As I begin to think about all the blessings God has given me in my lifetime, I am astonished at how spoiled I am by a God who is compassionate and gracious beyond measure. Yet, I am equally astonished at the fact that I am often calloused and immune to the magnitude of God’s blessing.
In April 2014, I traveled to Zambia on a mission trip to teach men about faith. It was an exhausting and yet exhilarating trip. I thought I would go and enlighten them to many of the things of God they had never been taught. Never did I expect that they would do so much to enlighten me to the power of thanksgiving and contentment.
Everywhere I went in this poverty-stricken country, men, women and children responded with tremendous thanksgiving. One of my friends who had traveled to Africa several times had often told me, “These people are the happiest, most contented people I have ever met.” I was skeptical due to the fact that they were so poor and needed so much.
One day as I was visiting a new friend, Pastor Boniface Moono in Livingstone, Zambia, I was privileged to be invited into his small, humble home. As we entered, there was a bucket on the counter that held two fish. Boniface was beyond excited that God had provided such a bountiful meal for him, his wife and their two small boys. “We seldom get to eat meat or fish,” he said.
Then he did something rather unthinkable. He offered to share them with me and my party.
I learned many things that day from my new friend. I learned that contentment and thanksgiving are powerful attributes that have the power to crush selfishness and personal ambition. I also learned that contentment seldom has anything to do with how much you have or don’t have. Rather, it has everything to do with your attitude about what you have and your understanding of God as your provider.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul writes, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
This year as I enter into late November and December, I am committing myself to, in the words of Paul, “learn how to be content.”
One might ask, “How practically can you learn to be content?” In Romans 12:2 (NLT), we find what I believe is the practical answer to this question:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Perhaps the answer to contentment comes as we take a stand against the customs of this world and invite God to transform our thinking.
What if we began to think and act upon a new paradigm? What if instead of thinking of all that we have as belonging to us, we began to practice the Biblical principle of stewardship and acted upon the principle that everything we have belongs to God.
He has certainly blessed us. If you read the Parable of the Talents, there is much to learn about managing the abundant blessings God has poured out upon us.
The old paradigm revolves around the idea that we need more and more to be content and happy. This new paradigm is founded upon the concept of generosity and faith. People of faith can live with confident assurance that God is and will provide for them. Therefore, we are free to live generously, and in so doing, we can bless others. After all, Scripture promises that God will provide for all our needs according to his riches.
This year, let us act upon this knowledge and live generously for the betterment of our community. Let me close with 10 suggestions for you and your family to invest in as an act of selfless living:
1) Register to ring a bell for The Salvation Army. Register by going online to registertoring.com/WebPages/Default.aspx
2) Make a donation of time or money to Love INC (loveinc-ghc.org or 317-468-6300).
3) Plan to support the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen’s Christmas Eve Event. For more information, call 317-462-9900.
4) Volunteer to take your family to one of the many nursing home facilities in Hancock County and visit someone who might not receive any visits during this season. Most residents love someone to read to them.
5) Visit a local food pantry ministry and donate food items or an hour of your time.
6) Help with the 40,000 Pounds of Giving Love Food Drive by helping load and unload trucks at Kroger in Greenfield from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 5.
7) Make a donation to your local place of worship and ask that your gift might be used to help those in our community who are in need.
8) Go online and choose to purchase a generous gift for a people group in the world that is in desperate need. A couple of examples might include purchasing a pig for a village in Ghana or helping provide clean water for a village in a war-torn nation. Visit samaritanspurse.org or heifer.org/catalog for more information.
9) Choose a family in your community who has had to deal with a life challenge and invest in them by baking something to simply show that someone cares.
10) Offer to shovel snow for an aged neighbor or single mother this winter.
The opportunities are endless. Let us show our thanksgiving by living generously.
Mark Adcock is pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Fortville. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.