The Simple Life
Paul achieved life’s stupendous simplification: “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). All progress in the spiritual life is movement toward that conclusion, moving from the many to the one; from the complexities and compulsions of this world to the conviction that few things are necessary, really only one.
This means that progress in the Christian life is not progress toward goodness (as I once thought), but progress toward loving God—moving toward the point at which we say with the Israel’s poet, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. As for me, the nearness of God is my good” (Psalms 73:25-27).
“Earth has nothing I desire besides you.” That perspective changes the way we look at everything. Suffering and adversity become the means by which we are made hungry and thirsty for God. Disappointments become the tools that wean us away from our earthly occupation and move us toward a preoccupation with God alone. Even sin, when repented of, becomes a mechanism to push us closer to him. All things, in fact, become useful when viewed as the means to our “chief end,” and our highest good—the nearness of God.
Like Paul, we will always say, “I have not yet obtained all this…” but we must press on to attain it (Philippians 3:12).
And do how do we “press on”? Not through teeth–clenched self–effort. Movement toward God is the result of two things alone: His steady attraction and our humble and self–forgetting response to Him. Like everything else in this life, the initiative begins with God. He seeks us to the end that we may seek him—forever.