at the church. Some people come to church because of illness. They may have tried treatments at the hospital, but the doctors tell them there’s nothing more they can do. So, instead of the hospital, they come to the church. Then there are those who come due to the struggles they are facing in life or because of issues in their relationships. Everyone arrives in various forms and conditions. Some may even come without any particular problems, perhaps because someone evangelized to you and invited you to the church.

Whatever the reason might be, if you came to church, it most certainly is not by coincidence. The fact that you, among countless people, came to church means that God has that much interest in you. However, even though He has an interest in you, you must personally obtain what you need to find here at the church. You probably also desired happiness in the world. Some might have been searching for love, and others for joy. People often speak as though the world can provide all these things. Indeed, it is possible for us to find some joy and happiness.

However, there is one significant difference in the church. The happiness, joy and blessings and all similar thing that we obtain in the church are, in one word, eternal. Eternal happiness, eternal joy, eternal blessing – these are what you have come all the way to church to receive. If you were seeking only momentary joy and temporary blessing, you wouldn’t need to be here. Especially on a Lord’s Day when everyone takes a rest, you wouldn’t need to be here. However, you came to the church because you are likely longing for these everlasting things.

Some of you may have experienced being in a romantic relationship. When I was dating someone, I longed to hear those three words, ‘I love you!’ However, if your partner were to say, “I will love you, but only for one year!” most of us would not be satisfied. What kind of love do we desire? We yearn for love that is eternal. However, it’s funny. People typically don’t believe that they can live forever, yet they seek everlasting love. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Even though I might have only forty years left in my life, I still desire everlasting love. This is not just something we say; deep in our hearts, we are not content with temporary things that will soon disappear. We long for being loved for eternity.

The same applies to joy. We seek everlasting joy and are not content with momentary happiness. That’s why, even when we are happy in the present, we can become anxious in the next moment. Why is that? We might be happy now, but can we guarantee happiness tomorrow? Will we still experience joy the day after that? To secure joy in the future, we may save some money, prioritize our health, and worry about what lies ahead to ensure our future happiness. Ironically, this pursuit of happiness often leads to more worrying.

In this way, humans possess a longing for the eternal within them. In fact, our physical bodies do not desire or require anything eternal. Consider it for a moment. Your body does not seek or need the eternal; it has no expectations of it. The eternal is something that remains unchanged even  after 100 years, 200 years, 300 years, 1000 years or even 2000 years. However, we might have only 50 years left to live, so what use is something that is eternal (lasting more than 1000 years) to us? Yet, we still desire the eternal.

My body is quite easy to satisfy. For example, in the army, I served at the GOP (Ground observation post) at the 38th parallel. I worked the night shift, and it was physically demanding. Especially during winter, when we had early morning shifts, we had to go out around midnight and remain on duty until six or seven in the morning. We had to stand for the entire seven- hour shift, and the most challenging aspect was the cold. Even more than leg cramps. Strong, icy winds blew continuously while we stood guard. It would have been more bearable if we could move around a bit. Additionally, we had to keep climbing up and down the mountain, standing and watching for an hour, then moving to another location to do the same. Despite wearing multiple layers in winter, climbing up and down the mountain caused us to sweat a lot. Standing at the post with sweat-soaked clothing during freezing temperature was indeed a chilling experience, because the sweat begins to dry.

During those seven hours, what do you think we desired most? While the soldiers on duty might engage in various conversation, including topics like relationships, there was one thing that occupied my mind above all else. Can you guess what it was? It was the urgent with to return to base, take a warm shower, enjoy a bowl of instant noodles, and then get some sleep. This was my most significant longing throughout those seven hours. If you were to ask them, “What’s your wish right now?” I would promptly respond: “To go back to camp, take a warm shower, get some rest, and maybe have some instant noodles.” This was my biggest desire.

