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April 1, 1998

Seeking Contentment

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The flourishing life is the life that rests in contentment. Remember that passage in Jeremiah we looked at earlier? Think about what God is really asking the Israelites to do. He’s saying, “Hey, I know you’re in exile. But don’t mope around and feel sorry for yourself. Get out there and make friends with your captors. Help them. Seek peace and wholeness for their nation. Serve them in a way that astounds them. Be content with where I have you and see what blessings come of it.”
In short, God is suggesting that the Israelites seek contentment, regardless of what their circumstances might be. Just think, if you can be content while living in exile then you should be able to do well when you get back to your own country.
More and more I talk to folks from all walks of life who are burning the wick at both ends trying to get ahead. They strive and worry and stress and for what? Sure my northwest Arkansas demeanor is a bit more laid back than most. What can I say, the Ozarks have been good to me! But seriously, it has taken me years to understand the magic to living a contented life. It’s trust. For such a little word, it really packs a whallop!
I give my endeavors to God. I open my hands, with my ambitions exposed and say, “Okay God, here it is. This thing or issue is yours. I’m going to do my best to get it done, but I’m counting on you to keep me in check. I trust you to make it happen.”
I’ve talked to CEOs of thriving companies who can’t ever take a Sabbath rest because they fear falling behind. Behind? Behind, in what? What race is perpetually going on in this life? Am I missing something? Often they can’t relax and rest because they don’t trust the success of their efforts to anyone but themselves.
As if God couldn’t shut down our endeavors at anytime, we think we need to run ourselves into the ground to keep it all afloat.
I love how pastor Eugene Peterson paraphrases Philippians 4:12: “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
Yes! Ultimate trust in God in whatever circumstances I’m in. That’s my goal. I want to trust God with everything so that my circumstances don’t dictate my state of being. I don’t want to respond harshly to my wife and children because I’m not “making it” as the world defines it. I don’t want to get caught judging my self worth by a worldly standard that says I have to get, get, get, and get some more to be prosperous. I don’t want my motives and ambitions to be highjacked for bad.
My flourishing in this life is a direct result of how well or how little I trust God. If I can seize hold of the power of contentment and live in that sweet spot of life, then, I’m good. It is there that I find real Shalom and prosperity. It really has nothing to do with my northwest Arkansas demeanor. I’ve simply learned, through failures and victories, that flourishing has nothing to do with worldly prosperity and everything to do with living with my hands open and saying, “Ok God, this thing is yours. Come what may, I give it all to you. I’m happy just being your kid. Let’s roll!”
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Numbers 6: 24-26
May God bless you and protect you. May God make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you. May God look with favor on you
and give you shalom.

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