The Exchange – From Striving to Satisfied

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series: “The Exchange.”  

You can watch the message I shared at the Gateway North campus here:

Here are some resources for the series:

From Death to Life (message notes and audio/video) – Next Steps and Leader’s Guide
(What’s Next If I Want To Follow Jesus?)

From Despair to Hope (message notes and audio/video) – Next Steps and Leader’s Guide

From Lonely to Never Alone (message notes and audio/video) – Next Steps and Leader’s Guide

From Striving to Satisfied (message notes and audio/video) – Next Steps and Leader’s Guide

From Guilty to Blameless (message notes and audio/video) – Next Steps and Leader’s Guide

From Powerless to Empowered (message notes and audio/video) – Next Steps

Here are some of the thoughts I shared:

Sometimes we pursue the wrong things.
  • We pursue money rather than our calling.
  • We pursue security rather than the adventure God has for us.
  • We pursue selfish pleasure rather than making the world a better place.

To make matters worse, even when we do pursue the right things, we drift from one extreme to another. Either we give up too soon. We stop trying. We are overwhelmed with the challenges that we face trying to make our dream come true and we give up before we get there. Or on the other extreme, we allow our pursuit of something good to consume us in an unhealthy way.

Deep inside we want a better life.

  • We want to be a better person.
  • We want to get healthier.
  • We want better relationships.
  • We long for more.

But too often in our pursuit of more we sacrifice more than we should and end up hurting ourselves or even others along the way.

God offers us the opportunity to exchange striving for satisfaction.

So today, we are going to talk about how satisfaction begins, what satisfaction does not mean, and how satisfaction can become a regular part of our lives.

1. Satisfaction begins with God at the center of our life.

To help us make this exchange from striving to satisfaction, I want to read one of the verses we looked at last week, a verse that was critical for us to be able to experience God’s loving presence in a world crowded with lonely people.

In Psalm 46:10, God says: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Last week, John reminded us that this is the answer to our loneliness – to realize that God is with us.

This word “Know” does not simply mean “believe it in your head” but it means we can know Him from “experiencing His presence.”

You may not yet believe in God, but God believes in you!

Another version of this exact same verse says:

Psalm 46:10 – “Cease striving and know that I am God…”

To “be still” means to “cease striving.”

Some of us fail to experience God’s presence and God’s peace and contentment because we never slow down long enough. We keep moving, working, helping, striving….

The word “striving” means “struggling, fighting forcefully, exerting effort and energy.”

Some of us may have started off doing the right things for all of the right reasons, but now the means have become the end.

  • Our ambitions have become selfish.
  • Our pursuit of good has turned to greed.
  • Our desire for something more has been fueled by envy.

How many times in our life do we need to burn out physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually before realizing that our frenetic, anxious, and selfish striving will never pay off?

So I have some good news for us and some bad news for us.

  • The bad news is: you cannot earn God’s love.
  • The good news is: you do not have to earn God’s love.

One of the most important things for you and I to realize is this:

  • God already loves you.
  • Just as you are right now.
  • You are loved.
  • Unconditionally loved.
  • You are loved because of who you are not what you do.

We don’t like this because we don’t want to owe anyone anything. We want people to owe us! We want to earn what we get.

With God – everything is upside down from the ways of this broken world. God loves us, and we change how we live our lives as an act of gratitude. Because of His love for us, we are motivated to do the right things.

So which one of these are you?

  • The rebellious say: “I don’t want God’s help.”
  • The religious say: “I don’t need God’s help.”
  • The wise say: “I want and need God’s help.”

What we are trying to earn and struggle to achieve on our own are just shadows of what God offers us freely by knowing – experientially knowing Him.

Feeling God’s peace is impossible without God. We may have felt a glimpse of peace, but God’s peace transcends all understanding.

Check out this word of wisdom from the Proverbs:

Proverbs 19:23 AMP
The reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it rests satisfied; he cannot be visited with actual evil.

When we place our relationship with God at the center of our life, our soul comes alive, and we can better love the people in our life. We can be more effective and productive in our work. We can make a more lasting impact in our world.

Fearing God above all else, trusting God above all else allows us to rest satisfied. There is no need to fear anyone or anything because our lives our in God’s hands!

Now, let me be clear – living an upstanding and moral life does not lead to a life without problems. As a stark example, Jesus lived a noble, virtuous, and perfect life. He healed the sick, cared for the poor, and taught with authority. What was the end result for all of His good works? Jesus was tortured, crucified, and killed.

When God is at the center of life, it does not mean we aren’t victims of evil in our broken world. It means we are not overcome by evil. Evil may come after us, harm us, and even kill us, but evil cannot touch our soul!

This leads to what satisfaction is not.

2. Satisfaction is not dependent on circumstances.

As a result of his travels and his efforts to bring the message of God’s love to the world, Paul was often persecuted and imprisoned. In spite of the troubles he faced. Paul wrote to the churches about joy and contentment and satisfaction regardless of one’s circumstances.

One of the most famous verses written by Paul is Philippians 4:13. While Paul was in prison he wrote these words:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Often that verse is misapplied. We hear that verse used in the same way we hear pop stars and celebrities say: “You can do anything as long as you believe! Never give up on your dreams!”

I grew up believing that! Did you?

I dreamed of playing basketball for the Dallas Mavericks as a kid. So what went wrong? This is a multiple choice question.

Why didn’t I become an NBA star for the Dallas Mavericks?
A.   I did not believe enough.
B.   I gave up too soon.
C.   I’m a 5’8” white guy who cannot jump very high.

