A Focus That Brings Forth Contentment
|Me milking my cow Siri|
Have you ever felt you are looking in all the wrong places to find that which is lost? I guess we all have been in that predicament at one time or another. Whether it is lost car keys needed for a trip out or a misplaced document needed for referencing...these things when lost, but which need finding, concentrate our time in lots of wrong places before we actually find the object we are looking for.
These past few weeks I have felt the same way...that I was looking in all the wrong places for what I was seeking. In my prayer and devotional times, I have been asking God to give me contentment, but then with each new day my life has been twisted and turned, in and out of places that have not led to what I am seeking.
Looking for answers on how to find contentment in the world leads us all, at one time or another, into a lot of wrong places. It is our human nature to seek a settled and happy place where the world just seems to fit together in a nice neat package. But then there is real life...the actual life each of us live. Real life is unfortunately filled with heartache, doubts, fears, unknowns, and missteps...that is reality for every one of us. Achieving the perfect, happy and carefree life is unfortunately a fallacy which leads many off on wild goose hunts.
As I have been reading in Matthew these past few week, I came upon a lot of different people looking for their contentment in all the wrong places, just as I had been. In Matthew 16, Jesus is encountered by the Pharisees and Sadducees as they come to Him looking for a sign. These men were not to be content until they met the coming savior as they perceived he should look and act. They were looking for a great and powerful savior who would rescue the Jewish people from their worldly conditions, not this Jesus fellow who was only interested in saving their hearts...Jesus had seemingly let them all down, if indeed He was the Christ.
|New babies on the farm|
Jesus' response to them was this:
“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
Speaking of His coming death and resurrection, which of course those looking in the wrong direction with hearts set on the wrong things were never bound to never see the wisdom or power of, these men of great intellect would never understand the type of God they professed to worship nor would they grasp the contentment they could truly find in what Jesus was trying to teach them.
Then in Matthew 17 we come upon Peter, James, and John who watch Jesus' transfiguration. In this narrative, Peter is quick to say to Jesus during the event:
“Lord, it is good for us to be here, if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Can you hear it? Peter was voicing his inability to find contentment in the path Jesus' ministry had taken thus far...there had to be something even greater to bring recognition to what he was seeing unfold before his eyes and to Jesus' overall ministry. Just having the experience alone with Jesus was not enough...Jesus, as well as the three chosen disciples, needed to proclaim this event to the world...it was an opportunity for fame and Peter didn't want to pass it up. This could be the event that would finally recognize his efforts/time he spent following Jesus. Peter's vie for contentment here stemmed from his trying to appease those who didn't see the worth in his ministry with Jesus.
|Loki, our calf, loves to be scratched under his chin|
But in Matthew 18, Jesus throws all powerful, affluent, and famous notions out the widow when he teaches what the true nature of a heaven-bound disciple must look like:
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will by no means under the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
But there were still more notions coming at Jesus as to what it takes to find contentment/peace in ones' life direction. Next we see in Matthew 19, a young ruler approaches Jesus and tries to find peace in his internally believed argument that goes something like this: All the rules of the law will gain me access to the kingdom of heaven and I need not worry about the rest of the things of life...contentment comes with my work towards holiness. But Jesus is quick to correct the thinking of this young man and point out that he lacks a true heart towards God. Yes, he was following the rules of God to the letter, but his ability to control every element of his life with his money kept him far from having to be humble before the Lord. Trust in his money alone to bring contentment, which also included navigating around all those detailed Jewish rules...this was the basis for his faith. It was not trust in the Lord, humility for his sins, nor faith that life could be any better living in communion with God, but rather a self-directed religion that was cold and empty...but not empty enough.
That is why when Jesus said the following words, the young ruler was not able to see the greater path to contentment...he was stuck on everything that had been working rather well, intellectually, that gave him satisfaction in this life and as he perceived would also hold true in the next life to come:
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
In Matthew 20, yet we again see another bent to seeking contentment and again it is from the disciples. In this chapter, Matthew records how the mother of Zebedee's sons wants reassurance that her sons would sit at the right and left of Jesus when He came to rule His kingdom. As someone from the outside just reading these segments of text, it can seem rather frustrating to perceive that even those closest to Jesus were still no where close to understanding all that He had been teaching in the previous four chapters. But, take a look at your own life...I know I have as of late...and see those constant strains of misunderstanding still working against your own search for contentment. This is truly a place to apply some grace, just as God does with us.
As Jesus answered the plea of this mother, He leaves us with words to reflect upon, so too in our lives the trap of looking for contentment upon worldly heights does not lead us into wrong/sinful places.
“...whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
It is finally in Matthew 21 that Jesus puts to rest all of these various lies/deceptions that we have been discussing about where the search for contentment can take us. Mainly speaking, that what is seen as good by man, what is said as true in public arenas, and/or what is perceived to be fair in general circles of humanity are all lies the human mind should not entertain when trying to find peace with God – true contentment.
The lesson of the fig tree was in direct contradiction to the misconception that what was seen by others is of utmost importance in living a worthy life. A beautiful tree with no fruit was not to be seen as productive, nor even worthy of life...that was the lesson Jesus was clear to convey to those who were willing to listen. Looking good on the outside was a far cry from achieving true contentment - a life of frivolity with nothing more to it.
Next, the parable of the two sons was in direct contradiction to the misconception that what was said out loud for others to hear was of utmost importance to a meaningful life. Even the chief priests and the elders who had been questioning Jesus knew that to say one thing and then not do it was hypocrisy which led not to a worthy end. Truly, words mean nothing when they are not accompanied by action and Jesus knew that actions originated in the heart, the real litmus of whether or not a person was content on following God alone.
And then there was the parable of the wicked vine-dressers...the ones whose greed blinded them of seeing what was, and was not, rightfully theirs. Unchecked greed can brew within our sinful hearts a belief that I deserve more and by getting more I will not only be happier with my life but also that everything in the future will work more to my advantage...thus allowing me to be more content with where I am at and what I have. But Jesus again dismisses this fallacy and pointedly teaches that justice will be served, not as is seen in the light of the sinful way man sees “fairness” but rather from the untainted way God in His perfection must decree just or unjust behavior.
I guess I have gone the long way around the bush in getting to this point, but then again these are the things which have gotten my mind and heart into a place where I know my wayward searching for my missing contentment have come together. What I have discovered once again is that looking to anything but the kingdom yet to come, is indeed pointless. Jesus lived that out each day of His life, and that is why in the above chapters of Matthew I have discussed, He made it a point to keep turning people back to that focus.
I have to admit that I am no where close to keeping my focus on the kingdom of God each moments of each day. There are lots of things that distract me and lead me astray...but that doesn't mean I have not stopped trying to live with a more purposed focus. Each day, as I see it, is a new opportunity to look to Jesus alone for all I need. It is in these times of trial and testing that His faithfulness shines through the deceitful web of lies which otherwise so easily ensnare me and pull me away from from my Lord and Savior. But today is a new day and again I will fight to keep my focus on what matters the most...Jesus, and His kingdom which will have no end.
|My daughter and Tracy's daughter with the baby kittens.|
(A special thanks to my friend Tracy P. for the photos of my farm. She is a wonderful photographer, who has the ability to show me the beauty God has placed around me. Unfortunately, on my own, I tend to only look at the chores that need to be done around here and I forget just how lovely a place I have been given to live in. Thanks Tracy!)