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Posts Tagged ‘Proverbs 19:23’

FORTUNE COOKIE WITH BLANK FORTUNE

‘Cracked open a fortune cookie not long ago and discovered this bit of wisdom:

“It’s not the years in your life,

but the life in your years

that counts.”

Come to find out, that’s not from Confucius or any other Chinese sage.  It’s from a beloved, former U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln.

Many folks might interpret this proverb to mean:

Live each day to the fullest; a full life is a meaningful life.

But what brings fullness to the day? And what makes a life meaningful?

The answers to those questions lie in another collection of proverbs, not found in fortune cookies, but in the Bible:

  1. A meaningful life comes from finding favor with God and with others (Proverbs 3:4; 21:21). 

Proverbs 3:3 names the qualities that garner favor: faithfulness and love.

It’s true.  Those two character traits play out in goodness, generosity and grace. Without fail, that kind of person experiences great satisfaction in her relationships. After all, that’s how God designed us (Acts 20:35).

“A full life cannot be measured by the quantity

but rather the quality of one’s relationships

with others and with God.”

–Warren Mueller

  1. A meaningful life comes from living wisely (Proverbs 8:35).

And just how do we do that? By applying integrity to our actions, discretion in our conversations, and prayerful, Spirit-led discernment in our decisions.

“Wisdom is the power to see

and the inclination to choose

the best and highest goal,

together with the surest means of attaining it.”

–J. I. Packer

And wisdom leads to peace of mind, contentment, and a clear conscience—important foundation stones for a meaningful life.

  1. A meaningful life comes from internalizing God’s ways (Proverbs 11:28, 21:21). 

These proverbs, (11:28 and 21:21), provide a corollary to the previous one. A wise person follows the course of conduct established by the Father of Wisdom and revealed in the Bible.  He made us; he knows the best way for us to live.

Countless millions have devoted their lives to the accumulation of stuff, the pursuit of fame, and the climb to a position of power.

Yet King Solomon (who had it all) proclaimed: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  Did you notice that four words out of seven in that verse are the same?   “Meaningless!” I hear a bit of frustration in Solomon’s voice, don’t you?

Wouldn’t it be wise for us to avoid the mistakes he made? Maybe we should post that verse on the fridge, to keep us grounded in what really matters: God’s purpose for our lives.

“No real meaning exists

apart from linking our lives

to God’s purpose.”

–John Maxwell

  1. A meaningful life comes from reverencing God (Proverbs 14:27; 19:23). 

And reverence includes honor, respect, adoration, and awe. Embracing these attitudes toward God leads to deep satisfaction, complete peace, and true joy, because:

“The man who has God as his treasure

has all things in One.”

–A.W. Tozer

  1. A meaningful life comes from trusting God (Proverbs 16:20b).

God alone knows me better than I know myself. He alone is aware of what’s going on in the lives of those around me. And he alone can see into the future. Why do I think I’m capable of moving ahead on my own?

Even when trouble comes to call, I can rest assured that such experiences have purpose and meaning (Romans 8:28).

I would do well to remember: 

“Relinquishment is a prerequisite to fulfillment.”

–Eugene Peterson

  1. A meaningful life comes from an attitude of humility (Proverbs 22:4).

Humility is the proper perspective of oneself, especially in relation to God. He is all-powerful, all-wise, all-seeing, and more. Reminding ourselves of his magnificence is one way to foster humility.

Another way is to be thankful. A full, satisfied life is grounded in humble gratitude.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving,

turn routine jobs into joy,

and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

–William Arthur Ward (italics added)

M-m-m. Living thankfully, joyfully, and blissfully aware of each blessing. Yes, that does sound like a highly satisfactory way to live.

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Service, Wisdom, Obedience, Reverence, Trust, Humility, and Gratitude.  That’s a long list, Lord.  Perhaps the full, meaningful life is out of reach for me.  Oh, but if I consider the interrelatedness of these qualities, the reach is shortened considerably.  Obedience includes service, and reverence naturally leads to humility.  Humility includes gratitude, and trust leads to wisdom.  Most important of all, YOU want all of your children to experience life to the fullest. Oh, how  I praise you for your direction and provision to make that happen! 

(John 10:10; Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 1:3)  

(Photo credit:  www.kitchendaily.com.)

 

 

 

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According to research, guess what percentage of our happiness is based on circumstances.

A. 10%?

B. 25%?

C. 50%?

D. 80%?

 The answer? Just 10%.

Now why would that be? My guess is, our perspective matters more than our circumstances.

 

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 (“Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want,

but the realization of how much you already have.”)

 

Ah, yes. Gratitude. Definitely an important attitude, contributing to the sweet, even-keel life of contentment. But it doesn’t come naturally to most of us.

Our thoughts, if left untended, can easily fall into a dark hole of:

  • Self-centeredness. “Yeah, the budget’s tight, but I really need a new car. It’s downright embarrassing to drive around in our old clunker.”
  • Self-pity. “It’s not fair that I’m not paid what I’m worth. I work so hard.
  • Self-justification.  “I deserve that new car.”

Note the focus on self. And half the time (or more) we don’t even realize how much of our thought life spins around in that dark hole.

How can we possibly climb out?   Time and attention are required to develop a mind that frequently contemplates thanks-giving and praise instead of complaint-making and dissatisfaction.

Even the apostle Paul said he had to learn how to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:12).  And like any new skill, developing contentment requires a bit of knowledge and a lot of practice.

