A Life of Simplicity
Based on a sermon by Derren
Liang—San Jose, California, USA
The dream of owning a house, a
car, and living in luxury puts many of us on a time-consuming chase after
material things. But somewhere in the process of these pursuits, sooner or
later, we will come to a rude awakening that this dream is more like a
nightmare, taking with it our peace.
As much as we live in the luxury
of technological advances that are supposed to help streamline our lives, we
still do not have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. If fact,
we are doing more. High-speed Internet, teleconferencing, and smart phones
notwithstanding, we still work long hours and have little leisure time.
Despite the standard of a
forty-hour workweek, many people routinely spend fifty or sixty hours at the
office. Add to this a family and spiritual life, and it is no wonder that
people feel overwhelmed.
The question is whether there is
anything we can do to make our complex lives simpler. While we still have to
work to make a living for ourselves, there must be a way for us to get off the
worldly track and get back on the spiritual track.
To regain our peace and
reestablish a joyful life, we need to go back to the Bible and learn from God’s
servants—the people He chose to carry out His work and were trained to lead
complex yet simple lives that were wholly devoted and dedicated to Him.
FOCUS ON GOD
Take our first example, Moses. His
was a complicated life. Growing up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, he lived
in the palace and enjoyed all the available luxuries and pleasures. For forty
years, he was treated to all the best in food, clothes, entertainment, and
education. His status and wealth filled his life with possessions and
But Moses did not value his life
of luxury and was instead set on rescuing his Hebrew peers from slavery in
Egypt. Hebrews 11:24, 25 tells us:
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused
to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer
affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,
esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.
God was willing to use Moses, but
his training and service did not happen when he was a prince living in the
palace. In order for Moses to be able to serve wholeheartedly, God trained him
for forty years as a shepherd in the wilderness. During this time, he had
nothing—no status, no possessions, and no money. Everything he had in Egypt was
stripped away so that his heart could be unobstructed in reconnecting with God.
When Moses became the leader of the
Israelites, he began a new chapter that was filled with another forty years of
complications. He was entrusted with leading the Israelites and was in charge
of every aspect of their lives. This is a responsibility hard for us to
Even with all these complications,
Moses managed to live a simple life and keep his focus on God. He knew how
important it was to keep drawing strength, direction, and fulfillment from God
and often entered the tabernacle to talk to God face to face (Ex 33:8-11).
With a heart trained by God to
focus on the right things, Moses was able to lead the Israelites without
becoming overwhelmed. For us to survive in this complicated world, we need to
have the same focus. We need to learn how to lead a simple life despite the
By pursuing the kingdom and
righteousness of God, we renew our lives and change its direction. Then we will
no longer be self-centered and lost in our worldly responsibilities; instead,
we will have a simple heart that does not lose strength.
HAVE FAITH IN GOD
As a prophet in the idolatrous
Northern Kingdom, Elijah’s task to renew the faith of the Israelites was
daunting. To prepare him for the difficulties he would face, God caused him to
live by the Brook Cherith.
There Elijah had to focus on God
because there was no way for him to find food. He had to place his hope in
God’s promise: “And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have
commanded the ravens to feed you there” (1 Kgs 17:4).
The ravens brought Elijah food
twice a day by God’s command. In this exercise of faith, Elijah needed to have
complete faith and reliance in God, believing that, since God put him there, He
would take care of him. It was essential that his trust in God remained strong
so he would be able to face the king and bring the Israelites back to God.
When the water in the brook dried
up, God told Elijah to go to Zarephath, where a widow
would provide for him. The test of his faith, whether he could rely on God to
live a simple life, wasn’t finished yet.
Elijah had nothing—no money or
food—only the clothes on his back. He had to do whatever God told him to do
just to survive. He had to trust that God would provide, even though the widow
had only enough oil and flour for one small cake.
With no room for doubt or
despair, Elijah demonstrated great faith, asking the widow to make a cake for
him first. With this absolute faith and reliance on God, the flour and oil
never ran out.
When life is stripped down to
its bare essentials, when we have nothing and must trust in God to provide for
all our needs, we can see whether we have the focus and hope it takes to have
complete faith in God. Elijah was able to focus on God during this time with simple
faith, and it gave him the strength and training he would need to carry on in
his difficult work.
But we don’t often rely on God
the same way. We worry too much over the difficulties we encounter, the endless
issues that crop up in our complicated lives. Will I be the next person to get laid off? Can I afford a new computer?
When will I find a job? Where should my child go to school?
Immersed in making decisions,
we forget to put our focus on God instead of these issues. As Jesus told His
disciples, we should place Him first in our lives:
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your
life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more
than food, and the body is more than clothing…And do not seek what you should
eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things
the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these
things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to
you.” (Lk 12:22, 23, 29-31)
If we have faith in God, we
will give Him all our burdens, trusting in His power to provide a way for us in
OBSERVE THE SABBATH
Before David became king, he
was on the run from Saul, who was intent on killing him. Yet, even in this
difficult time, in the valley of the shadow of death, his heart sought after
I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple. (Ps 27:4)
This is the true test of our
faith: that in the midst of our busy and stress-filled lives, we are still able
to truly place God first and seek Him. Because David kept his priorities
straight during a life-threatening situation, he did not come to any harm.
David’s desire to seek after
God did not change after he became king. Though different from his days of running
from Saul, his life remained complicated and stressful. Nevertheless, he kept
the desire most important to him, which was to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of his life.
God’s house today is the
church. God dwells there, and we go there to worship Him and behold His beauty.
We need to recognize just how important it is to worship Him in His house. If
we hold onto the Sabbath and leave behind all our worldly cares and affairs, we
can establish a good relationship with God.
Constant renewal of our
relationship with God every week will give us a faith that cannot be affected
by worldly concerns. Those who do not have time to draw close to God on the
Sabbath are those who lose their faith. They value the things of the world so
much that they become numb to spiritual things.
Therefore, it is essential to
focus on God that one day of the week so that we can pray and be filled with His
Spirit, meditate on Him, and receive peace and power in our hearts. As Hebrews
4:11 says, “Let us be diligent to enter that rest,” the rest of observing the
Then, like David, we will not
lose our faith because of our busy lives and our struggles, but we will draw
closer to God and find strength in Him. If we want simplicity in our lives, we
must observe the Sabbath. One of the greatest enjoyments is having a peaceful
and quiet life, and the Sabbath is the one day of the week we can find true
peace and rest.
We struggle to balance all the
responsibilities in our lives, but we are trying to solve our difficulties the
wrong way. Instead of viewing our life in simple terms of reprioritizing, we
need to change our focus and clear away distractions to our goal—to live a
simple life that is focused on God.
Living a simple life doesn’t
mean that we have no possessions and don’t work. We can see that the servants
of God still had many responsibilities to carry out. Simplicity means not
allowing our possessions or responsibilities to control us; rather, we are in
control of every aspect of our lives. And in order for us to be in charge of
our lives, we must have a good relationship with God.
Learning how to focus on God
and making time to worship Him gives us an inner peace that will not leave us
even during the most difficult times.
We do not want to be trapped by
worldliness and materialism, vying for a lofty position in society and chasing
after money. If we are clear on our goal, we are able to evaluate our lives and
make adjustments as we learn how to lead a simple life that is pleasing to God.