Friday, March 15, 2024

Racing Toward Satisfaction - Martin Wiles

racing toward satisfaction
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

Only one time was he content.

As our second-oldest grandson finished his first year of Cub Scouts, the time for the annual Pinewood Derby arrived. I assumed I would help him build the car—many years before Dad and I had helped my son build one. As I recall, it didn’t perform so well. I hoped for better this time around. But I didn’t have to help my grandson after all.

Our daughter now had a fiancĂ© who spent a great deal of time with her two boys. He became the obvious choice for the task. I didn’t mind so much. After all, he knew more than I did about constructing the car, painting it, and aligning the proper weights. I let them enjoy the experience together. When my daughter texted pictures of their work in progress, I smiled. She had found someone to love her boys and our grandsons.

The big day finally arrived. My wife and I made our way to the church hosting the event—9:30 on a Saturday morning. I could have found other things to do, but our grandson needed our support. The scouts, their parents, and the scout leaders had gathered the night before to set up the aluminum track, weigh the cars, and test the cars. Everything was ready.

As race time approached, we could feel the anxiety in the room. We took our seats on the front row and waited nervously for the beginning of the race. The scout leader explained the rules. Twelve scouts had entered. Each car would race six times against different competitors. Our grandson, who typically ran around, sat still and waited for the leader to call number five—his number. He even watched closely as his friends’ car raced, picking one of the two he wanted to win.

Each of the six times, the leader called car number five, my grandson rose to his knees and looked intently as his car pummeled down the track’s steep hill and launched toward the finish line. He also gazed at the digital machine that told which car came in first and which came in second. Like his mom, he’s competitive. If his car won—and it did twice—he raised his arms in the air and whispered, “Yes.” When he lost, his countenance fell, and a touch of anger raced across his face. He only experienced satisfaction when his car won.

Paul had a rollercoaster life after God called him to serve as a missionary to the world. More down than up. Despite the challenges he faced—some life-threatening—he said he had learned to be content. Doing so took him a lifetime, but he mastered the art of satisfaction.

Almost everything in life teaches us not to be satisfied until we meet certain conditions. I must have power, possessions, pleasure, and relationships. And they must contain specific levels or characteristics. If not, I must keep pursuing until they do.

One-time presidential candidate Ross Perot said, “I’ll never be satisfied, that’s my nature. If everybody pronounces it a Swiss watch that keeps time to a thousandth of a second, I’ll be saying-well, how do we make it keep time to another thousandth of a second? That’s just my nature.”

We learn satisfaction by experience. As I get things, I eventually discover I crave more or different things. They tear up, break down, get stolen or misplaced, or don’t bring the joy they did when I first got them.

The pleasure that came with power when I first received it dims over time. I remember how I felt the first time I landed a supervisor position. My head swelled, my shoulders arched, my back straightened, and my attitude changed. However, after a few months, I discovered that many headaches accompanied the power. What I thought would satisfy didn’t.

And how much have I spent on play toys? Not as much as some, but enough to take me into debt more times than I care to remember. As when I was a child receiving new gifts, the newness wore off after a while. I tossed them, sold them, gave them away—and bought more.

Satisfaction is a state of mind—a perspective we choose. Paul discovered satisfaction did not depend on his circumstances or what he had or didn’t have. Satisfaction depended on whom he knew. Before knowing Christ, he knew religion. He had been trained in the most prestigious schools. But all that disappointed him. Only knowing Christ and serving Him satisfied.

We can’t attain this level of satisfaction on our own. Without God’s help, we’ll keep running after the wrong things and throw our hands up in disgust every time our car doesn’t win the race or we see a car that looks better than ours.

With God’s help, however, we can learn what Paul did: contentment comes with knowing someone. When this is in place, we’ll enjoy all aspects of life. Whatever comes our way, we’ll know it originated from God—and He loves us and gives us only what is best.

Let God teach you the art of satisfaction.

Father, I look to You to find the true satisfaction I seek. 

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