The Secret of Real LifeBrenda Hamm
By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life. ~ 1 Timothy 6:19
~ Taking Hold of Real Life is our theme in 2020. We are celebrating those who are experiencing real life and encouraging all of us to do the same. In this devotional from our friends at Generous Church, we are reminded of the secret of real life. ~
There are lots of people who desire to be generous. In fact, it has been said that we are hard-wired from birth to be givers (in the image of our Father). There is something in our DNA that pulls us toward moments of compassion and helping others. But, many of those same people who desire to be generous rarely act on their desires. They almost never step into the prompts from God and give generously. They miss out on the “real life” (1 Timothy 6:19) because of fear.
As I had a conversation with a friend last week, he told me that he cannot watch the “sponsor a child” commercials and infomercials on TV. They are too hard on him, he says, “because he wants to help all of those children.” He has a huge heart. And some people would say that he is a generous person. But, he would tell you otherwise. He feels like he rarely moves on feelings of generosity because of things he wants to buy for his own family (including all of the trappings and toys of Americana).
Fear is a barrier to generosity. But, the cousin of fear…discontent…is an equally formidable enemy of giving.
Interestingly, Paul talks about contentment on a few occasions in the New Testament. At one point, he tells his young disciple Timothy, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). Have you ever allowed that statement to sink in? Have you ever wondered what “great gain” Paul is talking about? Here’s another question: have you ever wondered what “godliness with contentment” really feels like? Most of us know how it feels to be big-hearted with tight fists. We know what it’s like to have a desire to give that is overpowered by the “what-if” questions and “I can’t right now” statements. But, if you are like most people, you are not as familiar with the “godliness with contentment” feeling.
In another letter, Paul says that he learned the secret of being “content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). Regardless of what he had or what he did not have, Paul knew how to be content. And it was such a wonderful thing that he instructed his disciples to pursue this secret life of contentment. He told Timothy that this unique position of rest…contentment… is where he would find the “real life.”
So, what is the secret?
I don’t want to put words into Paul’s mouth, but I think we can infer from his other writings that contentment is the result of one major life decision. Paul helps us to see that contentment is an internal satisfaction which has very little to do with external circumstances. In other words, it is an internal decision to cling tightly to relationships while we hold all other things loosely.
The way of the world teaches that we should cling to things…houses, vacations, ski boats, custom homes and retirement accounts. At the same time, the world teaches us how to hold relationships loosely (easy divorce, church hopping and frequent job shopping).
Counter-culturally, the wisdom of God tells us to do the opposite. It tells us the true secret to contentment. God’s wisdom instructs us to cling to relationships…serve those in need; build up the oppressed; love God with all of your heart. And beyond that, it calls us to hold possessions loosely…here today, gone tomorrow; it’s all God’s anyway; what’s mine is yours; love your neighbor as yourself.
So, what’s the secret of contentment? It ultimately comes down to one personal decision. Am I going to clutch material things and hold relationships loosely, or am I going to cling to relationships and hold things loosely?
Interestingly, Paul notes that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” So, what’s the “great gain?” I would say that it is nearness to our King and an ability to give whenever He prompts.
That’s the secret of real life.