By Benjamin C Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship Ministries
Summary: God’s presence transforms our values and priorities, and holy simplicity becomes God’s answer for the pressures and pace of contemporary life.
A choice. Tom and Cheryl are struggling. After twenty years on the fast track of professional careers, they are strained and stressed. They face a choice—do they continue their treadmill existence or do they take the opportunity to downsize and move to a country community with the promise of a simpler lifestyle?
Simplicity! The very word rings with appeal. Trapped in a world where life’s mad rush and slavery to the material dominate our agendas and control our energies, we long for something different. Finding a simpler way appeals to our confusion and seems to promise a solution to our frenetic frustration. Many are reacting to pressure and are turning to a simpler lifestyle. Is this what we mean by simplicity? Is this the solution to the challenges of a materialistic, secular culture? Surely not!
It all narrows down to the simple choice of lust versus trust—lust for material possessions and contemporary values, versus trust in God and what is His. Simplicity is not merely an exercise in self-control or restraint. It is not limiting possessions or choosing to live a simpler life, for all of this can be done from self-centered motives and selfish values. ?Simplicity is a choice to follow God and allow Him to rule.?
Simplicity is the assimilation of key lordship principles into how we think and live. Let’s explore simplicity in the context of our relationship with God. Simplicity is easier to describe than to define. It is a complex external expression of an internal reality. It begins in the heart, and, at the same time, builds our walk with God. True simplicity cannot come about without focusing on the heart on God. Living out simplicity in our everyday life through values and choices also strengthens our walk with God as we allow Him to be the priority focus of our lives. It means putting God first in response to His invitation (Mt 6:33). It means leaving our anxiety and worry behind. ?Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything . . . present your requests to God? (Php 4:6).
Simplicity is not a biblical call to escape from today’s pressures. It is a call to move toward God. It is an extension of authentic Christianity as our focus on God replaces other passions and idols in our lives. The words of the classic hymn are just as true today:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
A call to worship. Simplicity is a call to worship God. It begins with acknowledging Him as Owner, Redeemer, Creator and Sustainer. It means offering ourselves to Him as living sacrifices (Rm 12:1). It means not allowing the world to shape and control us, but allowing Him to transform us, beginning with our minds or hearts (Rm 12:2). We begin by accepting our identity in Christ. God rescues us from sin and leads us into an intimate partnership with Him. Every day by faith we accept the presence of His Spirit in our lives (Gal 3:14). Simplicity becomes a lifestyle as we walk in the Spirit. And by His Spirit, the presence of Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph 3:16-17). He is the primary force guiding and empowering our lives (Php 2:12-13).
Oswald Chambers writes: ?Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly until a long time passes, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think through spiritual confusion to make things clear; to make things clear, you must obey. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will only think yourself into further wandering thoughts and more confusion. If there is something in your life upon which God has put His pressure, then obey Him in that matter. Bring all your ?arguments and . . . every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ regarding the matter, and everything will become as clear as daylight to you (2 Cor 10:5). Your reasoning capacity will come later, but reasoning is not how we see. We see like children, and when we try to be wise we see nothing (see Mt 11:25).
?Even the very smallest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will still never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment. This is humiliating, because when we are confused we know that the reason lies in the state of our mind. But when our natural power of sight is de voted and submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the very power by which we perceive God’s will, and our entire life is kept in simplicity.? (My Utmost for His Highest, September 14 reading).
Simplicity becomes a discipline or choice. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, He invades the life and creates a new heart, a new mind. We are led into the discipline of putting God before material things and earthly priorities. Simplicity becomes the fruit of our walk with God and a method for integrating that walk into growing areas of life. We can now look at material possessions with new light. Surrounded by our relationship with God, we recognize that possessions are really His—we hold them in trust. As we manage His resources, we discover that material belongings are not intrinsically evil, and what we think we control ends up controlling us. We see that what we yield to God’s ownership and control becomes an instrument for His glory.
Celebration of goodness. We may grow in relationship to God to the point where simplicity becomes a celebration of His goodness—recognizing God’s hand in little or much. We can learn to say with Paul: ?I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 ever y situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength? (Php 4:11-13).
Biblical simplicity is an invitation to intimacy with God—focusing on Him in such a way so that our relationship with Him will be the controlling force of our lives. His presence transforms our values and priorities, and holy simplicity becomes God’s answer for the pressures and pace of contemporary life.