As we pursue God as first priority in our lives, His love satisfies our restless souls. On the other hand, ignoring God results in a loss of awareness of His amazing, unconditional love leaving us empty and dissatisfied. Therefore, you can choose to be satisfied or dissatisfied by choosing to pursue God or to ignore Him. What will it be?
“Worry is a form of atheism, for it betrays a lack of faith and trust in God” (attributed to Bishop Fulton J. Sheen). In this fallen world we live in, we are often faced with challenges that, if we are not careful, can overtake us with anxiety and distract us away from the very Source that can supply our need. We or our loved ones may be facing illness, living in a strained marriage, struggling through a stressed work environment, experiencing a loss of income and the list goes on and on. Worrying about things we have no control over is a waste of our time and energy and can result in “killer” stress in our lives.
The Apostle Paul instructs us as we face our life challenges: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil 4:6). The truth is, we are not created in such a way to successfully carry the kind of burdens we are faced with that come our way as a result of the fallen world and fallen nature of humans. Therefore, Paul is telling us to take our concerns and anxieties to Christ and let Him handle them for us. Christ Himself implores us to do the same: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The Apostle Paul who suffered persecution in all forms and levels, from false allegations to beatings, walked out his journey without stressing these matters. His attitude was: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21). What was it about Paul that he could maintain contentment and hold this noble attitude in the midst of all his afflictions? To answer this question, consider the following habits we clearly see in Paul’s life as we read his New Testament letters. These habits give us insight into his worry-less lifestyle:
- Paul was totally surrendered to God’s purpose for his life. He knew His purpose was greater than his human mind was able to comprehend. Isaiah 55:9: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. When we accept this truth as did Paul, we can quit trying to figure out what God’s reasoning is, and instead rest in God and His plan for our lives.
- Paul trust God’s love and lordship over His life. He knew that no man or circumstance could take his reputation or his life unless God allowed it. It was his steadfast belief that God was sovereignly involved in the affairs of his life that gave purpose to every situation Paul faced. His attitude was like that of Jesus as seen in John 19:10-11 when Christ stood in front of Pilate. Pilate said: Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you? Christ responded: You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above…
- Paul focused on the reality of eternity and his rewards in Christ. We are able to remain content and at peace in every situation as we view it from the perspective of eternity. Matthew 6:25-40 informs us that as the righteousness of God in Christ, we are the partakers of divine riches. We must do as did Paul and remind ourselves of this. One of those riches is strength for every situation (Phil 4:13). Knowing you have God’s power on your side and that He will meet all your needs, gives you reason to rest. Psalm 1:3 describes the righteous who trust in God as being…like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
- Paul prayed and maintained a grateful heart. When we pray, we are releasing our fears and worries to God. As we do this, His peace floods our souls, as He guides us as to what we should do, if anything. There is no situation we cannot take to the throne room of grace, whether it is a situation existing because of our own sin, failure, or poor choice; or, a situation that exists due to something or someone outside of ourselves. We are told to bring it all to God with prayer, supplication (intense fervor) and thanksgiving. We can have such confidence that we thank God in advance for taking care of it. As we do this, we exchange our burdens for God’s supernatural yoke of peace and we discover His yoke is light, indeed.
- Paul looked at his present circumstances in light of the promises of God for his future. Search the Scriptures and know God’s promises. Put them on your lips and in your heart by meditating on them. When you are tempted to think contrary to what God has said, take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5) and take authority in the name of Jesus over your thought life insisting on thinking thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). When you are going through a difficult season, you may want to carry some Scripture cards with you and place them in handy places to remind you of God’s faithfulness to bring you through.
To close, I do want to point out that there are times we can reduce the opportunity for anxiety in our lives by making changes that may be needed. If fretting over the bills, ask God to help you implement a change in your budget and lifestyle. If concerned about your health, take steps to improve it through diet and exercise and your doctor’s suggestions. Taking steps to improve the particular area of life that is giving you concern can help bridge the gap between worry and faith. Still, even in this, your first step is to go to God and allow Him to give you His guidance on the situation. Then, follow His guidance and refuse to be anxious, but instead continue to give all things in and outside of your control to God as you pray with supplication and thanksgiving. He will keep you at peace as you put your trust in Him.