 

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The best place for knowledge on such a topic is scripture. Several passages can inform our understanding of contentment.

  1. King Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23).

Not that reverencing God protects us from trouble and every day is glorious. Bad things still happen to good people. But those who reverence God and worship him see life from a different perspective. They can be content even when catastrophe strikes, knowing that God will see them through.

 Think about Daniel in the lions’ den, or Peter and Paul in prison.

  1. Paul said he didn’t really care if he was living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).  How is that possible? He answers in the next verse, and it’s a familiar one: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Living in plenty–with God–taught Paul how to keep his priorities straight.   Living in want–with God–taught Paul to detach himself from “things.”

  1. Paul told Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 When we think of a man with “great gain,” we imagine a person with a large, beautifully decorated home, designer suits, two or three cars (for his own use—family members have their own cars), and the capability to go on expensive vacations.

But what about the young Christian father who thanks God every day for his loving wife and two precious kids? Who enjoys a circle of fun, supportive friends at church that also help him keep his priorities straight? This guy lives in a two-bedroom ranch, drives a ten-year old car, and spends vacations taking day trips from home.

Yet he’s rich, too–maybe even more so. It’s just that his riches fall into a different category. He’s rich in relationships, especially with God. “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth” (I Timothy 6:6, NLT).

 

contentment

 

Now that we’ve absorbed a bit of scriptural understanding, it’s time to practice what we’ve learned. How can we foster contentment in our spirits?

  1. Cultivate a positive, faith-filled perspective by turning “I wish” statements into “I praise” statements.

Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote to the Christians at Philippi. His days as an adventuring missionary were most likely over; the future looked bleak. Once his trial took place before Nero, Paul knew he could be facing execution.

He might well have said, “I wish I could be back on the road again preaching the gospel. It makes no sense why God has let this happen. I wish he’d get me out of here!“

But Paul’s response was far removed from wishful thinking. He actually praised God that his circumstances were advancing the gospel (Philippians 1:12-18).

  1. Feed our confidence in God, not our comparisons to others. Contentment wells up in our spirits when our thoughts are grounded in scripture, praise, worship, and gratitude.
  1. Focus on the present—look for the blessings of right now. “We will become content as we enjoy each day for what it is rather than moan about what we imagine it could have been” – Bruce Goettsche.

 

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An airline pilot was flying over a lake when he turned to his copilot and remarked, “See that little lake? I used to fish there a lot when I was a kid. Every time a plane would fly overhead I’d think, “Boy, I sure wish I was flying that plane. It must be so wonderful to soar through the sky and see for miles and miles. Now do you know what I’m thinking? How I wish I was down on that lake fishing!”

I don’t want to be like that pilot. I want to be like Paul.

 

 

(Art credits:  www.covgrace.org; www,janellenichol.com; http://www.quoteimage.com; http://www.ponderingtheheartofjesus.com;  www.i.mobypicture.com.)

 

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Why is it we’re never satisfied?

As kids, we could hardly wait to grow up—to stay up late, drive a car, and never have to go to school.

As adults, we sometimes wish we were kids again—to play all day, take a nap, and never have to go to work.

As kids, time seemed to move slowly—especially when looking forward to a special event.  Remember how L-O-O-O-N-G it took for Christmas to come?

As adults, time seems to move extremely fast—especially as Christmas approaches and the cards haven’t been sent, the gifts haven’t all been purchased yet, and the tree still sits in a bucket of water on the back porch.

We go shopping and come home with new place mats, some pillows for the family room, and a new quilt for the bed.  For a while we’re delighted over the difference those items make to the decor.

Bedroom

Bedroom (Photo credit: Supermariolxpt)

In no time, though, our focus shifts from those lovely things to other “needs” we identify around the house.

 Reminds me of what the oil tycoon, John D. Rockefeller (1837-1939) said.  He was asked, “How much is enough?” And he answered, “A little bit more.”

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John D. Rockefeller ca. 1875

This from a man with an estimated fortune of $1.4 billion.  In fact, Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest persons of all history.  Not even Bill Gates or Sam Walton can come close.

Before we dismiss Mr. Rockefeller as selfish and greedy, though, it’s important to know he was generous with his fortune.  His financial records indicate that $550 million were donated to schools, health organizations, scientific research, and the arts.

But his comment (perhaps spoken with a twinkle of humor in his eye) speaks to the attitude of many.  We believe that with just a little more, we’d be content.

That’s a lie.

So what is the truth of the matter?  What is the real reason we’re never satisfied?

The answer might be that contentment is the result of our focus.  Our attitude is impacted by what occupies our thoughts.  Therefore, we would be wise to:

 1.  Stay focused on who we are right now, and where we are right now.  Every age and stage has its advantages and disadvantages.  Which column is worth our attention?

2.  Stay focused on what God is providing, what we have currently.  “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow” (Helen Keller).

3.  Stay focused on God’s attributes and blessings.  “The fear of the Lord leads to life:  then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23).

To fear the Lord means to have reverence and awe for him.  Such an attitude leads to many benefits in life, including:

  • peace of mind, because our powerful and loving God is in control
  • joy of heart, because of the pleasure in his bountiful blessings,
  • contentment of spirit, because we’ve already received so much.

That’s how I want to live—totally satisfied, in complete serenity, as a worshipful tribute to my gracious God.

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Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gifts of serenity and satisfaction, when I focus on you.  May my days be filled with your praise!

Photo credits:  www.wikipedia.com , www.flickr.com , www.treasuretheordinary.blogspot.com

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