We are presently immersed in the full splendor of summer. For many in the United States of America summer means the quintessential good times; the baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie American dream. Many people take family vacations, travel, spend time on or around water, and literally/figuratively “soak up the sun”. Recently we observed a major holiday, our nation’s independence, which is celebrated on the 4th of July. Plants are in bloom, the fish are biting, and gardens are yielding fresh produce. Life is good!
But, is it all sunshine and happiness? Of course not. There is rain in our lives and, whether it is raining at the present moment or not, we tend to spend a lot of time anticipating the next storm cloud that we assume will soon be on the horizon. We are blessed with so much, and yet we sometimes fail to fully appreciate the people, the day, the moment, and the beauty all around us.
There are many people who do not have the luxury of enjoying the “quintessential good times”, as their daily focus is more on survival than anything else. When I think about that, I am reminded of a conversation that I read about, and that has lingered with me. This exchange was between a missionary from the United States and an African Pastor. The African Pastor told the missionary, “In America you believe in God, in Africa we depend on Him.”
Think about that. What do we really have to worry about when we are surrounded by such abundant blessings? Shelter, food, clothing, etc. — we have it covered, and to the point where we have the luxury of spending a significant amount of time and money focusing our attention on trivial things. The score of the ballgame, voting dozens of times for which flavor we want some candy company to add to their lineup, sounding off online when a fireworks display didn’t quite meet our expectations, getting caught up in the drama of reality tv shows — the examples of non-essential things that we spend our time on goes on and on. And, when we worry about our “real” problems, how often are we worried about actual survival-level issues? Or, is it more along the lines of having to change jobs, find a new house, deliberating over which college our children will attend? Those can be important/challenging issues, certainly, but are they going to be life or death decisions? Are we believing in God, or are we depending on Him?
Remember what Jesus taught us about trusting in God’s provision:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34, emphasis added)
Shortly before that, Jesus tells us where we should focus our attention, and our hearts. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, emphasis added)
Invest in, and be grateful for, the blessing in your life. As an activity that could help with this, what if you wrote a word or short phrase on a dollar bill each day and then placed that money into a jar (and then continued doing that each day for the entire month). In addition to forcing yourself to slow down, and to take the time each day to be mindful of the specific blessings that you have received (and written down on the bills), you will also accumulate a stash of money that you can turn around and apply towards bringing blessings to others. Share your blessings with others in your community and/or throughout the world by sending those financial resources to support a person, family, cause, organization, etc. that will in-turn help to bring more sunshine into the lives of others. Money in-and-of-itself doesn’t bring happiness, but it certainly is a useful resource that can help fulfill the needs that are out there; needs that we must strive to be continually mindful of (and grateful for) if we have been blessed with them as a part of our daily lives.
I do not say these things to make anyone feel bad, or guilty. Trust me, I can relate to Paul’s honest self reflection when he wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
Rather, I write these words in order to remind/encourage us all to keep things in their proper perspective. Again, Jesus tells us how those who have been blessed with much should handle our blessings, and how we should be ready to pay them forward: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
Jesus also reminds us that the circumstances of giving/sharing with others shouldn’t be about putting on a fancy show to demonstrate how much we care or are giving, but can be found in the simplest of places each day: “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ ‘They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ ‘He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:42-45, emphasis added)
I do not know why the Lord has blessed some people with the abundance that He has when there are so many others who struggle to survive each day. But He has a reason for it all: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Friends, do not feel guilty if you have been blessed abundantly. But, remember that, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)
We must be mindful of this, and be sure that we are capitalizing on the opportunities that we are presented to give back, to serve — remember, from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.
And so, this summer, stop and smell the flowers. Take the time to enjoy a walk on a summer’s night while gazing at the stars. Listen to the nighttime symphony of katydids. Watch the fireflies dance across the evening sky. Soak it all in, and be truly grateful for all of the blessings surrounding you each day.
Coach Shane is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, and an entrepreneur. He is an International Coach Federation (ICF) trained life coach and graduate of the Certified Professional Life Coach (CPLC) program from the Christian Coach Institute (Charlotte, NC). He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree (BA) and Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA). Coach Shane has a heart for helping men, families, and young adults in their earthly walks as they continue to grow and develop into the family, church, business, and community leaders that God is calling them to become. He does not teach about the Bible or religion as a trained Pastor or theologian would, but rather relates Christian principles to the everyday walk of earthly life, doing so from a layman’s perspective. Applying a Christian perspective to real life. For more information visit Coach Shane’s website: ShaneHansenCLC.com
PHONE: (920) 428-1564
FACEBOOK: Shane Hansen, Christian Life Coach, LLC