- Eldon Peterson
Do more than exist
This summer while visiting my daughter along the Oregon coast I found an interesting sign in front of a business that said, “Do more than exist.” Do more than exist; not necessarily an overly profound message, but a thought provoking one nonetheless. What does it mean for you to do more than exist?
If I asked you, “How are you doing?” It’s likely that you would reply with a non-committal, “Fine.” What would it take to move you from fine to great? If I asked, “How’s your marriage?” and you answered, “We’re hanging in there!” What would it take to move you from a place of neutrality to a place where you could shout from the roof tops – “Better than ever!”
How’s work? Your relationship with your children? Your walk with God? I find that many of us are struggling to do more than merely exist. In fact, we may believe that merely existing, keeping our head above water, is an improvement to where we have been.
We live in a world that is content with one word answers like fine or okay to the deeper questions of life. Often, we are not interested in hearing about others hurts and struggles and hearing about how good things are can be equally distasteful. The reason for our angst has to do with our own struggles; my discontentment makes it difficult to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” If we are going to thrive in life we must first be content.
Our level of contentment says much about us. It not only speaks to how we view the world, but to how we live our lives. The discontent person not only looks upon life as being “half-full” but sounds like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh who says, “End of the road, nothing to do, and no hope of things getting better. Sounds like Saturday night at my house.”
What does contentment look like and how can we find it? Scripture offers us two answers. First Paul says, “… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul testifies that he learned the secret of contentment in whatever circumstances. Remember he isn’t writing this from the comfort of his living room but from prison. While it is easy for someone like myself who is healthy and comfortable to speak of being content; it is something different when one is hungry and in need. When they tell us that knowing the hope that is found in Christ is the “secret of being content” our ears should perk up and we should want to hear more.
But, “How is contentment found?” Psalm 1 offers us gives us a vibrant picture of what a contented life with God is like. The Psalm opens saying, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” (1) Some translations use the word happy rather than blessed, but I wonder if content might not capture the full meaning of the idea.
Content is being, "in a state of peaceful happiness.” We all desire to be at a place in life where our cup is continually being filled. Content is being at rest, not chasing our tail. So, how is contentment found? Verse 2 goes onto give us an answer, “Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.”
We feel discontentment when our vision strays from what is right and true to focus on what’s lacking. Hope is found by fixing our eyes on the right goal, “… let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
We can thrive in this life is by first knowing the right way and second by fixing our eyes on Christ. Trials may still come, but now, knowing contentment, we can do more that survive, we can thrive.