Friday, July 10, 2009

What Really Matters

As we journey through life, it is so easy to lose track of what is really important. We can lose sight of what really matters in life. Here in America, the great American dream can lead us astray if we are not careful. No, I'm not dissing the opportunity we have in our country to accomplish whatever it is that we want to accomplish. Its just that our striving for bigger and better stuff can end up being a pretty empty pursuit even when we end up getting what we pursue.

This week while watching some of the coverage on Michael Jackson left me thinking a bit. Now, I didn't know the man personally, but I think anyone who followed his life would have to agree that his life was riddled with inner turmoil. He was indeed a bit bazaar, but I think when you look at the whole picture, you have to agree it all stemmed from some major inner struggles that he seemed never to reconcile. Here's the point, no amount of money or fame he seemed to acquire was able to fix it. As a matter of fact, it might very well have made it worse.

The tragic truth is that he's not alone. Countless numbers of people go through life thinking that more money, bigger houses, a successful career, and nicer things brings about contentment and happiness. What often happens is it produces a desire for more money, bigger houses, more success, and nicer things. It can often become an endless pursuit that ultimately ends with one still wanting.

All of this reminds me of a line from a movie made several years ago, "Cool Runnings." It's a movie about the first Jamaican bobsled team to participate in the Olympics. John Candy plays the part of the team's coach and he's having a heart to heart talk with the team's captain. Referring to winning a gold medal, he tells the young man that, "If you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it." I know its Hollywood and its a bit of a comedy, but there's still a powerful truth in that line. The same holds true with everything we pursue here on earth. If we aren't enough without it, we'll never be enough with it. It makes no different what the "it" is. "It" can never complete us, satisfy us, or fulfill us.

If your life is filled with stress and turmoil, more stuff will not bring peace. If your life is riddled with guilt and shame, a bigger bank account won't fix it. If your marriage is struggling, a nicer house won't solve the problem. If your striving for success is a result of trying to prove your worth, ability, or talent, trust me you'll not remedy that with a successful pursuit. If you find yourself unable to sleep at night because of inner struggles, nothing you pursue can set your heart at ease. Nothing, absolutely nothing on this planet can help you find contentment. It's all just stuff.

No, its not bad to have stuff. Its just a huge mistake when you think it's the answer to your problems. God told Abraham that He (God) was his exceedingly great reward. He didn't just say that he was going to give Abraham lots and lots of stuff. God said that He, Himself was Abraham's true reward. God had blessed Abraham with lots of stuff, but that wasn't the point. What really mattered was that Abraham understood that God was his reward. Sure, he could enjoy the stuff, but God was his reward not the stuff. I mean think about this, Abraham was called a "friend of God." God, the Creator of the universe and Abraham were buddies. Does anything else really matter?

So often we approach God with a list of wants and can become easily upset when we don't get what we want. We fail to realize that God, not the stuff He chooses to bless us with, is what matters most. Contentment can only be found in Him. He is the One that completes us. He's the One that helps us find peace when turmoil surrounds us. He's the One that helps us fix the mess in us so that we can walk through life complete and whole. It is Him who can help us get to the place where we can be completely content with who we are and where we are. He's the One who can help us look at our bank account and be ok, while at the same time looking in the mirror and being ok. No, I didn't say that we are always gonna stay there, just that we are ok, while we are there.

Paul said in scripture that he had learned to be content with wherever he was in life. That's what we're talking about. It's coming to the place where we are enough with or without stuff. Here in America, we have truly been blessed. Even those who have little, have much when compared to other places around the world. As a result, our view of things can be a little skewed. Believe it or not, there are those throughout the world who have little compared to us who are much more content than we are. It's because contentment has nothing to do with the amount of stuff we have.

Throughout the world there are those who are victims of human trafficking. There are those who are bound by slavery, victims of injustice, and children who are treated in ways that would break everyone of our hearts. There are places without electricity, running water, and other conveniences that we enjoy. There are orphans for whom we could build a home for less than many of us pay for a used car. See how blessed we are! I'm just wondering what God thinks when we pray for excess, while this is the plight of so many throughout the world.

Here's my point...What really matters? I'm thinking it's coming to a place where we realize the greatest treasure we could ever obtain in life is a relationship with God. When we understand that, then the stuff just doesn't matter anymore. We are content with it, and we are content without it. I think it also puts us in a place where we are not so attached to it, so that when presented with a need, we are compelled to action.

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