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What Matters Most

Millions of people have bought into the devil's big lie that contentment is a matter of position in life rather than disposition about life; that happiness depends more on what we hold in our hands than what we hold in our hearts; that satisfaction can be found in tweaking and changing someone or something on the outside of us instead of dealing with what goes on inside our own hearts. But it won't work. It's like the man who told his friend, "My wife got a terrific new mud pack treatment on her face at the beauty parlor last week." The friend asked, "Did it work well?" The man said, "She was gorgeous for three days — then the mud fell off." The problem with looking for complete happiness and ultimate satisfaction in external circumstances is that even if they do change, it's the same old us underneath.

First Corinthians 7:17-24 reminds us that what matters most in life is not our physical circumstances but our spiritual attitude and relationship with God. The first sixteen verses of the chapter reveal some were dissatisfied with their marital status. Some were single but wondering if the married life wouldn't be better, while others who were married seemed to be thinking it would be better if they were single. After thoroughly discussing these situations and giving inspired directions to their questions, Paul then addresses other possible sources of dissatisfaction among Christians at Corinth in order to demonstrate that their happiness in life and their status before God and service to Him were not dependent on changing physical circumstances or people around them. Those who had been circumcised need not fret or worry that if they could just be uncircumcised, life would be better. And the uncircumcised need not stress and obsess that if they could be circumcised, then they would have higher status and be more satisfied. Slaves are encouraged to gain freedom if they can (vs 2b), but Paul assures them freedom from slavery is not necessary in order to be free from sin. They could live faithful and meaningful lives even while enslaved. Therefore, Paul advises, "Do not be concerned about it" (vs 21a). That is, don't invest too much energy worrying about it. In each of these situations, people thought the real key to happiness and satisfaction was to be found in changing something other than themselves. Paul flatly disagreed and argues that difficult circumstances in life are no excuse for not serving God or experiencing abundant life in Christ. He writes, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters (vs 19b)." At the end of the day, what matters most is not whether or not we get the perfect body or perfect mate or perfect house or perfect health or perfect car or perfect job or perfect retirement package where we work. We can serve God and live a meaningful life in Christ right where we are. While it's okay to ask God to alter difficult circumstances and people in our lives, what matters most is to obey God and allow Him to alter us, even if our circumstances in life never change.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