"Whoever dies with the most toys wins," the bumper sticker on the car in front of me read. That sentiment describes the prevailing mindset in today's culture. The lust for affluence and material possessions has set in motion a lifestyle of consumption, fueled by constant activity and stress that has overflowed into the church. Like the hamster on the wheel that goes round and round, we are moving quickly. But we need to pause and ask the question, "Are we getting anywhere?" Simplicity of heart and life frees us from the treadmill of mindless living.
Consider the words of Jesus, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matthew 6:22, KJV). Commentators write that the ancient term "single eye" refers to both a single aim in life and a generous, unselfish spirit.
Seek Him First
Singleness of purpose demands wholehearted devotion to Christ, nurtured through intentional, deliberate times of prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, worship, meditation, fasting, and service.
As we spend time in God's presence, allowing Him to speak to us through His Holy Spirit, we will learn to distinguish between the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit. This allows us to cull those things from our lives that quench God's Spirit and hinder His work both in and through us. In that place of quiet communion, our desires are transformed; God's passions become ours, and we are freed from lesser things to serve the living God and live a life of passion and purpose.
Communion with God also breeds simplicity of purpose as we begin to discern God's specific purpose and plan for our lives. We gain greater insight and understanding to our call and purpose--those acts of service to which we are called that will bear fruit for eternity. This frees us to say "no" to those things not destined for us, things that drain our time and energy but bear little fruit for God's kingdom.
Conform Not to the World
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2, NIV).
To walk in singleness of heart and purpose requires that we not conform to the world. Have you noticed that today's church bears little resemblance to the first-century church in the Book of Acts, where "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42, NIV)? We spend far too much time today running after the things of this world; we strive for a bigger house, a condo at the beach, or a boat on the lake. Though not bad in themselves, Scripture warns, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10, NIV).
How do you spend your time, money, and resources? "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21, NIV). We must continually invite the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, revealing to us those areas of double mindedness and compromise.
Invest in Relationships
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34, NIV).
Simplicity of heart and life requires that we choose relationships over possessions. Jesus had a passion for people, not possessions. He laid down His life for others, binding up the brokenhearted, giving sight to the blind, and setting the captives free. He calls us to do the same. Who in your life is brokenhearted? Who needs to be set free? Will you lay down your life for them?
We need to spend more time with our loved ones, befriend the lonely, and visit the sick. As we pour into others, God will pour back into us, satisfying the deepest longings of our heart in Him. We cannot outgive God.
In his book, Freedom of Simplicity, Richard Foster concludes, "There are not many things we have to keep in mind--in fact, only one: to be attentive to the voice of the true Shepherd. There are not many decisions we have to make--in fact only one: to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. There are not many tasks we have to do--in fact, only one: to obey Him in all things."
Welcome to the simple life.
Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981).