The route to contentment
A Middle Eastern king was extremely wealthy…but not content. He realized that his treasury was full but his soul was empty. He recognized that he needed to find God but was at a loss as to how to fill his spiritual void, as he continued to invest his energy in expanding his wealth and enjoying his riches. One night this king was roused from a deep sleep by a loud stamping and stomping on his roof. Alarmed, he shouted, “Who’s there?”
A voice from the roof called back to him, “A friend. I’ve lost my camel, and I’m looking for her.”
Perturbed at such stupidity, the king shouted, “You fool! Why are you looking for a camel on a roof?”
The voice from the roof called back, “You fool! Why are you looking for God in your silk clothing while lying on a golden bed?”
One day, many years ago, Jesus told the apostle Peter that he, like the man looking for a camel on a roof, did “not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man” (Mark 8:33). Then Jesus explained to Peter and to everyone else around Him that the route to contentment lay in a different direction than they were thinking (and in a different direction than we would think). He stated, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). And He explained, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).
In that recipe for life, Jesus tells us that the route to contentment in life involves three vital elements: Undivided allegiance to Christ, Unrestricted loyalty to Him, and His Unstoppable presence with us.
Undivided allegiance: We tend to think that to be content in life we should grab hold of as many pleasures in life as we can get. But evidence shows that it doesn’t work that way. According to researchers, “If you focus on doing and getting things that give you pleasure, it does not lead to happiness but produces what one researcher has dubbed ‘the hedonic treadmill.’ You become addicted to pleasure, and your need for the pleasure fix keeps growing: You have to do more and more. You’re never satisfied, never really happy.” (Tim Keller in King’s Cross, p. 149, based on a January 7, 2007 article, “Happiness 101,” in New York Times Magazine)
Jesus proposes a different route to contentment. He tells us that contentment in life is found in the process of giving ourselves fully to Him rather than in pursuing pleasures and happiness. Thus He calls us to “deny” ourselves in undivided allegiance to Him.
Unrestricted loyalty: No one would imagine that the route to contentment would involve taking up their cross. The people at the time of Jesus had seen criminals carry a cross to their execution. They knew the horror of crucifixion. They would never imagine that taking up their cross would lead to contentment. But that’s what Jesus tells us to do. Why?
A.W. Tozer explains, “To be crucified means, first, the man on the cross is facing only one direction; second, he is not going back; and third, he has no further plan of his own.” The call to take up our cross is the call to let nothing—not even death—get in the way of our loyalty to Christ.
His unstoppable presence with us: Here is what makes it all worthwhile! We are called to follow Jesus. That means that we are called to be in continual close relationship with the One who brings peace and hope and joy to life! This is the true route to contentment: Being in the constant presence of Jesus as we follow Him throughout the day.