I love the book of Ecclesiastes, which essentially outlines King Solomon’s testimony. He begins with “I applied my heart to search out … all that is done under heaven” (1:13), spends the next 11 chapters looking for meaning and fulfillment in all the proverbial wrong places (“The Vanity of Self-Indulgence”, “of Wisdom”, “of Work”, “of Wealth”…), before finally concluding, “The end of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). I wish I had heeded Solomon’s example earlier. But I guess some of us have to learn the hard way.
I’ll spare you the details, but if I outlined all the “vanities”/idols I have “searched out” over the course of my life, the section headers would read something like this: “The Vanity of Having the Perfect Family (Collapse)”, “of Hating God”, “of Hedonism”, “of Achievement / Perfectionism”, “of People-Pleasing”, “of People-Pushing”, “of Hopeless Romanticism”, “of Intellectualism”, “of Atheism / Deconstructing Faith”, “of Marriage as Cure-all”, “of Ministry as Savior”, and beneath all of that, “The Vanity of Being Lord of my own Life”. Like I said, the HARD way!
If you’re looking for a perfect pastor with a pure past, keep searching. But if you’re looking for a place where you can bring your own brokenness and be met with the good news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15), West Hills is the place for you. I (Will) am that “I” (“foremost of sinners”). Paul Tripp notes that “no one gives grace better than someone who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.” I thank God that He allowed me to suffer decades of “vanities”, so that He might convict me all the more deeply of my need for grace and His provision of it in Christ, and out of that, He might use me to proclaim the riches of His grace available to all who would simply trust in Jesus!