Somewhere in the world at the moment you read this, a little boy, waving a stick, has just destroyed myriads of imaginary enemies, and having clambered up to the top of a pile of dirt stands stretching out his arms in victory, proclaiming himself to be “The King of the World.” Mountain climbers face dizzying heights and sports fans cheer for their teams for the same reason. According to Paul David Tripp, in his book A Quest For More, “There is woven inside each of us a desire for something more – a craving to be part of something bigger, greater, and more profound than our relatively meaningless day-by-day existence.” Tripp labels that “something” transcendence. We are hardwired for glory; it is something that God built into us when He created us to be unique and higher than anything else in the garden of Eden. God put these desires in us for a purpose: to seek His transcendent glory. As Tripp states, “If your purpose isn’t tied to [God’s] glory, you have . . . denied your humanity.”
The problem in our lives is that sin is deceptive. Like a used car salesman, Satan constantly tricks us into believing that less is more, just as he did Eve in the garden. He offered to Adam and Eve an independent glory, deceiving them into believing that “the true transcendence is autonomy.” We must combat this thinking by realizing the far-reaching effects of sin in our lives, but also accepting the far-reaching application of God’s grace. Grace does not bring just personal benefits to us. It reshapes our lives and extends the boundaries of our interests. “Redemption’s agenda is not to make our little kingdom’s successful but to welcome us to a much bigger, much better kingdom.”
Tripp refers to Matthew 6 to warn of two threats to a proper focus on the “big kingdom.” These are earth-bound treasures and anxiety-bound needs. Pursuing “little-kingdom living” is characterized by these emphases, and it will always shrink your life to the size of daily wants and worries. It takes constant warfare to keep from falling into these traps, especially because of the deceptiveness of our own hearts. Too often we mask the kingdom of self in the costume of the kingdom of God, and we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are “seeking first the kingdom of God.
In spite of all of these challenges, Trip encourages us, “Wait, there is a Warrior!” He points us to the cross, through which Christ won victory over the little kingdom, paid the debt for selfish desires, and purchased power for us to obey. Turning to Colossians 1: 3-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5, we are reminded that Christ and the cross are central to the kingdom of God. And Christ calls on us to emulate His death by denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him. Tripp comments, “The little kingdom offers us life, but brings you death; the big kingdom requires your death, but gives you life.”
The following chapters (11-17) call Christians to having this lifestyle-shaping heart attitude. It affects all areas of life, but Tripp focuses on several key areas. In chapter 11, “Groaning,” he reminds us that a kingdom-focused life will carry with it a certain degree of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Thankfulness is good, but there is danger in being too easily satisfied. Chapter 12 “Jazz” compares the Christian life to improvised music following two principles: form and freedom. The “form” or musical key and time signature, is compared to God’s word: the guidelines for kingdom life. However there is freedom built into kingdom living as well. According to Tripp, “The Bible simply doesn’t address every situation or relationship in which you may find yourself.” This is perhaps poorly stated. God does give us a degree of freedom in pursuing His kingdom, and though the Bible does not give specific instructions for every situation in life, it does address every aspect of life in principle form.
Tripp discusses forgiveness in Chapter 13. He connects our struggle with forgiveness with our kingdom struggle. Seeking or giving forgiveness is impossible without looking past our self-kingdom to the cross of Christ through whom we are forgiven. Similarly, Tripp discusses anger in Chapter 16. We should never be angry in protection of “our kingdom;” only God’s.
Chapter 14, “Loneliness,” compares our emotional life in the kingdom of God to waiting for the love of one’s life to return. His love for us and our responsive love for Him fuels our pursuit of the kingdom. While we wait for our relationship to be perfected, it is easy for our fickle hearts to wander. “Our problem is not that we fail to be satisfied. Our problem is that we are too quickly satisfied.” If you are not lonely for Jesus, the central affection of your life, what other lovers have stolen your affection?
Chapter 15 discusses sacrifice. All of us make sacrifices every day, and what we sacrifice for is revealing. Tripp says, “Behind every personal sacrifice is a quest for some kind of treasure.” Christ calls on us to give up everything – every treasure but Him must be abandoned.
Finally, Tripp gives us hope for the journey ahead. Everyone is hopeful to some degree, but many people have a “soon-to-be-disappointed” hope because they have attached their hope to something that will fail them. Everything earthly will disappoint in some way, but hope in God’s kingdom will never fail you.
That positive, hopeful approach is perhaps one of the things I most appreciated about A Quest For More. Using many excellent illustrations and analogies, and showing the heart of a biblical counselor, Tripp gently leads our wandering hearts back home. Yet he doesn’t promise earthly bliss, but realistically describes loneliness and groaning as our hearts are fixed on things above.
Christians today desperately need to grasp the truth that this book has unpackaged for us. The struggle facing the church today, as in every age, is worldliness, which is in essence living with an earth-bound mindset. If we could but get a glimpse of the glory above our lives would radically change. Paul David Tripp has attempted to exalt Christ’s kingdom so that we can see that glimpse of glory. May God open our eyes!