Here at Christmas time, I would like to give you a gift . . . actually two of them, the two greatest gifts we can desire~
two gifts God intends for us to have
two gifts I truly believe we can apprehend
two great gifts we can embody and learn to give away.
But first, in order to see both gifts and their high value, let’s talk about what is almost epidemic these days . . . I see it in the large group of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and students at San Clemente High School. I see it in women—young and old--but mostly in the 35-52 year-old age bracket.
I hear mothers talking about their teen-aged students who are ravaged by it; and in the corporate executive team of men that I lead—well, men usually just call it ‘stress’ and ‘pressure’, but really, all in all, we are experiencing an epidemic of anxiety. Have you noticed?
And so, I should like to give you one gift today—and the other tomorrow.
The first gift is a gift like no other~
~will erase lines from your face and make you look younger
~cannot be purchased
~cannot be taken away
It will make you a pleasure to be around
~help you feel ‘settled’ inside ~give you a good attitude
~enable you to be at peace ~even if the world seems to be falling apart ~even if your body fails you, or is in great pain
~will make complaining a thing of the past ~and when you have it, it will be accompanied by a heart that is thankful and glad, and a soul that is assured.
I started writing about this gift back in the summer of 2006, while sitting at our favorite San Clemente beach, with my sons body-boarding in front of me--binder paper and pencil in hand, jotting down some thoughts about this most elusive quality . . . contentment. Contentment seems to elude so many folks, and I have pondered the subject and wondered why that is so -- even in people of faith. Why are we Christians generally no more content than those without Christ? Hmmm . . .
The day is as clear in my memory as though it was yesterday, as I asked myself, ‘who is the most contented person I know?’ Wasn’t long before I realized it was my dear mother! See, she was the role model of contentment, even at 90 years old, partially paralyzed, and living in a nursing home.
Mary (my mother) grew up in a very poor family in the Midwest, the second oldest of 11 children, often living in a tent, and her mother terribly worried because ‘Daddy’ had gambled away his paycheck again. Mom was married to my dad for almost 62 years, but never had a wedding ring, never went on a honeymoon; instead, she was married at the courthouse at noon, and went to work packing asparagus in a cannery at 3:00. She wasn’t educated by the world’s standards, not even having completed high school—but she was so wise. And even though she had many reasons not to be—my dad, for one—she was the picture of contentment. He was a malcontent and could be difficult to get along with—cranky, controlling, and critical. Yet, she hummed a tune, sang a line of ‘Blessed Assurance’ and kept on cooking, sewing, cleaning, or whatever. She did not let circumstances define her contentment.
Oh, I wish you could have known her, and I wish I could give you this very precious gift! Paul knew something of it, as he wrote to the Philippians, while in prison mind you, ‘For 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. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.’ And then he followed it up with his secret: I CAN DO ALL THIS THROUGH HIM WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH. Philippians 4.11-13
I have taught on this subject before and I will again because this world leeches contentment right out of us! Also ‘because as Paul said contentment is learned.
So . . . how was it that my mother had learned contentment? She knew who she was, and whose she was, and both determined her life course. She lived by these two priorities and they defined her life direction and daily choices. Friends, you and I can choose the same guiding principles for our lives: In brief, LOVING God and SERVING others. So simple . . . and they flow directly from Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” Mark 12.30-31 When we are able to live by these—we are God-focused and other-focused, and are naturally less self-absorbed, and have a much greater chance at contentment.
We can live freely because these two priorities act as guideposts for daily living. They shape decisions and responses, our character and our humility … how we live our lives, raise our children, and conduct business. Please give it some thought—ask God to open your eyes to ingratitude, and instead give you satisfaction in himself this Christmas. Ask him to grant you the courage to open the Gift of Contentment.
Merry Christmas~ Choose Contentment.