In 1901, Charles Wagner published his second book titled, “The Simple Life.” His first book was “The Better Way.” In “The Simple Life,” Wagner claims that once we get past all of the individual causes for the distractions in our life, the reality is that the one general cause of our complicated lives is this: “confusion of the secondary with the essential.” In other words, we who live complicated and distracted lives tend to make many things in our lives “essential,” though in truth they are not.  

This is true especially of material things, Wagner claims. But the truth is, the essential things in our lives are not material possessions, but rather, he says, our conscience, our character, and our will. Wagner was on to something then, but he just came up short at the end. His secular world view left out the most important thing of all, our spiritual life and our relationship with our God. 

Wagner goes on to say that, “(s)implicity is a state of mind” that “dwells in the main intention of our lives.” And that’s half right too. The cause of our complicated and distracted lives is because we confuse the main intention of our lives quite often. There is only one main intention, and that is to live for the glory of God. And yet we make many things our temporary gods in our lives, from money to fame to winning – all closely related to serving our self-will. But rather than being a “state of mind” matter, the main intention in our lives is a matter of the heart. And whether or not we’re willing to lead with our heart as we give our heart away to Christ. 

It’s as if Wagner wants to come to terms with the spiritual primacy of our lives on earth, but doesn’t quite know how to say it. Here’s how he puts it in his book: “At bottom, (simplicity) consists in putting our acts and aspirations in accordance with the law of our being, and consequently with the Eternal Intention which willed that we should be at all.” That’s the long and vague way of saying that the main intention in our lives is to live for God and God alone. Indeed, it’s what Jesus told us 2,000 years ago. You can see it on bumper stickers today: “Know Jesus, Know Peace; No Jesus, No Peace.” 

If you’re really interested in removing the complications and distractions in your life, and finding the simple way, it all starts with God, and your personal relationship with God. The reason that is, is because we find our peace when we find our true selves – when we become the person God created us to be, and turn that relationship into the “main intention” of our lives. Then we can find a way to simplify our life by minimizing the impact of all those false temporal gods that intrude so rudely into our lives, and to turn our will and our life over to God. Like Jesus tells us; Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added unto you – alleluia, alleluia! 

   Our American culture today is fascinated with the concept of “simplicity.” We crave a simple life, because we have made such a complicated and confusing, not to mention stressful, mess of our daily existence that we hunger for relief and meaning. And Wagner, and so many other writers and religious leaders and practitioners, know that the remedy for our malady is found within. Nothing that the world can give you will offer you the peace that God can give you. So, buying more and more _______ (you fill in the blank) will not result in what we seek the most. Indeed, more and more things lead ultimately to more and more distractions in our life. 

We can fill our drawers with more clothes (or socks, in my case!); we can fill our refrigerators with more food; we can fill our bank accounts with more money; we can fill our houses with more stuff; we can fill our garage (or garages!) with more cars; and we can even fill our storage spaces to the brim, and start looking for more storage space to rent, but that will never, ever take us to the promised land that God has prepared for us. Maybe you’ve heard this: The most important things in life are not things!

And so, we come to the point of this week’s article. If you really want to simplify your life, remove, or at least minimize, the complications and distractions, and find the inner peace of mind and heart that you know deep down you crave, then it’s time to come to terms with your spiritual life. 

In recent weeks. I have written 2 articles about the nature of the spiritual life and the key concepts involved in seeking to become a person of spiritual wisdom. Perhaps you have never considered yourself for the spiritual life. I hear that often. We tend to think that because we’ve never been told about, much less taught, the simple way of the spiritual life. The sad irony of this situation is that you, and everyone else, were created for the spiritual life first, and then the earthly and material life on earth would all fall into place. But without the spiritual life leading us, we eventually find ourselves buried under a mountain of complications and distractions. For some of us, we literally suffocate our true lives by putting all our focus on the false gods in our life, and making them all “main intentions” for us. No one can survive that weight!

On the other hand, God tells us that mountains can be moved, and that peace can be found, by seeking God first. You see, God created us all, and made each of us uniquely gifted to live an “abundant” life on earth. Not “abundant” in terms of many things, but “abundant” in terms of the authenticity and integrity of your life – which always begins and ends with your Creator. 

If you want to find the simple way … live the simple life … and come to know peace in your heart on a daily basis, then start with God. Don’t just put “God” on your “to do” list each day, or make church a priority, or occasionally read scripture – but make a personal and sincere effort with God to surrender your life away, each and every day, so that God can recreate your life in a way that you on your own could never do. 

Finding the simple life seems to have been a desire for human beings since the beginning of time. Even Adam and Eve chose to complicate their lives and become distracted from God by their own act of self will; desiring to be more of god themselves, rather than letting God continue to offer them a perfectly simple and peaceful life in the garden of paradise. And, of course, we all make the same mistake. (That’s why it’s a story of eternal and universal truth!) 

But there is good news in the midst of our struggle for peace. Jesus came to show us exactly and precisely how to live an abundantly good life … and it’s not about accumulating all the stuff we can. Rather, the good and simple life we all seek is found in the “way of Jesus.” God showed us the answer when Jesus came to show us how to live. Jesus lived in radical simplicity. He may have owned a few articles of clothing, and maybe some sandals, but all He really needed He trusted God for. Even for basic needs such as food and shelter. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t crave the new infomercial gadgets nor did He peruse Amazon in His free time to find something else to make Him feel better. 

Jesus kept it simple. He kept the main thing (God), the main thing. And He asks us to do the same; to make God the center of our lives, and to surrender our own will for the sake of His Father’s will. The peace we all crave, and think impossible, is right before us. Jesus is living with each us through the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it time to simply admit that, and to turn our lives toward God, and away from all the complications and distractions of the world? 

No … it’s not easy. And each one of us has our own challenges in doing this. So, each one of us must make and walk this path with Jesus alone. But so many have chosen to do this, and in so doing, have discovered that the peace that comes from God is the single most valuable part of their lives. 

It can be for you, too. It’s not impossible. It is hard. But, anything so cherished is always hard … and worth the effort. So, isn’t it time for you, too? Go ahead: give in, give up, and embrace the simple way of Jesus Christ.

Letting the Lord Lead!

Pastor Bob <><