Contentment 2.0

Tuesday evening I was running and listening to a sermon on contentment by Josh Patterson of the Village Church (the sermon can be found here). I used to run, watch a muted tv show, and also listen to sermons – all at the same time. I’m constantly the multitasker, even in what I consider to be “me time,” or “alone time.” Recently I’ve realized that I need to focus more during that time, and so now I just run and listen to sermons… it’s really brought about a lot of breakthrough in my life. I love the changes that take place in my heart when I am constantly in prayer, listening to sermons, or reading the Word.

I must have put the sermon on my ipod with purpose, but I had forgotten about it until it jumped out at me as the one to listen to right then. Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be content (as I’m sure can be seen from previous posts).  God keeps directing me to Philippians 4, and other epistles that Paul wrote… I’m learning so much about true contentment and what it means to find complete satisfaction in God alone. All of it has been amazing – I’m always constantly overwhelmed by how God speaks to me… how He uses His Word, His Church, and His world to imprint new things into my heart – things that I hope are engraved there forever. But Tuesday was really special. It was one of those defining moments that I think I’ll never forget. It was a moment when an important truth that completely changes the way I view life was illuminated…

Josh Patterson read Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT) “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”] As I heard it again, and he mentioned that Paul didn’t show a preference for either plenty or lack, I realized that BOTH are hard places to be content in. Contentment is a learned response, regardless of whether you have little or whether you have much.

I’m realizing that it’s probably far harder to be content when I have all that I want, because then, in my plenty, I lack the desperation and knowledge that He’s all I have and could ever need. I’m now praying that since God has taught me to trust and to be content in the desert or hard seasons, that He’ll give me the opportunity to learn to be content (and to practice contentment) when I have enough, or even plenty. I think I’ve always read Paul’s words in Philippians 4 to mean that we have to learn to be content when we are in lack, but I think I’ve realized that what we truly have to learn is how to be satisfied in Him when we don’t lack any good thing. That’s the hard part. I’ve spent more time in prayer in the last month than I have in years… Now I just need to make it a lifestyle and stay there.

I think I understand now, more than ever, why the rich young man in Luke 18 didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to tell him – he thought he had all that he needed. Even when presented with the prospect of eternal life, he didn’t understand the necessity of discontentment WITHOUT Christ. And he couldn’t imagine that Christ could fulfill him and be the place he found contentment if he didn’t have physical security, his possessions, and his stature in the community.

Even WITH/IN Christ, it takes His strength for us to rely on Him and crave Him, even when we’re in a season of blessing. The proper context for Philippians 4:13 is that it is Christ who empowers us to face any situation and be content in both the experience and the outcome, whether it be pain or pleasure. I think it might be possible that the truest test of faith isn’t where you run when you’re hurting, but where you abide when everything seems to be going your way, the path seems clear, and the future is bright.

joy in contentment

We’re working our way through Philippians in small group right now. It’s such a beautiful book. It’s not called the “book of joy” for no reason. Paul’s writing from prison, yet the book overflows with joy, contentment, and praise.

I’m jumping ahead of my small group by several weeks right now, but God’s really speaking to me today about finding contentment in Him alone. It’s an interesting thing to have the Lord say to you, “Yes, I did promise you that… but the fulfillment of My promise isn’t what you should be looking for. Look for Me, seek Me, desire ME first. And the promise will then be released.”

[Philippians 4:4,6-7,11-13

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.]

It’s true. Regardless of any promise the Lord ever makes me, it is He that is the greatest promise and the best gift, and thus should always be my first and greatest desire. It reminded me a lot of something God said to me two years ago – that restoration can never come in the form of a person… restoration is something God does in our hearts.

In the same way – the promise may come in the form of a person, thing, situation, etc… but ultimately, God Himself is the promise. God makes lots of promises and He has never failed to keep even one. Think of Abraham and Sarah and the promise of Isaac. Even at the moment in which it seemed to Abraham that he was about to lose his long-awaited son who was promised by God, he chose to trust… knowing that God had promised him a heritage in Isaac, and understanding that God was sovereign, had a magnificent plan, and would never break His word. This the faith spoken of in Hebrews 11 – faith that believes even when it doesn’t see or understand the plan, and it was this kind faith that landed Abraham a mention in what is referred to as the faith hall of fame: Hebrews 11:8.

