Jim and Betty illustrate the futility of seeking contentment through financial success and accomplishments.
Jim is a big, strong, brilliant, talented man. His wife is an energetic, personable, competent lady.
He moved from extreme poverty as a child to reach a boyhood dream of owning his own business and becoming financially independent.
JUST A MODEST BUSINESS…
They lived in California, not far from Yosemite National Park, and started renting trailers to people who wanted to haul their camping gear up the mountain.
It was a family business. Together, Jim and Betty installed hitches on the back bumpers of cars, hooked up trailers, and watched families happily head for Yosemite. The playground for their small children was the trailer lot, which was also the front yard of their house.
Their customers began asking if an ice box couldn’t be installed in their trailers. Then they wanted an ice box and a cupboard. Then a tent trailer. Every change added weight to the trailers until they were so heavy the cars heated up when they pulled them up the mountain.
If only he could eliminate the car. Jim was a dreamer, an innovator, a pioneer. He started working on plans to produce a motor home that could be sold for half the price of current models.
For fourteen years, Jim poured his entire life into the challenge of developing a motor-driven recreational vehicle. A company agreed to produce it, and quickly this motor-home company was out producing and outselling all the competitors in the U.S.
Jim’s dream was coming true. An industry changing concept–a success story.
And…at the center of the dream was the main fact: financial success.
Jim and Betty were not people with only a dollar in mind.
One employee needed an operation and they paid the bill. They helped several employees with down payments on their homes.
Another employee was confined to a wheelchair, but Jim hired him to wait on customers.
“He was a capable person, so why not?” Jim told me. “His appearance might have cost us a few sales, but his personality and efficiency gained us others.”
Jim even arranged to have a special room built onto this man’s house, designed to make life as comfortable as possible for him.
So, Jim was a nice guy, wasn’t he? He was pleased because his idea made a contribution to making life more pleasant for American families. How often does a person have a chance to make that kind of contribution to our nation’s main unit–the family?
He ultimately walked away from the effort with several million dollars.
He’d done it.
Now he could take it easy the rest of his life. It was just a matter of picking the place to retire.
Jim and Betty’s search ended when they chose a plush condominium on one of Florida’s choicest oceanfront sites. ”
All my life I figured contentment would come when I reached this level in life,” he said. “Now I could almost taste it.”
“LET’S GO TO NASSAU FOR A HAMBURGER”
Jim and his family arrived in Florida–ready to enjoy life fully. They accumulated the obligatory Cadillac, a fishing boat, a twin-engine plane.
So, Jim started into the good life. One day he would play golf. The next morning, walk the beach. Then jump in the plane and fly over to Nassau for a hamburger. Then come back and play tennis.
There was scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing for the big ones.
If Jim and his family got bored with southern Florida, they could whip back to California to Betty’s parents’ home (all 5,000 square feet of it) nestled on twenty acres, replete with fruit trees.
While they were there, the family could use their five dirt motorbikes and go hill climbing.
If the U.S. didn’t present enough excitement, they could take off for Mexico… Alaska…South America…Europe…the world. And they did.
Quite a change of life for a boy who was born at the tail end of the Depression and didn’t have enough money to even buy shoes for school.
He’d made it. And big.
Or had he?
“No. I hadn’t. I had expected contentment to come with a better job…more money…the ultimate life. But after a few months of nonstop golf, tennis, and walking the beach, I found it wasn’t true.
“I was completely empty.”
You don’t believe it, do you? “Aw, come on,” is what you’re saying to yourself. Right? How could Jim and Betty have an empty life with all those advantages?
But, it’s true.
Even though Jim was an American success story and Mr. Nice Guy when it came to consideration for his fellow man…still, he was empty.
Isn’t it strange? After fourteen years of hard work–intent upon reaching a goal, doing good things for fellow men along the way–he was now free to do anything his heart desired. And what did he find?
Betty was by his side all the way. She, too, had the rug pulled out from under her. Many of her hopes for her family turned to ashes. There were strained relations between her and Jim.
I have walked along the beautiful Florida beaches with Betty and Jim, listening to their story of emptiness and hopelessness.
What, or where, is the key to contentment? For Betty and Jim, hard work, success, and wealth had led to an empty pot at the end of the rainbow.
ANOTHER HAPPY ENDING…
There is a happy ending.
They came to realize that enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, and dissension were robbing them of the good life they had worked so hard to find.
The simple solution that worked for Molly and Allan also worked for them–-confession, repentance, receiving forgiveness and cleansing, and also allowing God to strengthen them day by day.
The change in their lives has been incredible.
The husband-wife tension has slipped away. Family problems continue but no longer tear up their world. They don’t have to travel around the world to find contentment. They discovered the basic truth that contentment isn’t dependent on people or circumstances.
It comes from a person’s relationship with God.
Let the apostle Paul say it:
But though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
If they continue to turn Godward for the qualities that only God can give–-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, they will become two indestructibles.
- Where do “deeds of the flesh” come from?
- One who is mistreated tends to be preoccupied with _____________________ _______________________________________________, but tends to justify ___________________________________________________.
- What is contentment dependent upon? What is it not dependent upon?
- Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are qualities that only ___________ can give.
- Take a moment to reflect on your own life. Are you experiencing contentment in God and displaying the fruit of the Spirit, or are you seeing the “deeds of the flesh” exhibited in your behavior when things don’t go your way?
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Continue on to Lesson 3.