If you aren’t sure of the answer to that one, it is option C.

Some of us are pursuing dreams not meant for us. When this is the case, we will never be satisfied.

We cannot do anything we want as long as we believe!

Instead, we can find satisfaction as we discover God’s design for our lives and pursue Him and His dream for our lives. By the way, His dream for us is far better than what we could ever ask or imagine!

[To discover your calling, check out A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be].

When you read that verse in its context, a very important and profound picture emerges.

Paul in prison writes these words in Philippians 4:10-13:

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me…. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Paul is in prison and his friends from the church in Philippi sent a friend to encourage him. Paul says to them: “There are times when I had a lot, and there are times when I have had very little. In either case, with Christ’s strength I can be content. I can be satisfied regardless of my circumstances.”

Does that describe your faith?

Or when things don’t go your way, do you find yourself anxious or angry or easily annoyed or easily frustrated? When others let you down, do you isolate from community or even start to doubt God?

Only our Creator can give us the deep sense of love, peace, and hope that we so desperately need.

Our lack of satisfaction can lead us towards destructive choices. I have seen this too many times. We look to people to meet our deepest needs which they will never be able to meet.

Or we look to our career or our homes or what we own. Did you know that if you make $50,000 or more that means you make more than 99.7% of the rest of the planet? We are the richest people on the planet, and yet we struggle to feel satisfied. We just cannot seem to stop wanting more.

Just as we can be discontent with a little or a lot, we can be content regardless of circumstances.

Circumstances do not determine whether or not we feel satisfied. We do. And with God’s help, we can.

3. Being satisfied does not mean we stop making progress.

Being satisfied does not mean we don’t keep moving forward.

God loves us and gives us peace, and out of gratitude we share His ambition to make the world a better place.

In that, we long for more. We feel God is calling us to start a company or move to a different neighborhood or become more involved in serving.

How can we tell if our longing for something more is rooted in an unhealthy discontent or a holy discontent?

We can know if these longings are good if they are rooted in God’s heart for us and for others.

When you feel like something needs to be done, ask yourself: Does God want this because it will make the world or the lives of others’ better OR do I want this because it will make my life better or my life look better?

A holy discontent is a God-given yearning.

Discontent that is not holy is rooted in pride, greed, envy, and selfishness. We need to be careful that we do not spiritualize our negative attitude. We need to check ourselves by weighing our feelings and thoughts with the Scriptures and godly counsel.

God calls us to follow Him and that includes growing, serving, and making progress.

A promise from God requires from us two things: proactivity and patience.

While we do all that we can do, we can have peace while we wait for what God promised He would do.

If you are in a difficult season in your marriage, pray AND pursue counseling. Pray AND ask your spouse out on a date – get some time alone with just the two of you to rekindle your feelings for each other.

If you are in a financial bind, pray AND be proactive. Get a new job or spend less or both and get some help. Set up a one-on-one meeting with our financial coach Mark Fantacone at FinancialCoaching@gatewaychurch.com or go to one of our Financial Peace University courses or both!

Choose to live by this mantra: Don’t complain about something you aren’t willing to do anything about!

We need to take personal responsibility for where we are in life AND be willing to make the sacrifices God asks of us to get where He wants us to be.

Even still, we can experience God’s peace and contentment where we are now even as we work towards what He has for us.

A prophet named Zechariah reminds us of the proper relationship between our satisfaction and making progress – trusting God AND doing our part.

In Zechariah 4:6-9 (NIV), he reminds us that God does His part in a message to the Governor named Zerubbabel:

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

The Message version of Zechariah 4:6 puts it this ways: ‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit.’

In Zechariah 4:8-9, he reminds us that we have to do our part:

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.

In other words, Zerubbabel you could not have ever opened the doors to do what God is now doing, but now that the doors are open you have to walk through it and do the work with your hands.

In our lives, there are things only God can do for us, and there are things that only we can do. No matter where we are in that journey, we can live with a sense of peace and satisfaction.

We can enjoy now AND pursue what God has for us. 

Any time we slip into: once I have this then I can be satisfied or once I accomplish this then I can be satisfied. We have missed what God offers us. We can be satisfied when our lives are centered on Him. Satisfaction is not dependent on our circumstances. Satisfaction does not mean we stop making progress. When we slip out of that sense of satisfaction and start finding ourselves striving again, there is a powerful and simple step back into the right place.

4. Being satisfied continues with gratitude.

In a letter to the church he started in Colossae, Paul wrote about the power of shifting our perspective from greedy to grateful.

He writes in Colossians 2:6-7

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and establishedin your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowingwith gratitude.

Later in the same letter he writes:

Colossians 4:2 (Message)
Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.

Are your eyes wide open in gratitude? Can you see all the gifts you’ve been given? Are you even aware of how blessed and how fortunate you are?

One of my mentors, Erwin McManus defines gratitude with this statement:

“Gratitude means being thankful for what you have and not mad about what you don’t have.”

Are you thankful for all that you have?

Are you upset about what you do not yet have?

If you lack gratitude, you will struggle to feel satisfied in life, and you will default into an exhausting lifestyle of striving.

Everything good thing in this life we have is a gift from God. Even if we earned it, He gave us the strength and the opportunity do our part.

Today, start The Gratitude Challenge:

For 7 days post 7 things for which you are grateful
On your Facebook page
#Grateful

Let gratitude get you back to where you were designed to be – experiencing God’s peace satisfied in life.

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