According to Forbes magazine, Allen Stanford is developing an exclusive island somewhere in the Caribbean. Called the “Island Club,” it will provide parking for 100 private jets, and its marina can accommodate 30 giant yachts. The annual membership fee is 15 million dollars!
Before you envy the people who will build their mansions there, consider the wisdom of Ray Hicks. For years he was the star of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He told stories at the Smithsonian. He received awards from the North Carolina Folklore Society and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. He turned down trips to England and offers from the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” He continued to live in his remote mountain home-a house without modern conveniences. He said, “I see’d what money done to others. I don’t want much. I just want enough to do me.” His grammar may have been off center, but his philosophy was dead center.
That philosophy was also expressed by a young lady who said to her pastor, “I’m afraid of money. I saw what it did to my parents, and I am afraid of it.” Certainly it was best expressed by the apostle Paul when he wrote: “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” (Philippians 4:12, NIV).

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Have you heard the story of the king who never found happiness? All the musicians and court jesters could not bring him the needed lift. A wise man told the king that he needed to wear the shirt of a truly happy man. The king went from village to village and he heard of a man who was known as being truly happy. He searched far and wide for this man so he could wear the man’s shirt and find true happiness. There was only one problem. When the king found the man, he discovered he had no shirt.

-Michael Shannon, Preaching January/February 2003

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Two little teardrops
were floating down the river of life. One teardrop asked the other, “Who
are you?” The second teardrop replied, “I am a teardrop from a girl
who loved a man and lost him. But who are you?” The first teardrop replied,
“I am a teardrop from the girl who got him.”

That’s the way life goes, isn’t it? We cry over what we don’t have not realizing
we might have cried twice as hard had we gotten it. One of the reasons the apostle
Paul lived a life characterized by such joy and gratitude was because he had
learned the secret of being content. He was thankful for what he had and not
sorry about what he didn’t have (Philippians 4:12).

 – Turning Point Daily Devotional
8-11-03

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Former UCLA Coach John Wooden learned a lot about life from his many years as a basketball coach.

He had seen Phil Woolpert win back-to-back national championships at San Francisco in 1955 and ’56 and then struggle in the crucible of trying to keep winning. Then he saw Ed Jucker also win two in a row at Cincinnati in ’61 and ’62, only to leave coaching because of similar pressure. That’s when he resolved never to exult unduly in victory or to languish in defeat. “One’s life,” he says, “should be the same.”

-Sports Illustrated, April 3, 1989

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Edith Schaeffer once observed, “It is so important not to waste what is precious by spending all one’s time and emotion on fretting or complaining over what one does not have.”

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Acres of Diamonds

Many people are not content with the work they are doing because the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. They are dissatisfied even when their circumstances are favorable. Instead of doing their duty cheerfully and conscientiously as unto the Lord, they yield to a spirit of covetousness. As a result, they miss God’s best for their lives and fail to see the blessings they already have.

An ancient Persian legend tells of a wealthy man by the name of Al Haffed who owned a large farm. One evening a visitor related to him talks of fabulous amounts of diamonds that could be found in other parts of the world, and of the great riches they could bring him. The vision of all this wealth made him feel poor by comparison. So instead of caring for his own prosperous farm, he sold it and set out to find these treasures. But the search proved to be fruitless. Finally, penniless and in despair, he committed suicide by jumping into the sea. Meanwhile, the man who had purchased his farm noticed one day the glint of an unusual stone in a shallow stream on the property. He reached into the water and to his amazement he pulled out a huge diamond. Later when working in his garden, he uncovered many more valuable gems. Poor Al Haffed had spent his life traveling to distant lands seeking jewels when on the farm he had left behind were all the precious stones his heart could have ever desired.

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In 1991 writer Rick Bragg published an article in the St. Petersburg Times
(Florida) newspaper about Miami’s homeless. He interviewed a group that lived
under the Interstate 395 overpass. They lived in makeshift shelters formed from
cardboard boxes and put their mattresses on the dusty ground. They were fed and
clothed by downtown shelters. They bathed in a sprinkler system intended to
water the grass. One man was interviewed who had been homeless for a long time.
What he said was very instructive. He said, “You become satisfied having
just this much.” All he had was a mattress and a cardboard box!

All of us know people with two homes, two cars and two bank accounts who are
not at all satisfied. Contentment must be a state of mind. The apostle Paul
said that he could be content with much or with nothing (Philippians 4:11-12). It did
not come naturally to him. He said that he learned it. We all know the Teacher
from whom the apostle learned that lesson of contentment.

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Among the paintings at a Vermeer exhibit in London was one by Van Ostade that
belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a painting of the interior of a peasant’s
cottage. Imagine! The Queen in the splendor of Buckingham Palace sits and looks
at a painting of a peasant’s cottage! Maybe we all wonder how the “other
half” of the world lives. Maybe it’s like the question in the song from a
Broadway show, “I wonder what the common folk are doing tonight.” Or
does it reflect some discontentment with royal life; some secret thought that
one might have been happier as a peasant than as a princess? Whether in a
cottage or a palace, we must learn to be content with life as we experience it,
and to thank God for the blessings that are ours, both large and small.

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A woman confessed that she struggled with envy of her affluent sister, but she
was able to put it into proper perspective after one visit.

She and her son were visiting the sister in Dallas, where the sister resided in
a palatial estate with eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and a large swimming
pool. The boy was swimming in the giant pool while the sisters sat at
pool-side. He swam up to his aunt and proclaimed, “When I get home, I’m
going to swim in our pool. We have a pool like this in the backyard.” Then
he added, “All we have to do is get daddy to blow it up and put water in
it!”

Children have a way of helping us put things in perspective. Rather than
clinging to envy, we can recognize what we already have as being special. True
satisfaction in this life comes not from getting something bigger and better,
but from learning to enjoy what we already have.

______________________
Illustration by:  Merle Mees, Western Hills
Baptist Church, Topeka, KS

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