Category Archives: Contentment

Why isn’t goodness more satisfying?

Stolen water is sweet; bread eaten in secret is delicious!

That’s what the ancient proverbs writer said, and it still rings true today. We, humans, love the illicit and the forbidden.

Why is this?

Why is forbidden fruit so tempting? Why do we crave the things that aren’t healthy for us? Why do we want what we probably shouldn’t have?

The answer is…we actually don’t. We don’t want the illicit; we don’t want the counterfeit—we actually DO want the authentic and the good.

The problem is that goodness usually requires some up-front payment, whereas the illicit doesn’t charge us until a little later on—it’s like a quick and easy credit card transaction that satisfies today but makes us pay tomorrow. Goodness and beauty make us work for it on the front end, and if we aren’t willing to pay that price we’ll turn to lesser substitutes that can hurt us on the back side.

King David understood this. Throughout his life, he walked both paths: the illicit and legitimate, and his conclusion was clear. True satisfaction (the kind that lets you sleep at night and brings life to your soul) only comes from what is good. In fact, David said that when our desires touch God’s goodness it’s so satisfying that it’s almost like we start aging in reverse. He said that God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:5).

Jesus agreed with David. He said the Kingdom of God—the reality of the goodness of life in God—was like a treasure buried in a field. It took some work and it cost a life to find it, but once found, it was worth every cent of payment.

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The Next Right Thing

multidirectional signsWhat am I supposed to do with my life?

Which path should I take, left or right?

Is this the right time to make a move, or should I wait a little bit longer?

Should I follow this counsel or that opinion?

And most importantly, how long is it all going to take?

Sometimes questions like these can make us crazy. We can be so concerned with knowing exactly what the next steps are for our lives that we become obsessed. We fret and stress and live under a canopy of frustration, fear, and anxiety. We fail to enjoy the present moment because we’re so desperate to get into a future moment, and ultimately, we miss what we are supposed to learn and receive today. What we don’t even realize is that today’s obsession with tomorrow can actually disqualify us for tomorrow.

There is a better way.  Sometimes rather than obsessing over the ultimate answer or our final path, we need to simply do the next right thing.

Quite often, if you and I will simply do the next right thing, our larger path will become clear. If we do the next right thing, we will be ready for the next right thing after that. Then if we do the next right thing after that one, we will be ready for the next one that appears. If we were to consistently do this for a lifetime, several things would happen. We would live really good lives, some really great things would happen, and we would always be prepared when our new seasons arrived.

This is not a diminishing of vision. Nor is it an appeal to stop dreaming. Not at all! We need a vision. It is imperative that we dream. However, it is the maximization of today’s opportunities that qualifies us for the vision that is coming tomorrow.

Success versus Faithfulness

mother teresa“God has not called us to be successful, He has called us to be faithful.” –Mother Teresa

Do you agree with her? Do you think that Mother Teresa, whose ministry touched millions, knew what she was talking about?

Or how about the Scriptures? Did you know that the words “faithful” and “fruitful” occur in the Bible 78 and 35 times respectively, whereas the word “successful” doesn’t appear even once?

OF COURSE we want to be successful. OF COURSE we want to do a good job, hit the bull’s eye, be effective, etc., etc. But we’re not supposed to worship success. And it’s not supposed to be our highest aim.

Faithfulness is.

It is possible to be successful without necessarily being faithful; however, it is impossible to be truly faithful without touching success. God’s definition of success isn’t derived from strategic thinking workshops or effective branding campaigns; it’s defined as faithfully discharging the duties of our calling.  Many of the most successful police officers, parents, educators, friends, business owners, or neighbors will never dance in the spotlight. Their lives and ministries will be conducted in relative obscurity, unchased by news crews or paparazzi. They will be “known” somewhere else.

Heaven.

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name. ‘They shall be mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession.'” (Malachi 3:16-7)

Let’s beware the siren of success, opting rather for faithfulness where success is merely a byproduct.

 

Don’t consult your greed

scrooge mc duckEpic. Strategic. Helpful. Wise.

Max Lucado’s chapter “Don’t consult your greed” contains some of the best life advice that we could ever receive!

Here’s his punch line: when attempting to identify your ‘sweet spot’ don’t consult your greed. The God-ordained niche for your life will be outrageously significant; however, it probably won’t satisfy every greedy longing in your soul.

Mine won’t be fully satisfied either—no one’s greed ever is. As Epicurus, Greek philosopher from 300 BC, noted, “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” Similarly, when John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money does it take to satisfy a man?” he replied, “Just a little more.”[1]

Perhaps your sweet spot will provide a comfortable living for you, but perhaps it won’t. Some people get paid to pursue their sweet spot, while others touch that place through volunteering. The primary goal is not to get rich by doing what we love, but rather to passionately and honorably pursue what we love, and then practice contentment with its results. Indeed, some people in their longing for more have accepted job “promotions” that have elevated them right out of their sweet spot. Consequently, rather than doing what they love, and learning to be content therein, they have gained a little “more” but have become miserably out-of-place along the way.

I know this perspective flies in the face of our American quest for “more,” and yet I wonder if our longing for more has caused us to become negligent or ungrateful for what we currently possess. Remember, Jesus said that tomorrow’s promotion is often tied to faithfulness today. “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Matthew 13:12).

Success is not defined by position or pay scale, but by doing what we do best as often as we possibly can.[2]

Grace Church summer reading program, The Cure for the Common Life, Chapter Five: “Don’t consult your greed.”

[1] Max Lucado, The Cure for the Common Life, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2005, 43.

[2] Ibid., 47.