The secret’s out

I don’t find myself at the mall very often.

I’m not a big shopper. Most times that I do go it’s with family. A few years ago, they got me to go with them. Keep in mind that I’m done looking at the store’s merchandise in a fraction of the time everyone else is. So, I tend to pay more attention to fixtures and store layouts. As I meandered through the store, a small display caught my attention.

To me, this display summed up all our problems. I didn’t want to forget it so I even took a picture. It read: Give me what I want.

As much as we know what’s wrong with that approach to life, if we’re not careful that becomes our life pursuit. We’ll work ourselves crazy to get what we want. Time with our family, time with our Lord gets cut as we do what we need to do to get what we want.

Not only is that a selfish way to live, but it’s also tiring. Is it any wonder so many of us feel exhausted, frustrated and on edge? What’s more, many people who spent years pursuing what they thought they wanted to have, come to find out it wasn’t worth the effort. Better said, it wasn’t worth what they gave up in their pursuit.

So, what will we let their experience teach us?

What I want to learn from them is something Apostle Paul communicated with the Philippian Christians. He called it “the secret to being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”

I’m not sure why the NRSV translates it as a “secret.” You tell someone a secret. What Paul is prescribing is something you need to learn.

But you can’t buy Paul’s lesson. It isn’t meant to be packaged or marketed.

What’s his secret? What has he learned that has helped him go through his life? Two things, actually. One is contentment. Being happy with what you have. I guarantee you won’t ever find that advertising at the mall! The second is knowing God’s power. Paul goes on to famously say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Chances are, you and I have missed something about that verse that is a powerful part of the lesson. Paul is speaking to a group of Christians who have encouraged him. They’ve supported him in prayer and helped him with finances while he was in jail. One of their own sent their gift and was a help to the apostle as well.

I get the impression Paul learned his secret lesson in the Christian community. Any need he has had, God’s people have been God’s response.

I hope you and I learn that we don’t need everything we think we want. And we certainly don’t need to let our lives be guided by that pursuit. Instead, Lord, help us to learn to be content and to be strengthened by your power.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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