In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays a confused, dissatisfied thirty-something character with a vague sense that life is passing him by. Jack Palance -ancient, leathery, wise to the ways of the world asks Crystal if he would like to know the secret of life.
Crystal says "yes".
"It's this" Palance says, holding up one finger.
"The secret of life is your finger?" asks Crystal.
"It's one thing" Palance replies. "The secret of life is pursuing one thing".
This hits home to Crystals' character. He is torn between his obligation to his family and his desire for career advancement. He is divided somehow. His life is about many things, and so, he senses, it is about nothing.
" So what is that one thing?" Crystal askes.
Palance replies, "You have to find out for yourself"
Like Chrystal's Character, many of us Christians know what it is like to be a wave of the sea, to be pulled toward this life of Christ and to be pushed toward the world, or yet be held back by a secret sin we haven't been willing to renounce or get help for.
We long to be servants but are unwilling to leave the comfort of the lounge chair. We would like to be humble -but what if no one notices? So we go back and forth.
Similar to Crystal's Character we are doubleminded.
To be double minded is to be inconsistent, vacillating, to be and act one way today and be and act some other way tomorrow.
James gives us advice about this.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James refers to this again.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:8 NIV
Soren Kierkegaard saw doublemindedness as the essential disease of the human spirit.
"It is a failure to achieve simplicity-to have a life that is integrated, that is focused on one thing. It is a failure to make the ultimate commitment to what he calls "the Good"
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 NIV
But how do we stay focused? Let's look at what takes us off course.
The enemies of simplicity are multiplicity and duplicity.
Multiplicity is a life marked by ambivalence--pulled and pushed. We both desire intimacy with God and flee from it. We want to be generous but hoard and covet. We attempt to serve but are driven by arrogance and self serving.
Even the apostle Paul faced this struggle.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
Romans 7:15 NIV
Duplicity adds a note of falseness. There is a discrepancy between the reasons we give for doing something and the real reasons why we are doing it. We may say something that sounds humble but secretly know we are trying to impress people.
We human beings have a remarkable capacity for self -deception.
The alternative to duplicity and to multiplicity is a life characterized by simplicity.
Clifford Williams writes about this way of life;
"We posses singleness when we are not pulled in opposite directions and we we act without wanting something further for ourselves. Our inner drives do not conflict; they are aimed in one direction. The motives we appear to have are the ones we really have. Our inner focus is unified and our public posture corresponds with it. We are not, in short, divided."
There is an echo of this thought in Jesus' words to a friend named Martha. She was distracted by her many tasks and resented her sister, Mary who had chosen to simply sit in the presence of Jesus.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:40-42 NIV
If we want to be saved from doublemindedness, we must "be transformed by the renewing of our minds." We do this by immersing our minds in scripture. We need to stay focused on Jesus.
Turn your eyes to Jesus!
Keep it Simple!
Let go and Let God!
What is the secret of life? "Its One thing."