|There’s a story of a world-renowned Doctor who spent all of his time working, traveling, writing and speaking. He felt that he had to stay on top, he needed to be the best and he wanted everyone to see him that way. The problem is that his family began to really suffer. His wife felt neglected and thought it might be best if they separate. His kids felt unimportant and started making poor decisions and getting into trouble. His relational life was at a breaking point. His father had made similar choices when he was a child and it ended up destroying their family.
He decided that he didn’t want to repeat the past. So, he made the bold decision to change his life. He decided to step out of his position as the head of the department, he stopped traveling and he moved his family to a place on the beach, where he opened a small practice so the family could spend more time together.
For a while things were great, but as time passed he read about others who were making new breakthroughs in medicine. He became envious and began repeating his old patterns. It developed slowly, but before long he was on the road again speaking, writing articles and spending more time at the local hospital. As you can guess, his family began to suffer, one of his children became depressed and starting using drugs, another refused to speak with him after she moved out, and his wife asked for a divorce. He had lost it all.
Before everything had crumbled around him he had committed to speak at one of the most prestigious medical conferences in the world and when the day arrived he walked up to the podium to the applause of thousands, held up a picture of his family and said, “ladies and gentlemen, it wasn’t worth it,” and left the room.
This article closes out our series, “Breathing Room”. Last week, we explained that you have to find simplicity to create more margin in your hectic life. We looked at some Biblical principles that would help you in your quest for simplicity and margin. We talked about how each of us needs to make some thoughtful and hard choices to cut out time wasters, so that we can use our valuable time to invest in God and others. We said that it takes an effort to cut out the nonessentials from our lives and concentrate on the core elements. We also discussed how simplicity will help bring peace, joy and contentment to our lives. And we left off at the need to address some stumbling blocks to accomplish those Biblical principles
So, what are some key stumbling blocks? Envy is on top of my list and it’s where I want to spend the majority of my time in this post.
Envy is the enemy of contentment and is a form of self-inflicted misery. The problem is that our culture is often driven by it. Advertisers constantly prey on our sinful nature. The mainstream media, our political parties, and most social movements use envy to drive their followers and achieve their goals. They pit one group against the other by placing blame, fanning hatred, and using envy to stir the pot. They say, “Those people are responsible for your circumstances. They have so much, they get all the breaks, they have all the advantages”. And it goes on and on.
Their goal is to create a spirit of envy. The Bible takes a different approach. In Phil. 4:11-12 Paul’s tells us that he has learned the secret of contentment regardless of his circumstances, regardless of what everyone else is doing.
Phil. 4:11-13 says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
And in 1 Tim. 6:6-10 he writes, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Envy consumes physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, but contentment creates greater margin in our lives. How? It keeps us from running after things that don’t truly matter and leaves us with time to invest in the things that do; emotional and spiritual health, relationships, and quality time with God. Listen, we need to have the courage to change from envy to contentment in a way that is permanent and tangible. We need to have the strength to cut out activities and habits that waste time, suck energy, and harm relationships. If we are going to find margin we need to start working a plan with God’s help. When I’m focused on God’s purposes and plans for my life, I can take my eyes off the temporal and focus on the eternal.
I can stop making decisions based on what others are doing, what others may have, or what others may think, and start living my life in harmony with God’s will for me. Listen, the world’s ideas and philosophies never satisfy. They’re an endless trap that leads to frustration and bitterness. They keep you in bondage to a thought process that never delivers what it promises. Freedom and contentment in life doesn’t come from being better than everyone else, making “those people” pay, changing someone’s opinion, getting my “fare share”, or hating and punishing another group.
It comes back to Phil. 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Before I move on, I need to explain this passage. Paul didn’t always see things the way he describes in this passage. In his words, he had to learn to be content in the ups and downs of life. In other words, Paul didn’t always respond well to life’s challenges, but over time he learned a “secret.” He learned a truth that became an anchor in his life. Regardless of life’s circumstances he learned to trust in Christ’s sufficiency. Paul grew to believe that Christ was not just a part of his life but that He was his life. He was his Friend, his Savior, his Protector, and his Lord. Jesus was all he needed. The sufficiency of Christ that Paul experienced enabled him to have contentment, joy, peace, and thankfulness in all his circumstances. Paul was saying, “Give life everything you have, be the best you can be, using all of your God given gifts, talents and abilities, leave it all on the field, never settle for mediocrity, and when you’ve done that, Christ will enable you to be content with the outcome, win or lose. Paul learned something we all need to learn; that he can do all things. He can be beaten down, he can rise to the top, He can face hunger, or eat with kings, and regardless where life takes him he can have enduring contentment because of the strength he receives from the sufficiency of Christ. Christ brings simplicity because He transcends our sinful nature, and our misplaced desires. He brings clarity and contentment to our hearts and silences the voices that call us to envy and bitterness. But it all starts with putting God first.
So how do we receive God’s help to create margin in our lives?
Read His Word and pray over it – We need to know if our thoughts and choices are in line with His will.
Every decision we make in life – every decision – should be made with God’s guidance. Like I said last week, before committing to an activity, sincerely pray over it.
When you pray, ask:
-Am I leaving time for myself, my family, God, and the people God may want to put in my life?
-Am I thinking with an eternal perspective?
-Am I taking each day as it comes?
We need to stop worrying about the future and being caught up in the “what ifs”.
Matt. 6:25-34 says, ““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
At the end of each day, stop, and reflect on three questions:
- How did I connect with God?
- How did I spiritually, emotionally and physically strengthen myself?
- How did I develop deeper relationships with others?
The road to simplicity leads to margin and ends in healthy relationships. Love and relationships are hard work and take time and discipline, and healthy relationships can only be achieved by putting aside unnecessary activities. But if we’re willing to put in the effort the payoff is joy, contentment, and peace.
At Grace Chapel, we are going into a new season. In a few weeks, things will ramp up for all of us, summer will be over, and we will have choices to make. At that time, let’s make sure that we save room for what truly matters.