|Douglas Frank Photo|
Are you content? Really are you content or are you striving for better things, position, money, love or fame? Aren’t you supposed to be struggling up the ladder of success? When you find it and climb, what if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall? What do I mean?
“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6). This quote is by The Apostle Paul, once Saul of Tarsus and a Christian hater. He was threatened by Christians because he thought they were guilty of heresy. Actually, the religious leaders feared the Christians because they were gaining in popularity that might diminish their own power and position. They were obedient to the Law, which they could not keep because there were over 600 laws to follow. They were never good enough and never content, just prideful and hateful.
So what are you striving to attain? Who are you trying to beat? What race are you in? I suppose you are getting a little miffed with my many questions? I learned this approach through Jesus Christ’s approach to life. He asked questions more than 100 times. “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18). The Apostles answered, “Elijah, a prophet or John the Baptist.” ButPeter was able to respond, “The Christ of God.” Jesus told them not to tell anyone and about what He would have to do for the world on the cross. Many would be ashamed or confused by Jesus.
Are you confused, on a quest or have a dream you are pursuing? I think many of us do. I recently read of the man who had seeing the RMS Titanic lying on the cold ocean bottom as his lifelong quest. What a sad thing. He only looked for two minutes. I wonder why? Was his quest to find something very dead and meaningless? Was Solomon right when he said in Ecclesiastes that, “Everything is meaningless, vanities of vanities.” I am a bystander watching the excitement of Milwaukee as their Bucks attempt to win the NBA Championship. Is that wrong, I don’t think so. But would you park your lawn chair on the street in front of Fiserv Forum for days to get a glimpse? It depends what is valuable to you. Is there anything like the parable told by Jesus saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field or merchants looking for pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44,45).
Many of you have already read my books describing my own search for meaning, as I grew up afraid in a dysfunctional household. I turned to controlling life which lead to an eating disorder and excessive everything in my life. It almost literally killed me. Not until I was 40, after chasing success as a hospital CEO and achiever did I finally find contentment. But this contentment came at the price of almost physically destroying my body, while my soul was gravely damaged through moral failures. My resume just reflected fancy titles and achievements, not the destructive parts. How about your resume? Does it look pretty neat following the latest method of summarizing your greatness? Or does it speak of your pain and fears, failures and losses? Actually, now I can boast of my failures for they have led me to the bottom of myself and to the true answer to contentment. I will tell you about how I found it in a minute, but first let me enjoy the fun of giving Goodwill a dozen boxes of self-help books. Where is my cheese anyway?
My office is decorated with many evidences of achievement, including three diplomas and many medals of civic and athletic prowess. There are photos of the mountains and our children too. There are still perhaps 25 feet of books. But the books are not any longer self-help and the photos that mean the most are different. The books are commentaries and testimonies about new lives from darkness to light. The two large folio prints of a rock and four trees were taken by my cousin Douglas, pretty cool. Actually these images have become alive for me and are now on the covers of my first two published books. Why you ask?
I was lost, blind, but now I’m found and see. I was in darkness, but now I’m in the light. It took four plus decades and I’m still growing, changing and it’s costing me. Yes it is costing me everything, so be careful before you buy into it. You can clothe yourself in it and put it on, but it’s not for show. As one martyred disciple wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, his new life cost him everything. He and many others lost control of life. But you know, we have never been in control anyway. The secret lies in who does.
It was at midnight in a blizzard that I knelt down on the snow-packed road and gave up control of my life to the only One who is in control and wants us to have a life of contentment. The Apostle Paul too had to be stopped almost dead on his Damascus Road. It was many years still before he was able to write in his epistle to the Philippians, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Most of you have figured out that I am talking about the Messiah, the One who came to change the world by giving it all to save us by forgiving our sins through His death on the cross of Calvary. His death conquered death and brought life eternal to those who would give up their quests and control and follow Him, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.
Don’t worry that you will have nothing, in fact He promises a few verse later, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Paul was able to say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had learned the truth of what he wrote about life now and forever, God will take care of you. He was moreover able to say to his mentee Timothy an exchanged life, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). How about you? Are you tired of the battle without help? Then turn over your life to the “Helper, Counselor, Deliverer, Protector, Guardian, Guide and Lord,” and find contentment.