This week’s blog title may either peak readers’ interest or turn them off.
PLEASE READ ON because I promise that it will not be about what the title suggests.
Being on this earth for 40 some years, you naturally formulate sets of philosophies that derive from the Bible & life that you live by. I’ve shared one of these sets of philosophies in my post Don’t Pursue Humility. In it I briefly explained how we are to PuSH for Purity, Simplicity & Humility.
I want to focus on Simplicity today.
In simplest terms, it means that we are to pray & pursue only what is needed for life & holiness. Another way of putting it is being content & thankful for the necessities of life rather than desiring more of the world because what we need for life of faith, joy & love, God has already provided to the fullest. On the other hand, things of this world, creates a greater vacuum or a sense of deficiency that is insatiable.
But what God promises is a sense of completeness despite our circumstances. So whether you are here in the states or in the slum of the Philippines, those in Christ can experience & enjoy the same peace, joy & loving presence of God in their lives. Of course the same heaven awaits us as well.
This means that we don’t need everything that the world is telling us we need. Personally, the only TV we own is the old 24” conventional TV, the massively heavy kind, and our DVD player, which is a refurbished model that we purchased in 2003 hasn’t taken anything away from our movie viewing enjoyment. And my congregation knows that I’m serious about watching movies.
The question to always ponder is not “What do I want?” or “What others have?” but “What or how much do I need?” Once you answer the 2nd question honestly, what you do with the rest becomes easy & simple.
Living simply also meant that so far, my family has been able to live a debt free life. I know that this is purely by God’s grace & because everything we needed He has provided faithfully.
We did have a mortgage once in my previous pastorate. By the way, the direct translation of the word mortgage in French means “death grip”. But back then it made a lot of sense to us since our mortgage was less than paying rent. It was truly a little house on the prairie, actually a hill. The size was a little less than 1,500 square feet, and people advised us to go bigger, but we felt that the house was the perfect size for us, and it was something that we can afford without much stress.
We loved, enjoyed & still miss that house.
But in 2008, that’s the year that we moved to our current pastorate, and that was also the year that the real estate bubble burst in the U.S. It took us 4 months after we moved to sell the house as it was plunging in price. I have to admit that it was a painful time for us because we didn’t have much cushion to handle both mortgage & rent. God really took us to the edge before delivering us, and he had left us with an unforgettable lesson.
At the end of that period, God spoke to my heart. He said, “Nothing belongs to you Calvin, not your house, not your abilities & talents, not even your children.” A lesson I have never forgotten.
Nothing belongs to us.
Nothing is ours.
John Ortberg wrote this wonderful book titled When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back In the Box. The title says it all. At the end of our lives, everything will go back in the box. No exceptions.
That is what we are experiencing at the moment as a family because we are in the process of getting rid of most of our stuff in preparation for our move to Taiwan. We decided to reduce costs by not shipping anything or using rental storage space while we’re gone.
We have to reduce all our belongings down to:
- 5 backpacks
- 5 carry-on bags
- 4 check-in bags
It’s funny how 20 years of ministry & marriage can be reduced to those 14 bags.
Nevertheless, we have no choice but to redefine what necessities are. It has been hard because our children are having a difficult time parting with their favorite toys & stuffed animals. They have accumulated quite a few toys over the years, and many of them are connected to memories that bring warmth to their hearts, but we, nevertheless, cannot take them all with us. For my wife, it’s the kitchen & baking stuff. Baking & cooking is her passion, but again she will be giving them all away.
For me, it’s the books. I have already given away 1/3 of the books, and it has been one of the hardest things for me because I realized those books mean much more than just knowledge & information. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but they have become my Tower of Babel, the source of my pride.
It’s silly really since I can’t take them with us to Taiwan. What I have gained in knowledge, insight & inspiration should be enough, but I guess I desired more of this world than I realized.
No matter how I feel or what I conclude, I must leave them behind.
Strangely, once you have decided to let go or have let go, you detect & discover something unexpected. There’s a lightness & freedom in your spirit, and there’s an amazing sense of joy & gratitude toward God because you know without a shadow of a doubt that what I need the most I already have in my relationship with Jesus my Savior, in my family who loves & trusts me, and in God’s purpose for which I am created.
At the end, everything in this world will be left behind, so that we may enjoy eternally what we were meant to enjoy. Then where should our life’s endeavors be? It has to be something we can keep forever.
I’m sure you’ve heard or read Jim Elliot’s famous quote.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
A true wisdom from one who left everything behind for Christ.