The topic of idols of the heart is one of the main topics discussed in my book, “Experience Real Satisfaction” released in 2010. I believe it is an often overlooked principle in the Scriptures even though it is of such great importance. We are guilty in the 21st century, as are those in the past, of forsaking God as the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13).
Idols are “anything that takes the place in our lives that belongs only to God.” We must consider who or what has first priority with our time and resources. We should ask ourselves questions such as “Who has our first love?” “Who or what do we trust in?” “Where do we spend our money, our time?” For some Christians their spouse or children may have become an idol as well as their pastor. That’s difficult for us to imagine or admit but if we have allowed these persons to be #1 in our lives, then we have put them in a place that is God’s and God’s only.
The ministries where we serve, our church, our job, our material belongings all can become more important to us than our relationship with God. When this happens, we find ourselves in idolatry. We can ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal these sometimes hidden idols of our hearts.
What else might be or become an idol in our life? Another idol we often overlook is ourselves. In our narcissistic culture, many times we ourselves are the #1 idol of our hearts. This is probably the most common amongst us, if we are honest about it.
Our fall into idolatry can be quite subtle. It begins with failing to spend time alone with God. We crowd Him out with the busyness of life thinking we will soon get back to Him. This is devastating to us as Christians. It is in this alone time that our confidence in God is strengthened. When we fail to spend personal time with God where we talk to Him and allow him to talk to us, we begin to experience emptiness. This is because God has created us in such a way that we need Him to pour Himself into us and we need this daily. Nothing else will do. Scripture says God has put eternity in our hearts and without the eternal One satisfying us, we begin to feel dissatisfied. This results in a temptation to find satisfaction from people and things in our lives. Our focus begins to move more and more from God to idols. Of course, they are unable to fill us completely but we get caught up in the fleeting contentment and purpose they bring to our lives and we tend to chase after them even more instead of seeking after God(Isaiah 44:20). Our attempt to satisfy ourselves with these idols is as useless as trying to quench the thirst of the desert sand (Isaiah 55:2).
Psalm 90:14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Satisfaction begins and ends with receiving God’s unfailing love as a reality in our life. Ignoring God, results in losing an awareness of His love. This then results in dissatisfaction and a restless soul headed for idols.
Experience Real Satisfaction is available at Amazon.com, most local bookstores and my website at http://www.sarahgoebel.com.
When you think about the beginning when Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden, it is difficult to imagine how Eve could experience dissatisfaction. Afterall, she had perfect fellowship with God, with Adam and with the animals. Adam and Eve had perfect health – no arthritis and no swine flu worries. There wasn’t a need that wasn’t met! Yet, the serpent came along and planted a seed in Eve’s mind that perhaps God was withholding something good from her. Perhaps this one thing was the one thing that would make her life perfect. How incredible that seems to us! But it is true, Eve was deceived and began to feel dissatisfied and this led to the fall of man.
Dissatisfaction with what God has given us or with where He has us at any given time can lead to a fall. When you begin to feel dissatisfied with your spouse, your children, your finances, your job, your church – run into the presence of God where He can satisfy your soul. Think upon the things in your life you can be thankful for and praise God for them. As He fills you with His love, you will find yourself satisfied with a satisfaction beyond anything you can experience from any one or any thing else. 1 Timothy 6:17 tells us God gives us all things for our enjoyment. But we need to allow our God to give us our place and the things He desires for us. When we do this, we can ask for His wisdom to change the things we would like to see changed yet enjoy where we are while on the way to where He may be taking us.
Request: I am working on a new book and would like to solicit your help. I would like to hear from you about the things that pop into our lives and minds to tempt us to be dissatisfied. It can be things you have experienced or things you have seen others experience. Thank you for your input.