What’s the day that you have? What’s the only day you have? Right now. And God says, I want there to be enough. There’s enough grace for every relationship, every situation. It’s not in the future. So here’s the practice: Be teachable. Be teachable.
See, you start asking God for these things and you focus and I’m thankful, thankful, thankful. Well, there’s still the five percent, right? So, with my wife, it was like, Okay, God, what do You want to teach me? Because I give up trying to change her. I am powerless to do that. And, okay, yes, it’s not my job. Okay, I got that. Sort of.
So what is my alternative? I can choose to give thanks, choose to give thanks. But that five percent isn’t moving and it really does bug me. And I’m stuck in this relationship, or you’re stuck with your supervisor, you’re stuck with one of your kids, or you’re stuck in your finances, you’re stuck with your emotions going up and down.
How about this? God, what do You want to teach me? Here are our prayers: Oh, God, please change this, change this, give me that, change this. We are always asking Him to take all these things out of our lives. Have you ever thought maybe they were there on purpose? When do you draw closest to God? When do you pray the most deeply? When do you really listen to His voice? Is it when things are going great? So don’t waste it.
And so I began to say, Okay, okay, I’m learning a few skills. And, by the way, this isn’t my first year of marriage. We have ups and downs like every other couple and we’ll get a little bit busy. And a couple of those things will pop up again. And I will find myself being a little, starting to focus there, Oh, no, no, I have practiced. So I start giving thanks. And then I started back then, So, God, what do You want to teach me?
To listen, Chip. You’re not in control. Wooo. I want you to learn to understand her, instead of change her. I want you to become a student of your wife. I want you to understand her personality, her background, I want you to put your heart and mind in what it was like to grow up where she grew up in the horrendous family and some of the dysfunction, and what it would be like to be abandoned. And why she is so touchy, because rejection is such an issue. I want you to live with her in an understanding way. I want you to be like Jesus to her that loves her in ways that she needs to experience.
Oh. I want you to learn to shut up. I want you to learn to be less selfish and focused on you and your emotional wellbeing and I want you to be to her what Jesus is to the Church. He gave His life.
Well, guess what? You know what? I’ve now got some pretty good assignments here. So be teachable.
The next principle begins to ask you where and how you might need to be teachable. Principle number three is: Prosperity does not have the power to make us, nor poverty the power to take it away.
Let me say this again, because most of us do not believe this one. Prosperity – the great job, the great house, the upward mobility, the right schools – prosperity does not have the power to make us happy, nor poverty the power to take it away.
It comes right out of verse 12. Paul says, “I have learned to be content in any and every situation.” Right? We are smart enough to know, I don’t care who you are, you are going to have ups and you are going to have – what? Downs. You’re going to have ups and downs financially, you’re going to have ups and downs relationally, you’re going to have ups and downs with circumstances, you’re going to have ups and downs in your health.
So no one has all ups. But if you believe that prosperity can make you happy, your life and your energy and your focus and your time will be very clearly aligned around that. And it won’t deliver.
If you want to know what the practice is, it’s: Be wise. Be wise. You say, Chip, thankful I get, be teachable I get. But be wise? Here’s the deal. Don’t be a fool! See, if you believe that prosperity is going to bring happiness, that working a bunch of hours and having your kids in everything, all the time, so that they can be successful, you’re a fool.
That’s not me. Let me describe what a fool is, according to Jesus. He was teaching to a large multitude and someone yells out of the crowd in Luke chapter 12, verse 13. “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher! Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ ‘Man, who made me judge or arbitrator over you?’ Jesus responds.
“Then He went on to say, ‘Take care and be on your guard against all greed and covetousness, for one’s life does not consist of the abundance of your possessions.’ And then He told them a parable. ‘There was a land of a rich man and it produced plentiful. And he thought to himself, “What shall I do? For I have nowhere to store my crops.” And he said, “I know what I will do. I will tear down my barns and I will build bigger ones, and then I will store all my grain and all my goods, and I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years.’” You hit the lotto! You went public! You got money! You’ve got it made! “And then I will say, ‘Eat, drink, relax, and be merry.’” It’s the definition of hedonism. It’s the definition of: Prosperity will deliver happiness.
“But God said to him,” this is where I get this, “Fool!” God said to him, “Fool! This night, your soul is required of you. And the things that you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Be wise.
