I’ve been sensing in these weeks leading up to Easter, the need to focus some attention on evaluating the heart. My church background did not include much in tradition as far as Lent, but I can see the value of using these 40 days to recenter ourselves. There is power in pulling away from distractions and focusing in on the cross and resurrection and their meaning in our lives. Much of that involves doing a spiritual gut-check which is not always the most pleasant of experiences. But in allowing God to examine our hearts, we find Him chiseling away what is dead so that we can be poised for further growth.
All of that intro to say this: I struggle with contentment. I have my whole life and I am sure I will continue to until the day I die. I don’t want to make excuses, but I certainly find no relief as I look all around me. There is a constant barrage in society that says “You are not happy, until you have x, y, or z.” “You need this *fill in the blank* in order to be fulfilled.” And I’ve bought into those lies time and time again.
Just a few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house and was secretly jealous of the size of TV he had. Granted, I knew I had a good TV at home. It is functional and it works for the size of the room. It does the job. But my friend’s TV was just a little bigger. And the image was just a little crisper and just a little sharper. And in that moment, I can honestly say I coveted and desired what my friend had for the simple reason that I felt I should have it too.
Finding contentment is hard in this life. In our flesh somehow it always seems wrong to settle for something when we believe better is out there. And we believe the lie that we deserve better. The car could be nicer. The house could be fancier. The kids should have name-brand clothes. It’s as though we are settling for less than what is best if we don’t have that one thing. I won’t put a label on that for you because it’s different than what it is for me. But I think we all deal with this issue in our lives.
The Bible certainly has a lot to say on this matter. And who better than the Apostle Paul to give us some direction?
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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. Philippians 4:12
Paul is a study in contentment and a study in perseverance. Well-educated and well-respected within the Jewish community, Paul had to take a much different path once the Gospel intersected his life. He knew what it meant to suffer for the cause of Christ. He knew what it meant to have nothing but the shirt on his back. Yet he was content in what he had. He was content in knowing who he was in Christ. I struggle to find that same contentment, but so desperately need it.
As we focus in on Easter, what are some ways we can deal with this issue of the heart; an issue which perhaps clouds our ability to really appreciate all that Christ has done? The following are three points that come to my mind as I consider how to grapple personally with finding contentment. Perhaps these will be of assistance to you and help as you strive to eliminate distractions and truly see Christ in all His glory.
1. Become a “wait-er” and avoid impulsiveness
It’s amazing how often the desire for something new and shiny goes away simply on its own when I don’t act on impulse. It might take a couple days or even a few weeks; but eventually it fades…especially if it is purely a want and not a need. Very often in my life I start to forget about how much I wanted a certain thing; something I initially could not live without! I think it’s because my brain is programmed to fill a “want” but at the same time, I have ADD-moments where such a desire is here today, gone tomorrow. And maybe that’s just me. But I think consumer marketing and Madison Ave. plays on this and exploits our weaknesses. If we can be distracted long enough and have our attention drawn to something, they’ve got us hooked. But when we allow God’s presence to fill our lives, we are enabled to better decipher needs from wants. Ask God for His help in this area and He will show Himself faithful.
2. What is at the heart of the desire?
Here’s where we start getting into that gut-check stuff I mentioned earlier. When we have a deep desire for stuff and we go from purchase to purchase looking for fulfillment, what is really the core issue? No thing could ever fill the void that our hearts are looking for. No new car or new toy can satisfy what is really a deeper spiritual issue. I find when I’m spending less time in God’s Word and less time in prayer, I start “wanting” other things. But in reality, I’m just wanting Him. I’m wanting the presence of the Lord. I’m trying to fill a need in my life with an inanimate object which is basically the same as idol worship (just calling it what it is). Again, when we wait on the Lord and find our fulfillment and identity in Him, we find the things of this life less and less appealing.
3. How’s your tithe?
Now before I get any hate, hear me out: I’m not assuming if you struggle with contentment that you are not a faithful tither. And I’m not going to spend this point arguing the merits of tithing. But I believe as Christians we are called to give back to God our “first-fruits”. This is basically saying we give back to the Lord right off the top of what we’ve been given. When we hold back that portion and struggle to give God what is due, we are robbing God (read Malachi 3:8-10). And not being content with what we have can lead us to rob God and try in vain to fill the void. Giving back faithfully in the form of a tithe is a way that surrenders our heart to God and says “Lord you are in control of everything, including my money.” This is a highly personal issue so I will say no more except that I encourage you examine what the Bible says about tithing and commit the matter to prayer.
If I can motivate you to action today, it would be to focus in on Christ during this Lenten season and be sensitive to what might come up as “distractions” to you over this time. I believe during Easter, the Church has an opportunity to present the Gospel as the world looks in for a few brief moments. The world has to ponder and examine if what Christians speak about at Easter is really true. That’s why issues of the heart must be considered and dealt with as necessary. My hope and prayer for you and I is that we avoid anything that pulls us away from truly displaying Christ.
May you be encouraged and blessed today! As always, I’d love to connect with you: firstname.lastname@example.org