Olympics: Gold or Goldless

goldWhen many of the Olympic athletes leave Rio, they will begin a new life.  Some will leave having achieved their dreams and winning either a gold, silver, or bronze medal; others will leave disappointed with themselves and their poor performance; and, there will be some who leave with a sense of contentment even though they did not win.

Contentment is a unique commodity: Money can’t buy it; poverty doesn’t provide it; and neither winning or losing can guarantee it.

For some people, contentment is hard to find.  This is because they’ve never matured beyond the infantile attitude of thinking they’re the center of the universe.  They were born wanting more attention, drier diapers, and a bottle that provided a never-ending supply of milk.  As they grew older they wanted the fastest car, the shiniest wheels, and the finest leather interior.

The more is better attitude never understands that having the “best” and being “blest” are not one and the same; one may provide fame and fortune, but it’s the content of the other leads to a life of contentment.

The Apostle Paul discovered the secret of contentment: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. ~Philippians 4:11-12

If you want to live a life of contentment, I suggest that you start by:

  • Seeking God’s will. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8
  • Leaning on God: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13
  • Trusting God’s promise: The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:7
  • Living with an attitude of gratitude: in everything a give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~I Thessalonians 5:18
  • Learning to take an eternal perspective on life: Joseph said, You meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people. ~Genesis 50:20

If, as Paul said, “godliness with contentment is a great gain,” what is a life without godliness and void of contentment?

The Cadence of His Voice

cadenceSome people misinterpret the 10 Commandments and the principles of the New Testament as rigid walls erected by God to deny them access to the pleasures of life.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Whenever God says, “Thou shalt not,” it’s to keep you from stubbing your toe or skinning a knee.  Every time He say, “Thou shalt,” He’s inviting you to skip with joy and whistle a tune of happiness.

When you hear the cadence of His voice and walk in step with Him, you discover that He is your strength and shield.

Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore, my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him (Psalm 28:7).

The Happiness Secret

61rSjSmiZ1LEven though I’ve never watched a full episode of Duck Dynasty, I do know the motto of the main character on the show.  Phil Robertson often says:  “Happy!  Happy! Happy!”

Have you ever given any thought to the source of happiness?  The ancient philosopher, Aristotle tried to answer this question.  He believed the most important factor in an effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character:  “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life (Nicomachean Ethics).”

Happiness is not an on-going quest for instant gratification.  It is, however, the product of a disciplined life that has been focused on the practice of the virtues.

To be content, your life needs to be filled with the right content.  A good example of this is seen in a contrast of Abraham and Lot.  After a family feud, Abraham allowed Lot to claim the well-watered and fertile plains of Jordan as his territory. Lot turns his herds and servants in that direction, and after a brief period of time, he has “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”  Genesis 13 describes this city and its inhabitants as exceedingly wicked.

The difference between these Lot and Abraham is seen in the word content.  Lot’s tent (life) was full of conniving desires that led him away from the virtues of God; however, the story of Abraham was much different:  His tent (life) was content as he delighted in the goodness of God.

Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How happy am I?
  • Does the content of my life help or hinder lasting contentment?

As you think about these questions, read this excerpt from Psalm 1:  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

Is happiness an accident, or is it the result of a life well-lived?

The Great Fullness of Gratefulness

708161.052doughnut_hole_man1_origBefore I go to the office of a morning, I usually stop at the donut shop for a cup of coffee. Some mornings I yield to temptation and eat a donut. I guess this makes me somewhat of an expert on these high cholesterol, artery-clogging treats.

Donuts reveal a little bit about your perspective on life. Do you focus on what you have or on what you do not have? Here’s a little rhyme to explain:

As you go through life, make this your goal:
Keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole.

Some people focus so much on what they think they are missing, they miss out on the joys of life. Because they are always wanting more, they know nothing of contentment.

Paul spoke to Timothy about this when he said: Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out (I Timothy 6:6-7).”

A common companion of contentment is gratefulness, and great fullness is what Paul wanted Timothy to experience. Because he was grateful, Paul had a great fullness that helped him to face the trials of life:

“I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me (Philippians 4”10-13).”

It was Charles Dickens who said: “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

If you just focus on your misfortunes, you will miss the fortune you have in your family, your friends, and in your Savior. Think about them, express your gratefulness and great fullness can be yours to enjoy.

Do You Do Your To Do?

NeglectWhen I examine the landscape of Christianity, I think our practical theology is so skewed that it’s more twisted than a Kansas twister. The focus of the church today seems to be more on a person’s bank account than on the salvation of no-account sinners.

Contrast this to Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This To Do List of Jesus should be the lens through which we view the mission of the church, and the rhythmic cadence that calls us to march in step with His command to:
• Proclaim the good news of the gospel to the poor
• Proclaim freedom to the enslaved
• Open the eyes of the blind
• Open our arms to the oppressed

Which of the items above is on your To Do List? How do you view the poor and needy? There has been a tendency throughout the history of the church to overlook the “least of these” instead of looking out for them.

This was the case in Acts 6: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”

“Neglect” and “daily” are the key words in the Scripture above. “Neglect” refers to a side by side comparison for the purpose of value, and “daily” refers to the frequency of the distribution.

What does your daily distribution consist of and who do you neglect? Are your prayers reserved for just your family and friends or do they include the poor, needy, and the misfits of society?

Are you so focused on getting more and achieving personal happiness that you forget the enslaved, the blind, and the oppressed? If so, you’ll find happiness fleeting and never discover true contentment.

The Apostle Paul said: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4).”

Paul experienced many “have” and “have not” moments in his life, and he knew that to “have not” Christ was to not have contentment. From the moment he met Jesus, Paul focused his life on the To Do List of his Lord. It became his mission and goal, and it is the secret to living a life of contentment.