In a recent conversation, I heard someone make the comment, “We want to find the sweet spot.” By that, he meant that it would be beneficial for us to discover the best or proper niche for what we are doing. We should discover the optimum balance in what we are doing.
The term sweet spot reminded me of a scene in one of the favorite movies of our family. While You Were Sleeping has a scene in which a father, approaching retirement, is discussing the family business with his son. While savoring an early morning cup of coffee and a contraband doughnut, smuggled by the son for his “dieting” father, the old man muses about life. After reminiscing about some of the up and down experiences of life, he intimates that in life there is a time, for one moment, everything is just about perfect… The son interrupts, “This is not that moment, Pop.” He then goes on to tell him that he has aspirations other than the family business.
And so it is, that we seek that one thing which will make us happy. We chase the illusion that if only we could… There are many options. People pursue spouses, children, success, education, health, exercise, sex, better houses, improved circumstances, vocational satisfaction, family, hobbies… And so it goes, on and on.
Stop and think about it, it’s not too hard to recognize that much of the advertising strategy of our society is based on this quest. Using a specific product yields satisfaction and fulfillment. The problem is that there are many competing products, each promising a more positive result than others! But no matter how much Nutrisystem I consume, I’ll never look like Marie Osmond! And that brand new, state-of-the-art (fill in your own blank) will quickly become worn out, expired, or outdated. “Not to worry, we will give you a great deal on an upgrade or better one!”
So it seems like we are always striving, but whenever we are about to approach our sweet spot, it eludes us. Just when it seems to be in our grasp, it flies away. Our circumstances change, or some limiting or frustrating factor unexpectedly appears. What’s worse is when we actually seem to arrive at the sweet spot, only to discover that it is an empty promise. It does not deliver what we had expected.
This is similar to what the Old Testament prophet Haggai told the people of Israel, as he attempted to motivate them to get busy rebuilding the temple. It seems they excuse themselves because it just wasn’t the right time. Haggai announces: “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:5–6)
How’s that for a very vivid and accurate portrayal of our unending quest for the sweet spot. Even though we try as best we can, we never have enough. We drink and are thirsty; we clothe ourselves but can’t stay warm. Our resources dissipate unexpectedly. We are disappointed.
This reminds me of the deception of Adam and Eve, who were seduced by the cunning of the serpent in the garden. In Genesis 3.5 we read of how the crafty snake not only disputed the goodness of God but also promised Eve more than he was able to deliver. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Eve (and Adam!) did eat of the fruit and ruined their relationship with God. Ignoring that they were image bearers of God, they fell in league with the evil one, joining his rebellion against God. The change which resulted impacted not only the first couple but all their natural prodigy.
The God-given remedy to this mess required a supernatural birth, an impeccable life, a gracious sacrifice and powerful resurrection. Jesus came as God’s promised Messiah, the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. Jesus, the Son of God, came to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3.8), to establish his kingdom and to restore and renew God’s creation.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains and instructs his followers about life in his kingdom. After teaching us the importance of “treasuring up treasures in heaven,” he speaks of the relative uselessness of storing up treasures on earth, which will perish. Instead, he encourages his followers: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Jesus tells us that the real sweet spot is to be found in seeking a present and an unending relationship with God in his kingdom. In the surrounding context, Jesus unpacks the righteousness that we should be pursuing. The following chapter, Jesus instructs us to ask, to seek and to knock for what we need in this world (see Mt. 7.7–12).
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) unpacks and explains how he wishes for his followers to live. Take some time this weekend to read and consider how you can live in the sweet spot.