The Apostle Paul writes to the young evangelist Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Often we are seeking after happiness, only to find that it is a moving destination. While God, as a good Father, wants His children to be happy, He ultimately wants us to be content. Why? Happiness is circumstantial and temporary, but contentment is a firm foundation that will allow us to remain “strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). God wants us to build our life upon the rock of the Gospel of truth and not the shifting sands of feelings.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us of two builders, one builds his house on the rock, and the other builds his house on the sand. Both houses look great, but the storm comes! “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against” the houses (v. 25 & 27), and Jesus tells us that the house built on sand crashed. The storms come to both the wise and foolish builder. Storms are inevitable, but are we prepared? If we are basing the direction of our life on feelings, then it is the equivalent to building upon the sand. According to Dr. Ken Rubin of the University of Hawaii: “Beaches are temporary features. There is always sand being removed and sand being added to them. Often, they change drastically during the year, depending upon the frequency of storms. Ultimately, a beach erodes because the supply of sand to the beach cannot keep up with the loss of sand to the sea.” A life on a foundation of sands cannot expect to remain stable.
The question is not if the storms will come, but will we be able to withstand the storms of life. Jesus tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When the storms come, God wants to understand that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). It is our faith, not our feelings, that gives us the ability to overcome the world (1 John 5:4).
In this world a simple principle exists: whatever you feed lives and whatever you do not feed dies. Are we feeding our faith or are we feeding our feelings? Are we maturing in our faith or “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6)? God wants us to be mature and strong in Him through faith. Hebrews 6:1 states, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.”
Maturity does not come with age but Godly wisdom applied consistently in our lives. Maturity is the ability to delay instant gratification for a desired long-term goal. Often times we stop focusing on the foundation of contentment for the quick fix of “happiness.” An addict will give up anything for a fix of drugs. Many of us have given up much for the quick fix of happy. We have traded away long-term contentment and joy to meet the “needs” of the moment. The writer of Proverbs states, "As the dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (26:11). How many times do we go back to the same thing or do the same thing and expect a different result? Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
My dog throws up from time to time, but she is always polite and cleans it up by eating it. While it is gross, what sickens me even more is when she tries to kiss me afterward. No one wants to be kissed by someone or something thing that has vomit breath. And yet, how many of us have the spiritual stench of vomit on our lives because of our poor choices? Our lives should not stink. Rather, we are told by Paul: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
God allows the storms to mature us so that we will focus on what really matters: the foundation. James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." If we do not grow in our faith, we will return to what we once knew: a life without a foundation. God does not want us repeating the same pattern of behaviors; He wants us to become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It is my prayer that we will begin to focus less on the storms and more on the lessons they can teach us about ourselves. Maya Angelou wrote, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Irish writer, Frank O’Connor, told the story of two boys standing beside a tall orchard wall launching a small, felt, round object up in the air like a Frisbee. If you had been there to see them, it would have looked strange—even foolish. With the enthusiasm of a college graduate, one of the boys hurls his hat and you arrive just in time to see it leave the hand of its owner and travel high—up and over an imposing and significant wall. You might have wanted to call out and say, “Why did you do that? Now you are going to have to climb over and get it!” To which, the boys would reply with sly and knowing grins, “Exactly. That’s the whole idea.” I appreciate this story because it teaches us to not only dream big dreams but actually to dare to do the impossible. Often, our thoughts on focused on small matters, which not only depletes us of our energy and diverts our attention, but it keeps us from achieving great things for the Kingdom of God.
We worry over money, careers, current events, and even sports. Our worry may seem justifiable from a worldly perspective, but not according to the directives in Holy Scripture. Worrying robs us of our power to move mountains and is a sin against God. Jesus instructs us not to worry “about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matt. 6:25) because our “heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (v. 32). Our job is to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” and the result will be that the small matters will be taken care of by our Father (v. 33). God wants our trust as an expression of our faith (Heb. 11:6), but there is another reason that He tells us not to worry: it robs us of our daily grace. Each day we are apportioned an amount of grace (James 4:6) and that grace is to be combined with our faith to be used for great things. Worry diverts our energy from the great to the mundane.
What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom as Jesus commands? First, it is the recognition that Jesus is King and we are to do what He tells us to do through His Word and His Spirit. Jesus tells us to do what He did while He was here on earth. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). What an awesome responsibility and privilege to join in the redemptive work of Christ and do even greater things that He did while here on earth. What did he do on earth? According to Acts 10:38 (NLT): “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” The Spirit came upon Jesus to do GOOD for others. When we worry then, we are using our spiritual energies on the futile and mundane. We are unable to change circumstances through worry and we are unable to be used to do the good work that God has planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Often our energies are exhausted on mundane matters because we do not see them as such. The dictionary defines mundane as “of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one.” Jesus tells us that this world will pass away. Therefore, we should be investing our energies in the eternal matters of His kingdom (Matthew 6:19). Kingdom focus puts this world in perspective. We lose perspective when we lose our focus.
Sometimes we allow ourselves to be distracted by the small things because it affords us a convenient excuse to ignore the larger matters. We actually welcome distraction and worry because we get the appearance of doing something while actually doing nothing. Here is an example: “I can’t serve right now because I have so many issues going on in my life. I just can’t do it.” This excuse is used so many times that I just do not even pay it mind because here is the truth: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is always going to be problems, but we have been given the strength to overcome them so that we can continue to work for the King rather than demanding the King work for us. Distraction leads to inaction or misdirected energies. We try to manipulate small matters because it seems to impossible actually to do something BIG. One commentator summarized Pope Francis’ message during a United States trip: “resist the tyranny of the unchangeable.” We should never believe that positive change is not possible. Jesus tells us “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God wants to do the impossible through YOU—are you willing to toss your cap over the wall?
Dr. Rob Weinstein is an Associate Professor of Business Studies/ Chair of Human Resource Management Studies. He is the Founder and President of the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in Cumberland County, NJ. He is also the Founding Pastor of Bethany Grace Community Church in Bridgeton, NJ.
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