Here’s my fear. I really care about you all, okay? Here’s my concern for the Venture family. I don’t know all of you, but I know a lot of you. If we sat down over coffee and we were completely vulnerable with one another, and I knew where you were at in each area of your relationships and your finances and those of you who are married and those of you who are single parents and those who are single.
I would meet people who, when I asked some probing questions, that your work demand is just off the chart. And you think it’s normal.
And the pace of life is, it’s not sustainable, but the “when/then” is one lie, and “as soon as we get through this” is the other big one. As soon as we get done with this, as soon as they are out of diapers, as soon as we get through the teen years, we’ve got this big project, as soon as I invest here, then…
And it doesn’t change. And this lie is so profound, we would talk about your level of personal debt and credit cards and the pressure is just, it’s outrageous. And going out to eat a lot and buying stuff and getting the next gadget and the next this and the next that.
And, of course, we would never say it, but keeping up with other people and appearances.
And that kind of financial pressure puts real pressure on marriages. And then there is this insane level of, “You’re not a good parent unless your kids are really successful.” That’s prosperity.
And success means that if they are four years old and they are not on a soccer team yet, what is wrong with you? Don’t you care? Right? And if you have more than one kid, you have these crazy work schedules and some of you leave at dark and come home at dark. And you’ve got options and the Apples and the eBays and the LinkedIns and all the companies and Googles are just, “We’re rolling.”
And you feel like, Well, at least I am going to be a good parent. So you get in cars and you drive all over to these ball fields. And your entire weekend is taken up with not being with your kids, not throwing the ball in the backyard, not talking, not laying across the bed, not eating dinner together, not hearing their heart, not knowing their friends. They have a uniform and enough equipment that cost you one thousand dollars, and you’re on the road all weekend, taking them to here, taking them to there. And the pressure of everyone telling you, This is what a good parent is.
And then you’ve got to, once you drop them off, you’ve got to get back, because you’ve got another kid at the other game. So you divide and conquer as parents. And then, of course, Monday is ballet and Wednesday is gymnastics. And that’s what good parents do.
And the lie is that prosperity, that’s prosperity. And we now have a generation that, what we know happens is, there’s not heart connection. People, they don’t eat together, don’t learn to love one another. People that don’t take time for one another – productivity, success does not produce happiness.
Now, I am a coach. I went to school on a basketball scholarship, okay? I’m not against sports. But here’s the question you have to ask, and I can’t tell you what to do. Here’s the question you’ve got to ask about your work schedule, about your finances, and about your children: How much is enough? Draw a line in the sand. You tell me. When I make this much, that’s it. We are going to do one sport, but not more. This is what we are going to do, and if the practices run into our family time, these three nights, we eat together.
I don’t know what it is. But all I know is, as I meet with you all, this produces marriages that drift apart; kids who feel isolated and get depressed; people who go to restaurants, and four people who love each other all have their face in a screen, eating fast food on their way to the next event.
And you have a God who says, “I have so much more for you than that. Be wise. Be wise. And wisdom is following My plan.”
The second part of that is poverty, okay, are you ready? Poverty cannot rob you of genuine happiness and contentment. I have been all around the world, and I don’t know why I got to do it, but I have been in tons of Third World countries, and I still remember Alex, one of the happiest, joyful people ever, in the Philippines.
And he partnered with Tom Randall there and they were good buddies. And Alex was so, I have been there a number of times, he goes, “You’ve got to come to my house, you’ve got to come to my house. I’m so proud of my house. Will you come to my house?”
And I got on the back of a motorcycle and prayed that I might live. If you have ever been to Manila…
And so finally we get there and we land and it’s a huge hillside. And it’s just thousands and thousands of people in this slum. And out here, all there is is a little cardboard draped over a wire. And then the next little section was a little bit better. They had some wood crates and cardboard over that. And then Alex was really proud, because he sort of lived in the upper levels where he had some cardboard with some crates, but a little corrugated metal on the top.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of people, and there was one pole, and there was a wire that went about a hundred yards, and it went right into Alex’s home. He had one light bulb. It was the slum of the slums. And we walked through all this, there’s no sanitation, there are no bathrooms. And I’m walking through thousands of people. And he’s just, “I want you to come to my house.” And he is just filled with joy.
