September 19, 2013

Living in a prosperous country, it’s easy to get sucked into the mindset of the world. In our society, there is a feverish pursuit of those things which are above and beyond the basics. We like the “extras” and almost think we’re entitled to them.  In every area, we are subtly being convinced that the basics aren’t sufficient; that we can’t live without the “extras”. There is an all-out campaign to convince us that the “extras” are responsible for our happiness – or lack of it.

Looking to relocate? We want bigger, nicer and with more amenities. Grandpa’s old farmhouse with the front porch swing and creaky floors wouldn’t be an option.

Going out to eat? Our taste buds are being trained to enjoy only gourmet. One-pot, home style meal around the family table? Nah. Too boring… and a few notches below our taste.

Shopping for clothes? “Designer” is the word. Mom’s old Singer sewing machine isn’t used to dress the family any more. The name on the tag is what matters now.

How about education? Extracurricular activities somehow seem to take center stage for many kids. The 3-Rs? Are they really so important, anyway?

With this inverted value system, many of us are unaware of what the real “extra” in life is: godliness with contentment. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1st Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

Tracing Paul’s footsteps through the New Testament, we realize that he lived through very diverse scenarios and learned godly contentment. In fact, he wrote to the believers in Philippi: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (Philippians 4:11,12 ESV) Paul enjoyed the “extras” at certain times in his life; but his heart was not attached to them. He was set on pursuing Jesus and keeping Him in the center. Then, when life’s “extras” vanished, Paul’s contentment was still intact.

Let’s give kudos to those people, who like the apostle Paul, have learned godly contentment. Whether they possess only the bare basics, if they are blessed with plenty, or if they’ve lost it all, they are content. God grant the rest of us His grace to passionately pursue Him; then with or without the “extras”, we will learn true godly contentment. We will have discovered the only real “extra”!



October 28, 2010

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1st Timothy 6:6-8

The small thatched-roof hut was nestled between banana trees and other lush tropical vegetation, surrounded by reddish dirt. After bumping along a back road through the Brazilian countryside, we saw the farm. When he heard us arrive, the homeowner emerged, with open arms and an ear-to-ear smile that revealed his joy.

As newlyweds, Jorge and I were visiting my cousin Chuck Pavkov and his family, who were missionaries in Vianopolis, Goias, Brazil. I was 23 years old, and this was a very real exposure to life outside of the USA. Chuck carved time out of his busy schedule to take us to visit some of the people they were working with, and this gentleman was one of them.

Maintaining the same joy that he expressed when he met us, our new Brazilian friend ushered us into his one room home. By our standards, he was poor. Very poor. Curiosity caused me to glance around the dim hut. Dirt floors. No electricity. No running water. No paint on the mud-adobe walls. Furniture? Sure, he had some. He had one very small, rustic table, and a matching chair, no doubt the products of his own creativity. That’s all I saw. But he was content. We visited with the farmer for a short time, and then moved on; yet I couldn’t get the “poor” Brazilian gentleman out of my mind.

That night at church, I recognized our new friend. His joy was intact, his smile just as broad. Although I don’t understand Portuguese, with my knowledge of the Spanish language I could capture everything he prayed at the prayer meeting. Kneeling on the tile floor, beside a hard bench, in the dimly lit church in Vianopolis, this dear brother in Christ had tears streaming down his cheeks as his gratitude spilled out in prayer. He thanked God for “all my riches…for everything You gave me…” , as though he were the richest man on the planet.

Immediately, as the picture of his house popped into my mind’s eye, I was stumped. “Riches?? What riches? Everything?? What’s that all about? He doesn’t have anything! What does he have to be thankful for?” At that moment I started to understand that having a huge, comfortable home, multiple late-model vehicles, an above-average income and a sizeable retirement account aren’t at all necessary to be considered “rich”. God used the contentment and expressions of gratitude of this godly Brazilian farmer to show me that true riches are matters of the heart. They are grace, joy, godliness, contentment, thankfulness…and above all, the eternal inheritance we have reserved for us in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ (1st Peter 1:3-5). THOSE are true riches!

Finally, I understood…that “poor” Brazilian farmer WAS rich…VERY RICH!

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