There’s a saying that says, “Always leave them wanting more.” When teaching people this principle, I like to tell the story of something that happened a couple of years ago. I was riding with my friend in his truck on a rainy day. As we were going down the road, we saw a guy carrying a duffle bag walking on the shoulder. He was getting soaked and we thought the Christian thing to do was to pick him up. He put the duffle bag in the bed of the truck where it was still getting rained on, and climbed in the back seat. My buddy told him he could bring it inside, but he declined. As we we driving, he asked him what was in the bag. The man said sternly, “It’s none of your business!” Shocked, I said, “You don’t have to be rude about it. We just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to get messed up.” He repeated himself with even more attitude. My buddy pulled the truck over and told him to get out. Before he could grab the bag, we sped off!
On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Your lives are like salt among the people. But if you, like salt, become bland, how can your ‘saltiness’ be restored? Flavorless salt is good for nothing and will be thrown out and trampled on by others” (Matthew 5:13 TPT). Salt brings out incredible flavors in food, and it also makes you thirsty. If there’s too much, it makes the food inedible. If there’s too little, or you can’t taste it, what’s the point. The question my wife and I ask all the time is, “Did you leave them thirsting for more?” As people explore faith or are around us as Christians, that’s the question we have to ask. Did our conversation, and the way we acted, make them want to know more about God?
Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (NLT). The word “attractive” means seasoned with salt. We need to make sure we’re interacting with people who don’t know Jesus so we can be salt and light. There’s little point to salt or light unless you’re around unseasoned people in the dark. Jesus didn’t spend all His time in the Temple or only with believers. He made a point to be among people who didn’t believe in God, taught them in ways they could understand and left them wanting more. We need to ask God daily for wisdom in how to live, speak and act in front of non-believers so that we make them thirsty to know more about Him. We will know it’s the right amount when they ask for more.
Our cell phones are becoming like Swiss Army knives. You can talk, text, search for answers, use as your Bible, play music, take pictures and record videos. They do all of that, yet one of the things I’m most thankful for is that someone figured out that you can turn the camera’s flash into a flashlight. I’m getting to the age where I have to use my phone’s flashlight to read the menu in a nice restaurant or walk through a dimly lit place. I never thought I would use the flashlight as much as I do, but having a readily accessible light whenever I need it comes in quite handy. There’s more times than I can count that I’ve needed it’s light to help me see a message or to help me get where I’m going.
I don’t know if Jesus would have used a cell phone as His example if He were to give the Sermon on the Mount today, but it’s possible. As He stood on a hill beside the Sea of Galilee teaching the people, I’m sure He looked out across it and saw little towns on the sides of the other hills as He said, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15 NLT). Are you and I lighting the way for others to find God? Do our lives give enough light for them to see His message written on our hearts?
When Jesus gave this sermon, the lights in these cities He was pointing at came from lamps that held oil. I was given one on my last trip to Israel. I came home, put oil in it and lit the wick. They give off decent light, but I’ve found that you have to keep filling it with oil if you want it to keep working. You and i can’t be the light He’s called us to be unless we are continually refilling our lives with the oil of His presence and His Word. The power of the light doesn’t come from the clay lamp, but the oil. In the same way, our flesh is simply the holder of the oil, but we must be on fire for Him and continually do the things that puts oil in our lamps. There is a world full of people stumbling around in the darkness who are depending on you and me to be the light God has called us to be. Make sure you’re living for Him in the open where all can see.
All along my commute to and from work are billboards for neighborhoods. They have slogans like, “The life you deserve”, “Life’s better up here”, “The life you’ve always wanted” and “Life more than you’ve imagined.” All are for different neighborhoods, but their message is clear. They understand that we all want something more. Something better. They know that we are rarely happy with what we have because there is always something better on the horizon.
It’s not wrong to want something better than you have right now. It’s not wrong to work harder to provide a better life for your family than you had when you were growing up. We have to be careful though in thinking that our possessions bring us happiness or that more money will bring more contentment. It’s ok to have things as long as the things don’t have you. Our money, possessions or where we live are not meant to define us. Our identity should be found in God.
In the “Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew 5, Jesus gave us the Beatitudes. Verse five says, “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” Jesus knew we would get caught up in the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. He knew that we would be tempted to forget that all we have is from Him.
He also knew that we would think that possessions would bring us happiness. I like the way that the Amplified version defines “blessed” in verse 5. It says, “Happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation regardless of their outward conditions.” When we learn to be content with who He made us to be and with the things He’s entrusted to us, we will receive all those things. We won’t have to rely on a neighborhood, car, job title or anything else to bring us happiness. We won’t have to keep up with the Joneses to define our worth.
In fact, Jesus said that regardless of our outward conditions we will find happiness and joy once we learn to be content. Paul said in Philippians 4:11 that he learned how to be content with whatever he had whether a little or a lot. God wants us to recognize that what we have is from Him so we need to learn to be content. We still need to work hard and be faithful with what He’s given us. When we show Him we can do that, it opens the door for Him to give us more. If you’re looking for happiness today, don’t look to your possessions, look to God and be content with who you are.
Over the Thanksgiving break, I watched the video of the “Duck Dynasty” Robertson family giving their testimony on IAmSecond.org. Phil Robertson shared a story of reading Matthew 5:44 shortly after becoming a Christian. He couldn’t understand the logic in what Jesus was saying when He said, “Bless those that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” He shared a story of how “river rats” were stealing his fish. He trusted God, gave them the fish they were trying to steal and they quit stealing from him.
I read another article on yahoo.com recently where a young lady was pick pocketed in the grocery store. She had a strange feeling about a man who had followed her around the store. When he quit following her, she noticed her wallet was missing. She found him a few aisles over and decided to confront him. She said, “I think you have something of mine. I’m going to give you a choice. You can either give me my wallet and I’ll forgive you right now,and I’ll even take you to the front and pay for your groceries” or we can get the authorities involved. That’s not how I would have handled it, but it’s the way God says to.
The man broke down and cried. He was desperate to feed his family and didn’t know what else to do. Instead of retaliating like most of us would have, she paid for groceries for his family. In The Message, it quotes Jesus in Matthew 5:44 as saying, “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.” That’s hard to do. It’s unnatural to let someone who hurts you to bring out the best in you. Normally we retaliate evil for evil and allow their bad deed to give us an excuse to do something back. God says we aren’t to behave that way. He says we’re to do good to them and to show them His love.
If you skip down to verse 48 of the same chapter, Jesus finishes by saying, “In a word, what I’m saying is, ‘Grow up.’ You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Those last few words get me every time. “The way God lives toward you” is how He wants me to live toward others. Each of us have wronged God and hurt Him. Each of us will continue to do so until we die. We’re imperfect. How we treat Him doesn’t change how He lives toward us. He still loves us no matter what we’ve done to Him. That’s how He he is telling us to be towards others who wrong us.
I’m sure, like me, you can think of the people who have wronged you or hurt you. I’m also sure you would like nothing more than to hurt them back or see them get paybacks. Paying back evil for evil or good for good is what’s expected. If you really want to do something memorable and life changing, do something good for them. If you want to live generously and graciously like God asked us to live, do the opposite of what your human nature wants you to do and repay them with love for pain they caused you. I know it’s easier said than done, but I can tell you it works and you’ll be happier for it.