The Wise’s Time

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Ben Sasse’s book Them. I’ll finish it before the sun goes down, but I’m taking a break to ask a question.

The question comes after reading chapter seven entitled “Buy a Cemetary Plot” (you should get your own copy to find out what that title’s about). That chapter contains thoughtful words from a 2017 commencement address by Josh Gibbs, a teacher and author in Richmond, Virginia. Address paraphrase: life is full of seasons in which we are tempted to look forward to the next season in order to find contentment. Sasse includes this quote by Gibbs:

Contentment is a condition of the soul, and it does not come with getting what you want, but in giving thanks to God for what you have been given.

Both writers lead their reader to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes where Solomon describes how everything has its time:

Birth, death; love, hate; gain, lose; weeping, laughing; breaking down, building up; silence, speaking; war, peace; gathering, discarding; mourning, dancing; planting, gleaning; embracing, distancing; tearing, sewing.

Then Sasse wrote this:

The wise man learns how to grow where he is planted. He chooses joy. He embraces the time and season.

And that’s what forms my question: What time is it?

  • What time is it in your season of life?
  • What time is it in your family?
  • What time is it in your community?
  • What time is it in your church?
  • What time is it in your country?

Solomon said every time has a purpose. To wring every ounce of purpose out of their time, the wise make these choices:

  • Choose to embrace this time and season
  • Choose joy
  • Choose to learn and grow
  • Choose to thank God for what He’s already given 
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Missing God’s Gift (Something Misplaced?)

Yesterday a friend told me how different he is from who he was just 18 months ago. Earlier this week a group discussed how a coaching program has altered their life’s rhythms in just 7 weeks. These people were expressing how receiving a gift from God, such as leaving a successful corporate job to start all over or exiting the routine of life to enjoy Sabbath, has changed who they are. And they want more.

God’s gifts come to us in various formations. Sometimes they are clearly seen as coming straight from God. Other times, we are a little more challenged to determine if an opportunity or unforeseen blessing are indeed gifts from God. That is, unless we live from the viewpoint that God works at all times and through all things in our lives. Until we reach that viewpoint, it’s likely we will often miss God’s gifts.

Why don’t we automatically have this viewpoint? What keeps us from it? How can we move toward it? In talking with these people, I’d say they would say they had some things misplaced.

Misplaced Contentment-Yes, it’s possible to be so content that you miss noticing an offer from God. Our contentment can often lead us to settling, stubbornness, and even pride. So a God-given opportunity can appear unsettling, unnecessary, maybe even unworthy. Think rich, young ruler.

Misplaced Fear-In this case, fear of just about anything (loss of job/income, ability, identity, power/influence, health, security) or anyone (family, peers, leaders, employer, yourself) has been given higher rank than God. Think Moses’ initial bush response.

Misplaced Stewardship-Stewardship covers more in our lives than just finances. Stewarding your family, your talents, your choices, your time, your emotions, your mind, your body, for example. Think about most kings in the Old Testament.

Misplaced Allegiance-Satan is committed to leading us to misplace our allegiances. We can become more allegiant to so many earthly kingdoms that we miss God’s leading us toward his heavenly kingdom. Think about the Pharisees and Paul’s warnings about false teachers in the church.

Misplaced Commitment-Commitments lead to routines, obligations, and expectations-some short term, others long term. These can become idols causing us to be completely blind to something more aligned with God’s plans for us. Think Eli, Saul, or Martha.

We often miss God’s gifts to us because our misplacements lead us to consider way too many “what ifs.” So consider a few reverse thinking “what if” results when God’s gifts are missed:

  • What if you miss God’s gift because you ignore a burning bush?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you run toward Joppa instead of Nineveh?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you always look backward rather than forward?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you follow the crowd and declare, “Crucify him!”
  • What if you miss God’s gift because your faith is so small that your reply to God’s offer is, “No thanks.”

Fruity Fridays: Peace is a Product

Lots of ads are promising peace. That’s not what they say, but that’s what they’re subliminally promising the consumer.

  • You’ll find “peace” when your hair is straight
  • You’ll enjoy “peace” when you sway in that hammock in Aruba
  • You’ll secure “peace” when your retirement portfolio has “x” cash value

Peace is a product of contentment. Be picky where you buy it, what you become dependent on to guarantee it.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭

The key to the peace of mind that Isaiah guarantees is built on trust in God. That trust, like any other trust in our lives, is built through shared experiences and time. That trust comes through what Paul is writing about in Galatians 5, walking with the Spirit. Only through a consistent walk can we have the product of peace. We will want less of what we see in ads and more of the Creator of all things.

I am finishing a book by Dallas Willard entitled The Allure of Gentleness. He said this about living and acting with God, about walking with the Spirit:

One of the problems as a church is that so many of the wonderful statements in the scriptures that are meant to reflect the honest experiences of those who have learned to live in interaction with God are in fact ritualistically and magically quoted by people who don’t believe a bit of it, because they are scared to death! Nothing has ever happened to them that they are certain is the personal hand of God in their lives. And it drains the life out of those verses.

One passage he references is Psalm 23. If a Christian walks in belief that “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” peace is a normal, everyday product of that belief; God’s hand will be seen and will produce peace. Willard says that Psalm 23 wasn’t written just to recite at funerals. Those 6 verses, when sewn into the fabric of life, dispel fear and produce peace. 

The product we need is God’s presence. Take Psalm 23 with you today. Look for God’s hand. Experience the product of peace.

3 Steps Toward Contentment

Who doesn’t want peace and contentment? For some reason, it seems some people are better peace dwellers and contentment finders than others. If that doesn’t describe you, maybe these three steps will give you some direction.

Stop dwelling in the past and/or worrying about the future. Both of these fixations cause emotional paralysis and can lead to depression. If you are a past dweller, consider the contentment that may be found in forgiveness, often the healer of the past. If you are a future worrier, consider the contentment that may be found in releasing control, often the peacemaker for the future. Reluctant forgivers and control freaks can both find contentment through deepening their relationship with God, which leads to step #2.

Look to God. He knows the feelings of regret (see Genesis 6 and 1 Samuel 15). He knows also the feelings of releasing control. His gift of free will to man illustrates He practices releasing control every second of every minute of very hour of every day. Whatever feelings are leading you away from contentment, God has dealt with them and therefore can assist you with them (see Hebrews 4:14-5:10). Looking to God should release lack of contentment pressures, which leads to step #3.

Reduce your self-induced pressure. This pretty much happens between your ears. Find ways to control your mind rather than it controlling you. For example, instead of worrying how you’re going to pay for your son’s college education, seek financial advice to determine what you need to start doing today, telling your mind there’s a plan in motion. Or instead of replaying that destructive conversation with your sister from seven years ago, reach out to her today and say you thought about her and prayed for her, telling your mind you have taken a step toward reconstruction. Take the first step; don’t worry about step #54. Reduce the pressure a little bit today.

Stop. Look. Reduce. If you have to, repeat these steps several times a day. Contentment is a learned discipline. Start practicing and be on your way to becoming one of the others.

Share what steps you take toward contentment. What tends to be a common barrier and how have you addressed it?