By Makaila Mobley
Ever since Christmas, and the traditional viewing of “Its a Wonderful Life”1 I’ve been thinking about contentment and investing in that which has already been entrusted to me. At this point, we are over a week into the new year and it seems the right time to pause and consider, where in my life am I feeling restless and what might God have already entrusted to me that I am not currently investing in.
All morning yesterday as Pastor Chris laid down the gospel (listen to the sermon here)2, the word surrender kept going through my mind. Because a gospel life is a surrendered life. Whenever we cling to our desires and arrange for life the way we want it to go, we will inevitably miss out on the full benefit and rich goodness of living within the Kingdom of Light. But a life surrendered to Jesus is not void of desire, on the contrary, you cannot surrender without knowing what your desires are. It is important to remember that surrender is not resignation. Where resignation gives into a hopelessness and a severing of the heart, surrender offers the heart more fully to God even as it stays open to the ache of hope and trust.
I am a millennial and a product of my generation. I am prone to restlessness, to always looking for the next big thing. I have a tendency to get impatient with mundane and necessary stages of life. I know so well the temptation that comes in the form of feeling that you are behind in just about everything in life, your career, your martial status, your location, your friendships, your impact on the world. It never seems to be enough and there is a constant pressure to catch up, figure it out, and push ahead.
But the thing about seeing it written out, black words on a white page, is that I can see, obviously such an approach to life is not reflective of the gospel. There is no surrender in it, no joyful gratitude for the things I do have, no patient endurance through growing seasons, no trust that I am not alone and that God will move on my behalf and lead me in the way that I should go. But when these sly thoughts of restlessness are conceived within my mind, they do not always look so blatantly rebellious to the Kingdom of Light. I’ve been calling my lack of surrender and neglect to invest what has been entrusted to me, wanderlust, and worn it like a badge of honor.
I am repulsed at the idea of living a boring life void of impact, no, more than repulsed, I fear it, like it is black hole that will suck me in if I do not fight against it with adamant and determined selfish ambition. Being an American, I’ve been taught my whole life that selfish ambition, or having determined motivation to get ahead and collect followers, is a virtue, so imagine my surprise at discovering what Scripture says about selfish ambition. Just check out what some of these verses say:
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Clearly living in the Kingdom of Light is incongruent with a life of trying to push ahead and make something of myself, in fact, it makes it in the same list of vile practices like idolatry and witchcraft. And this includes selfish ambitions within missions and ministry. Notice Philippians 1:17, they preached “Christ out of selfish ambition.” Those working for God and his Kingdom are not immune to the temptation to “wow” others with their abilities and accomplishments and work to get ahead. It seems to me that scripture is suggesting that anything aimed at self-promotion is sinful, rather we are to work with diligence and attention to quality because this glorifies God and is an investment in that which he has entrusted to us. This is so hard to wrap my American mind around. But like Pastor Chris said this Sunday, when Christ rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of light, we were rescued for glorifying God and this does not happen by “wowing” others with our amazing stories of impact and accomplishment, but by:
- bearing fruit
- knowing God
- enduring with patience
- and living in all circumstances with joyful gratitude.
And so, rather than falling into the George Bailey trap of frustration and discontentment that life is not playing out the way I saw it going, I can take a deep breath and look around and ask God what it is that he has given me and what choices can I currently make to cultivate and invest in that which has already been entrusted to me.
The High Desert, for example, is not the exotic land that I believed I would be making my home in. But it is home now. So where can I invest in this community and cultivate a heart of faithfulness within it. It helps so much to realize that these are not merely the haphazard cards I’ve been dealt, but rather that which God has specifically entrusted to me. And I can sidestep a life of non-impact and boredom, not though selfish ambition, but through humility, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10), and committed trust “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37: 5) and delight “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37: 4).
Making choices that reflect God’s heart here and now with what I already have, I can truly walk in the Kingdom of light, gleaning all the goodness and richness my savior’s sacrifice has ransomed for me and know a steadfast freedom that this world system has never and will never provide.
- Its a Wonderful Life. Film. Directed by Frank Capra. 1946.
- “You’ve Been Rescued” Sermon by Chris Gillespie. Presented at Redeemer Church. January 8, 2017.
- All Scripture Verses taken from the New International Version (NIV)