And we walk in and it’s a dirt floor that has been dug out about six by nine. And then it goes up to a level and it’s about a four by four, and he goes, “We cook in there. See the light bulb?” “Yeah.” “Tom got that for me. You know what we do at night?” “No.” “It’s the only light. My neighbors come from everywhere and we pack them in, and because we have light, I read the Bible. And you can’t believe what God has done.”
And I said, “Well, Alex, where do you sleep?” And he looked at me, “Well, what do you mean?” And there was a, from the wall, maybe, maybe three feet and then it went…he’s Filipino, really short…so maybe five feet. Right?
And he looked at me like, “Well, what do you mean, ‘Where do I sleep?’” And his wife was pregnant so, “I sleep like this and my wife sleeps like this, and we put our two little boys,” one was about four and one was two, “between us.” He says, “We don’t sleep on the floor. And we have a light bulb.”
And then he looked at me and he says, “Isn’t God good?” I said, “Yeah, Alex, He really is. And you know that way more than I do.” He is not taking any antidepressants, he’s not worried about tomorrow, he’s not living under enormous pressure.
Am I saying that everyone ought to get a dirt floor? Please, hear what is being said; hear what is not being said. Very simply, prosperity, what would happen if you believed prosperity does not have the power to make you happy? And poverty does not have the power to take it away.
The final thing Paul says is principle number four. And principle number four is: Only Christ has the power to give us a happiness that transcends all of life’s variables.
He says, “I can do all things,” literally, I looked this up in my Greek text this morning, “I can do all things through the One who gives me power,” or, “strength.” I can do all things.
In other words, you know what’s really hard? To be content when circumstances are difficult, to be content or happy when you have a rough patch in your marriage, to be content when you’re single and you want to be married. To be content when you really do want to buy a house and right now, to keep your priorities in line, you can’t buy one. Oh. The world will come to an end.
How many families have two people working, shipping our kids somewhere, and hope they are coming out well so that we can say we own a home and gain equity? And I just want to ask you, and that equity is going to be worth what twenty years from now, if kids aren’t connected to your heart and love you?
See, what this whole world system is designed to do is to sell you appealing lies. Now, you know something? You can have your priorities in order, and I pray to God, I pray for our church that God would favor it. I pray that He would give you great relationships, I pray that you can own your own home, I pray He financially blesses your life and you will be conduits of grace and love people.
There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy. But if you are chasing wealth with priorities that are askew, family relationships, personal debt, then you’ve got to thank God for what you do have. Ask Him what He wants you to learn, and then step back and I am going to say this reverently, stop being stupid. Okay? Because you are really smart people.
But here’s what, let me tell you something about smart people. Your IQ can be one hundred and forty, and you can be one hundred and forty unwise. Smart doesn’t mean you’re wise. Smart just means you’re smart. And who made you smart, by the way? It wasn’t you.
And, finally, he says, “Don’t try and find happiness apart from God.” Here’s the practice: Be dependent. Be dependent. You say, Well, what do you mean? Depend on Him. Get your priorities…
Wisdom is doing life God’s way. Well, how do you know God’s way? Well, you know what? He’ll tell you.
So here’s a promise: If you will draw near to God, He will draw near to you. So in this moment, you might say, You are messing with my life and my values and, gosh, I’m thinking I’ve got debt over here and I’ve got this over here. God must be down on me. He’s not down on you at all! That’s why He brought you here! He is going to say, Hey, I want you to be wise. Ask Me. I will show you what to do. Ask Me, I’ll walk along with you. I’ll give you wisdom about what to do in this relationship and what to do with your money and what to do with your kids and decisions and your singleness. But draw near to Me.
How do you do that? Entrust or give the very first portion of every day to God. Just come and just say, Hey, whatever You tell me, that’s what I want to do. But I’m going to make You a priority. I have time. I have time for the God of the universe.
And then give Him the very first portion of your income. Declare: I can’t manage all this. So I want to know, it all comes from, I want to be in a position where You can bless me. I want You to lead me, I want You to guide me, I want to demonstrate that I am really dependent.
And He wants to show up. He died for you, He is for you, He wants to help you. So be thankful, be teachable, be wise, and then be dependent. And whatever He shows you, can I encourage you? Just do it.
You want to hear something real simple? If you really believe that God loved you, and was so for you, this would just be like, How else could you live, right?