However, as soon as those seven hours of longing came to an end and I actually took that shower, the wish that dominated me disappeared completely.  It just disappeared. I no longer longed for that warmth. Similarly, after consuming the instant noodles, I lost all desire to have them again. Our bodies are remarkably easy to satisfy. Such is the nature of the flesh.

When it comes to loving someone, our physical bodies can love, and we often love based on appearances and material possessions. Such love may seem like it will last forever, but we sometimes jokingly say that it won’t even last for three months. People might say that love fades quickly once you get married. So, when love is based on the flesh, it often does not endure for long.

But here’s weird thing: even though we have physical bodies, our desires extend beyond the temporal. We long for things that are everlasting – eternal love, eternal joy, and eternal blessings. However, it’s not our physical bodies that desire these eternal things. Our physical bodies often desire something temporary that are here today and gone tomorrow. However, within us, there is a distinct longing for the eternal, and that longing arises from an eternal presence within us. We have an eternal essence within us, and that is our true self. It’s me.

So, in the past, when we used the term “me,” we were often referring to our physical bodies. However, the body is not actually “me”; it’s something that belongs to me. Similar to saying “my phone” when we possess a phone or “my pencil” when we have a pencil, we say “my flesh” or “my body” when talking about our physical selves. They body itself is not who we truly are.

Therefore, who am I? I am the eternal “I.” The eternal “I”. The eternal “I” possesses a tool, which is my body. One day our bodies will disappear, and they are constantly changing. Eventually, our bodies will wear out and no longer function, but that doesn’t mean that “I” cease to exist. I will continue to exist. Let me provide an example, and I apologize in advance. Suppose I lose my arm in an accident. Is the arm “me,” or is the rest of my body, “me? We would say that the remaining body is “me.” But let’s say that the other arm got amputated, and only body remains. Which would be “me”? The body with the head intact is “me,” isn’t it? Then my legs got amputated, and only the body remains. Are my limbs “me” or is the body “me”? We would say the body. I’m sorry, but what if my head got chopped off. Which would be “me”? Neither is me. They are both mine. I am the soul-spirit. The soul-spirit, which is in the body, is and eternal being, and it is me. But it cannot be seen. Because we can’t see it, we tend to ignore it. We often think it doesn’t exist because we can’t see it. But just because we can’t see the air, we cannot say it is nonexistent. Because it does exist. We are breathing right now, aren’t we? If oxygen was removed from here, we won’t be able to breathe. Though we can’t see it, it does exist.

It’s the same for the spirit. It cannot be seen, yet it exists. It is within us. Thus, even if a person might be physically healthy, they could unexpectedly pass away. On the contrary, though a person may be physically ill, their life may still be intact. What’s the difference between them? If the soul-spirit departs, regardless of their physical condition, the person is dead. But no matter how weak a person is, even if he might have a disability, if the soul-spirit remains in his body, they won’t die.

My true self is the soul-spirit. Hence, what is it that we really need? For my soul-spirit to experience joy, love, and happiness. It is essential that my soul-spirit obtains the everlasting things. Whatever the flesh possesses is temporary. But what the soul-spirit gains is everlasting. And the One who bestows these eternal blessings is God. God is eternal. He desires to give us everything He has, which is everlasting. In truth, we don’t even deserve to receive them. However, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, received them and passed them on to us. Thus, God wishes to share all the eternal things He possesses with us.

Some people might meet God, whiles others can’t. There’s a reason for this difference. Some are able to meet God properly, but then there are others who, at first, appear to have met God but ultimately fail to do so. While it may seem as if God unilaterally determines who meets Him, in reality, each person bears responsibility for it.

