How to Find Simplicity in a Complex World

By Chip Ingram

Bigger … better … faster … more. These four words drive our lives, our schedules, our relationships, and even our souls. This is the world that many of us live in.  

Behind this fast-paced lifestyle is an unconscious belief system that we can do it all, be it all, and have it all. In the workplace, schools, and in our homes, we’re constantly feeling pushed to be everything, do everything and have everything. As a result, we live in a continual state of fatigue and depleted relationships.

In my corner of the world, I call this mentality of bigger, better, faster and more the “Silicon Valley Shuffle.” But these words don’t just describe life in the Silicon Valley — it’s everywhere.

Most of us are not conscious that we’re chasing after these things, but our actions reflect this. What about you? Is your life moving too fast? Do you feel like you’re constantly going and going? Do you have moments when you find yourself saying, “Next month, I’ll slow down,” but then it doesn’t happen?

I don’t think that I’ve met anyone who hasn’t struggled with attaining simplicity while living in such a complex world filled with so many demands.

As a pastor, I have struggled with this throughout my own life. In one particular season, during a period of two-and-a-half-years after I moved to the Bay Area of California, I relaunched two churches that had merged. I was instantly confronted with major financial, facility and staff issues, and at the same time I was managing my discipling ministry. Then I found out that Theresa, my wife, had cancer. If there was ever a time in my life when I needed spiritual simplicity, it was then!

So how do we break out of the high-pace, high-demand, guilt producing dis-ease in our souls and simplify our lives? For most people, their attempts to do so are usually focused on time management or more discipline. But these are only temporary fixes. To simplify our lives, we can’t start with a list of to-do’s.

Instead, we need to start by asking ourselves two questions:

First, what do I want to be known for? Some of us want to be known for being great parents, successful business people, wise counselors, and amazing friends. What about you?

Second, ask yourself: If I could be remembered for one thing, what would it be? Try to describe your goal in just one word. You might find that this is more difficult than you think. Would you say you want to be known for being kind, or maybe smart, or faithful?

These are all good goals! But there should be only one word that’s at the top of your list.

According to the Bible, any word other than love is the wrong word. The Bible says it’s good to be an excellent friend or “creative” or “kind,” but none of these things — even spiritual things — guarantee that we love God or others.

Even good can swallow up the best.

Jesus’ harshest words were toward the most religious – the Pharisees. They tried real hard to be good, but they didn’t really love God and they didn’t really love people.

The Apostle Paul summarized the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

The number one characteristic we need to embody and the highest priority for our lives is love. If we can fulfill all our desires for the roles we want to have and the things we want to accomplish, that’s great. But above all, if we don’t epitomize love, none of the rest matters.

This week, we’re starting the series Spiritual Simplicity. In it, we’ll discover how it’s possible – and even necessary – to run the race of life at a different, more meaningful pace and achieve peace. It’s my prayer that as we learn the practice of loving people more, we’ll experience a shift from complex to simple, and from “never enough time” to “time enough for those we love.”

Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Chip Ingram, Teaching Pastor
Living on the Edge

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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