We are on a quest this Lent to have our hearts of stone transformed into hearts of flesh. We are turning away from our stone gods who promise comfort, control, and affirmation but instead cut us to pieces. We are turning to the only true God who can truly comfort us, do all things well in His time, and dance over us with singing.
What are we gaining through losing?
Everything. Though painful at first to turn from those gods, we begin to see that they were actually robbing us of joy, peace, and transformation.
One of the many reasons I love Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, is because I so appreciate her Mennonite heritage. I remember listening to Christian radio in the car while traveling with my dear Mennonite friend Lorma Wiebe. A “health and wealth” sermon came on, saying that because we were children of the King, we could expect to live in luxury. I watched my passionate friend, anticipating a strong reaction. She did not disappoint me. She reached over, silenced the radio with a decisive poke, and said in controlled but righteous indignation:
What he does not see is how cumber robs us of joy.
This is a photograph of my youngest daughter Annie with her daughter, Miabelle Meredith in an apple orchard. Children have such joy in simple things, and somehow, we lose that as the idols grow in our hearts. We think having more will bless us, but it actually can rob us. We think what we need is more success, more of men’s praise, more of God’s gifts, instead of God Himself. The truth is, when we make God the ultimate, the simple pleasures return to their rightful place, bringing us the joy He intended them to bring. We can suddenly be grateful for simple things, for less. We can be contented with a friend is promoted and we are not, for we know we are loved.
We each have had various goals for turning from our idols and turning to the one true God. Mine has been to have a simple supper and nothing else to eat afterwards, but instead spend time with the Lord. Truly, though painful at first, and though I have not succeeded every day, I am experiencing more joy, and more of the sweetness of His presence.
This week, let’s reflect on the upside-down-world of Christianity. How less really is more.
Reflect and comment on the following verses – and, share moments when you are aware that you are gaining through losing. If a Scripture particularly quickens your heart, slow down, and stay with it until your heart is aflame. It’s a shorter but weightier Bible study, so you must slow down or you will not see. Put away your car and get out your walking shoes. Slow down, slow down – and see!
1. Jesus’ teaching is always upside down from the world, for he taught the poor can become rich, the weak strong, and the simple-minded wiser than the one with many degrees. He said:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
A. How does the above teach gaining through losing?
B. This week – what is your goal? What will you say no to, and how will you say yes to God, pressing into Him?
C. Share a progress report if you can — where letting go has actually led to experiencing more joy, contentment, or the presence of God.
2. Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book in that the teacher looks back on his life and sees how feeding his idols only led to meaninglessness and despair. But there are rays of light in the book when he looks beyond the sun to God, and realizes that these earthly gifts can, indeed, be gifts again if they are not made the ultimate thing, but simply seen as a gift from God. Reflect on this:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity…
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil-this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 and 18-19
A. What attitude toward work and money is vanity? Why?
B. What attitude toward work and money and food can be a gift of God? Why?
3. Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1 Timothy 6:6-7
A. The phrase “godliness with contentment” is rich, summarizing the teaching that when He is satisfying you, then His gifts return to their rightful place, and you can enjoy them rather than looking to them to satisfy your soul. Stay with this verse for a while, and mine it. I challenge you to make ten observations from it.
B. Is God increasing the contentment in your heart? Explain and give examples.
5. Share how God is moving in your life. What are you gaining through losing?