So, right now, I am explaining to you the way to meet God, and the most fundamental step is to seek the everlasting, eternal things. You must not be satisfied with things that are not everlasting. When others tell you that they can give you joy and say, “You can find eternal joy! Let’s go and see!” If you’re easily swayed and go here and there, it will be difficult to receive the eternal things God is giving. If happiness is not eternal, it is not genuine either. For our God whom we worship, if it is not eternal, it is not real. If it is not eternal happiness, then in God’s eyes it’s not happiness at all. If it is not eternal peace, then in God’s eyes, it is not peace at all

Once, I had an experience like this. I was on the subway from Sindorim to Uijeongbu. Back then, I often took the subway Line 1. However, it was challenging to find a seat when boarding at Sindorim. Traveling like that every day became quite tiring. So, when I boarded the subway, I would look for passengers who appeared like they might get off soon, sitting up with their backs straight. I would stand in front of them. Strangely, some of these passengers would not get off soon and would continue to travel in that posture the entire way. It turned out I was standing in front of the wrong person. Some people would even throw their bags on an available seat and rush to claim it, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. Instead, I would wait and observe other passengers. If someone else took the seat before me, I would have to accept it. If nobody took the seat, then I would reluctantly go and sit down. So what I’m saying is that finding a seat was quite challenging unless the seat in front of me became available.

One day, I was standing on the subway when suddenly a person stood up. Surprisingly, the person sitting next to them also stood up. In fact, many people started to get up, and numerous seats became available. I wondered, “What’s happening?” and quickly sat down. To my surprise, there was no one left in the seats. I couldn’t understand why everyone had gotten off the subway. Later, I realized that the station was Cheongnyangni, and everyone was required to transfer there. So, everyone had to alight at that station. I wanted to stay a little longer and felt somewhat frustrated. However, I had no choice but to get off the train. I then had to wait for and board the next train. Even though I had the chance to sit for a short time, it was great. I thought “Now, I can sit all the way to Uijeongbu,’ only to find out that I had to get off at the station.

This is very similar to how we seek happiness on this earth. We fervently seek and pursue happiness on this earth, and we may appear content, only to realize that it’s time to get off. When our physical bodies cease to exist, everything I ever possessed has nothing to do with me. It’s time to alight. I must depart from my physical body.

We seek pleasure on this earth, pursue blessings, and chase after wealth, but in the end, all of these fades away the moment our bodies die. Therefore, what we truly need to possess is something whose value will not disappear even as our flesh fades away. Only our soul-spirit can possess such a that, and it is God’s will to grant us that. Through the path that God has opened through Jesus Christ, we must discover these wonderful things and claim them as our own. Those who hope for everlasting things will come here and attain many blessings. However, those who don’t desire the eternal and only seek temporary, fleeting pleasures may come to church and enjoy for a short while but may not find a lasting sense of purpose by thinking, ‘It’s oaky to be happy for a moment! It’s okay to disappear. If I can be happy even for a moment…” Such individuals may eventually seek their pleasure elsewhere.

On the way to church this morning, I noticed many tourist buses at Sindorim station. It was around 6:50am and many people were boarding those buses. Can you guess where they were headed? The mountains. So many people were getting on those buses. I envy them. I love going to the mountains too. But it’s been years since I last went. How wonderful it is to go to mountains for health benefits and breathe in the fresh air! If only it could last forever, I would surely do it. However, the problem is that it doesn’t last forever. When the time comes, we have to leave this world, and we can no longer enjoy such pleasures.

But the joy you seek by coming to church will be with you eternally. The happiness you aim to find here will remain with you forever. Although the church building and its facilities you see are not eternal, what you seek within the church, whether it be a small or large church, is eternal. I bless you in Jesus’ name that you will be successful in obtaining that which is everlasting. Remember that only your soul-spirit can achieve that. Remember that the soul-spirit is your true self. In Jesus’ name, I bless you to be rich in your soul-spirit. I’ll pray

God our Father, there are many pleasures in this world but we come before God seek the eternal joys. Help us God. Help every single person here not to be satisfied with temporary things that are fleeting. Help them to be joyful in their soul-spirit through the everlasting things. Help them to be successful in achieving this so that not only themselves but their family and friends can receive the eternal happiness through them. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center