I would like to use a quote from Charles R. Swindoll taken from his book “Paul,” from chapter seven – Finding Contentment in God’s Sufficient Grace.
“I need to underscore a foundational fact: God’s goal is not to make sure you’re happy. No matter how hard it is for you to believe this, it’s time to do so. Life is not about your being comfortable and happy and successful and pain free. It is about becoming the man or woman God has called you to be. Unfortunately, we will rarely hear that message proclaimed today. All the more reason for me to say it again: Life is not about you! It’s about God.”
(Allow me to provide the ending before we even get started. As far as happiness goes, we only find true happiness when we put God first in our lives, even superseding our own desires for self.)
Is it possible he might be on to something here? I for one strongly agree with his statement. Generally speaking, we are most definitely a society of Christians who are more interested in our well-being than God’s plan. I’ve been guilty of it, and if you’ll be honest, you will admit the same. Of course there are those who will never admit it.
It is a fact that we should be focused on becoming the man or woman that God wants us to be, instead of being consumed with our comfort, happiness, success and pain. Is it wrong to want comfort, happiness, success, and desire to be pain free? Of course not. Any sane person would want these things, but as a Christian, what should be my primary goal? Should our goal be God’s goal?
Since Mr. Swindoll’s book is about the Apostle Paul, let’s use Paul as an example.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Paul states the following:
“… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Are we so silly to think that Paul would not have liked to avoid all the suffering he endured? Was he not human, as we are? I’m sure he didn’t go from town to town thinking “I just can’t wait to get another beating.” What mattered to Paul was that he was in God’s will, and being in His will brought him comfort, happiness, and success, even though they were mixed with pain. Notice what he says next.
“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30)
Paul learned something about God’s grace that maybe we have forgotten. Listen to him in this passage.
“…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
The grace of God provides all that we will ever need as Christians. It is nice to live in worldly comfort, but it isn’t necessary for true happiness. Things of the world can make us happy, but they don’t last, because they don’t go deep enough to fulfill the longing that God put within us. It would be great to go through life and never suffer pain, but let’s get real; pain is always around the next corner. True success is a relationship with God that overrides everything else. Let’s hear from Paul once more.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
In closing I would like to use another quote from Charles R. Swindoll taken from his book “Paul,” from chapter eleven – A Game Plan for Facing Extreme Circumstances.
“When we awaken in the morning, we choose the attitude that will ultimately guide our thoughts and actions through the day. I’m convinced our best attitudes emerge out of a clear understanding of our own identity, a clear sense of our divine mission, and a deep sense of God’s purpose for our lives.”
Moses’ protégé Joshua had this to say: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
Who are we serving? Is it the god of self-interest? Much of the Christian world today is so absorbed in our own well-being we’ve lost sight of what is really important.
What is my identity? Who am I? Am I not a child of God?
What is my mission in life? Is it not to serve my Lord and my God?
What is my purpose in life? Is it not to be in my Father’s will?
Jesus gave us the example to follow. Over and over He said, “Follow Me.” It isn’t about us. The Christian life is about following Jesus. He is the Master. We are the servants. We should never forget that.