As a young person I learned that if I would seek God, he would meet my needs. This took the form of great jobs that I didn’t quite deserve. As I learned to save and invest money, I made more mistakes than most of you in this room. Yet, God turned even my mistakes into financial blessings. He is in the business of working miracles for those who take him seriously at his word. He will meet your needs!
Jesus told us this in Matthew, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the non-believers seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
In spite of great experiences, which I attribute to God, I still fight worry and anxiety which can lead to a spiritual, emotional and leadership paralysis. This is the polar opposite of faith-filled wonder leading to creativity and innovative leadership.
Discontent and Anxiety Haunt a Family for Generations
I’ve known chronic anxiety, or “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” my entire life. Since I blew an emotional tire, I’ve discovered that several people in my extended family constantly struggled with anxiety and worry. It can’t be coincidental that they were prescribed the same medication as I take today.
Anxiety and discontent stuck to my family a long time. Its presence may have spiritual ramifications, but there were circumstantial contributions as well.
My great-grandfather lost a large cattle ranch to the Great Depression. He was a strong man who eventually rebuilt his life and raised my father after his parents divorced. As a child I loved to hear his stories about his forebears and the Oregon Trail. His colorful life included a stint as an old-time Western marshal. However, he lived in the grip of fear stemming from his Depression Era financial loss. For him, if it happened once it could always happen again.
When my dad turned fourteen, he left his grandfather to live with his mother in Portland, Oregon. He moved from the countryside in order to attend a specialized (public) school in the big city. Upon arrival, he discovered that his mom had no room for him—the depression impoverished her to the point that she could not afford an apartment large enough to include him.
As a high school freshman, my dad found a job as a personal caretaker for a mentally ill man. On several occasions he awoke to find the man trying to strangle him. My father worked his way through high school with cardboard stuffed in the holes in his shoes. He would walk three miles, many Sunday afternoons, to stand on the corner in front of a friend’s house. He always hoped the family would invite him in for a hot meal. Most Sundays they did not. Lack of money heaped of anxiety on my dad during the days when he should have been playing sports, or just being a kid. That anxiety never left him.
In my family, anxiety hung in the air like fog over the ocean. My father worried about money until the day he died. That worry found its way into my own head.
You might ask, “Is this a spiritual matter or purely a product of environment?” “Is it possible that anxiety is inscribed on the chain of a person’s DNA?” Or, “is it a matter of a satanic assault against a family?” I don’t know the answers to those questions. Looking back, I do see that I have been prone to unreasonable worry all my life.
We Can Choose How To Think About God and Circumstances
I’ve learned that I can exercise choice over how I will view my circumstances. I can choose to see through eyes of deprivation or to see the world in terms of God’s provision. The one leads to a sense of never having enough. The other is a path toward creativity.
I love the way the Message Bible puts this, “So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” Ephesians 5:15 THE MESSAGE
To use my head, making the most of every opportunity and every resource is innovative thinking. The times are indeed desperate. Our country is divided. People are ignoring Jesus by the hundreds of millions. We need to think very differently than we’ve recently done.
God’s done what he’s done, so it’s time to look at ourselves and examine our thinking. We should ask, “Am I seeing my situation correctly in light of scripture that says he will meet my every need?” That question will lead to innovation. To wallow in what we don’t have—discontent leads to mental and operational paralysis!!!!
It’s easy to overlook the Psalms as we formulate understanding over day-to-day experiences. I recently discovered an interesting passage linking praise to intended blessing (after decades of walking with Jesus I’m still learning the Bible). It goes, “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.” Psalm 67:5-6 NIV
The implication is an if/then proposition. If people praise God, then the land will yield a harvest and God will bless. It seems that praising God for what we have somehow unlocks our guarded hearts toward him allowing his hand of blessing to operate within our jurisdiction. The passage presents an interesting prayer.
Contentment Is Learned Behavior
Paul wrote the Philippian church thanking them for offerings they had sent his way. He acknowledges having learned to live with little and to live in abundance. He expands the educational part of this by saying, “…not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Philippians 4:11 NLT.
He had what he had because God resourced him, both through the Philippians and others. Either way the education was over contentment and making much of whatever situation he was in. The deal is that we can learn a lifestyle of abundance if we adjust our paradigm to appreciate whatever ways God has blessed us rather than focus on what we would like for him to have done. Don’t know about you, but I’m still learning this…
Contentment does not come naturally, especially in a society which repeatedly pelts us with advertisements about things that are supposed to make us into more of a person than we are. In the end a luxury car and an economy car accomplish the same purpose. A $20 Timex watch keeps time as well as a $9K dollar Rolex. You get the picture. This is all about attitude and learned behavior. In the end it pays off with satisfaction.
Paul wrote to a young pastor, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV Whenever I’ve chosen contentment I’ve found freedom to look at the world through different eyes. It unlocks the prison of fear and frustration making way for creativity and a freshness in leadership that is as pragmatic as it is winsome. Godliness with contentment is great gain!
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