All throughout Scripture God reassures us of His trustworthiness. I love Habakkuk 2:3 – “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”

Hold on to God’s promises. They’re true. But hold tightly to Him first. His promises come about in His perfect plan. They are never delayed. We have to seek and find the balance between asking God to “rouse Himself” on our behalf like David does in Psalms, reminding Him of His commitment to us, praying our our desires, and simply choosing to rest, trust, and find contentment in Him alone.

growth

I love having the opportunity to watch my siblings grow up – even from afar. It’s incredible to get to experience this growth with them and to watch them come to maturity in Christ.

an excerpt from my brother’s recent blog post:

“I learned little things of love through the movies that have now accumulated and impacted the ways I view love and intimacy. However, the movies are probably not the most ideal source for information regarding life and love. But there is also a strong influence from the Bible (however I think it made less of an impact on me while I was really little and is making more of an impact upon me now that I’m older). Through it I have learned that love will never be just a happily ever after ending but it is a lifestyle that’s focus surrounds another rather than me. Furthermore, God must be included in this, else I fail.”

This same little brother once said, many years ago, that love was about “kissing,” and “that was all.” He had asked me to explain love and relationships in just one word. My response was “sacrifice.” He didn’t like that answer much. Granted, he was about 12 years old, and like many little boys, had a slightly inaccurate picture of what life really is about.

Even more encouraging than the change in how he sees love now (truly as “sacrifice” based on his words above), is the way he sees God… He’s not the foreword, an afterthought, or merely punctation in his life. He’s essential, life giving, the only hope of success and fulfillment.

I’m not a parent (though sometimes I feel like one since I have five younger siblings), but I have to say that I’m incredibly proud of Taylor – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for him. I’m absolutely thrilled beyond words that he understands, better than ever before in his life, not only the Truth of Scripture, but also its absolute necessity as a lens and a frame of reference in our lives as followers of Christ.

We’re all in a constant state of understanding this in our own lives. Life itself is a sort of a coming-of-age process for each of us. We’re always changing and growing in Christ. Just when we begin to realize that we’ve learned one lesson, conquered one area of sin (an area where we have refused to trust God), we’re asked to go further and learn more. We’re never ever going to “come of age” as it were, until we’re with Christ. But the more we allow Him to increase in us, the more we will decrease… and the more we’ll understand that we have to be IN Him to live, to grow, and to love.

I love you Taylor.

“The problem with the Church today is that it purposefully takes itself out of politics and the world, and then stands up and complains about how immoral and corrupt things have become…the Church needs to address the causes, not just the symptoms.” -Ravi Zacharias

Does God’s Intent Equal His Will

Recently I’ve been thinking and studying a lot about the will of God. I’ve been seeking to understand how we know it, how we follow it, and whether or not it changes (i.e. God himself never changes, but does His will?).

I want to know whether our prayers change Him or change us, and if both happen, why. I see in Scripture that prayers seemingly change both God and man, but are the prayers placed in us by God first?

Essentially, I guess I want to understand all of the secrets of God and life, in a nutshell.

Today, while reading in Jeremiah 18, I ran across verses 1-11 and it appears here that our repentance or disobedience play a large part in the incongruities between God’s intent and His will.

For example – verses 9-10 – “And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do it.”

Very interesting, especially in light of the fact that it appears through Scripture that God molds and shapes the hearts of men (Romans 9). So why would God declare something that was not to be? And does he ‘relent’ on His ‘intent’ or does He passionately pursue His own will?

Ahhh… Headache. Your thoughts?

The Greatest of These is LOVE

I use the word “love” a lot – too much, in fact. I think I tend to embrace life with such positivity and enthusiasm that things that I greatly enjoy, or really admire, appreciate, and like, become things that I describe as things that I “love.” Maybe I do love them, in a way. But not love in the truest sense of the word. I’ve become more and more convicted about my word choices recently and catch myself using the word too often. I frequently use the word in relation to Jesus, the people that I hold closest to my heart and truly love so much, and ministry, but I use it as well to speak of my feelings regarding pieces of clothing, types of food, and other inanimate things. I guess I’m realizing that I don’t want to compare the things that give me life/make life worth living with things I merely possess.

1 Corinthians 13 provides a glimpse of perfect love –

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Faith, without love, is nothing? Wow. Martyrdom without love is worthless? Wow.

That last line grips my heart – I’m sure I’ll be pondering it for days (and always) – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

All things? ALL? Even when we’re not loved in return or the love we receive doesn’t look like the love we desire? What about when we’re walking through a tough season or a close friend lets us down?

LOVE is sacrifice. Always. I don’t think there’s a better word to encompass the love of Christ or the love that we’re to have toward one another. And using that definition, I’d say I love a lot less than I think I do, and definitely far less than I say I do. Someone recently told me that they don’t believe it’s possible to love unconditionally… and after thinking about it for awhile, I think I have to agree – only Christ loves without conditions. I do believe, however, that we can choose to love, always and in all things, because love is ultimately the choice to sacrifice our wants, needs, feelings, rights, and conditions for the sake of another. Love isn’t really a feeling… it takes a lot of effort, resolve, and patience. When we love like that, we’re more like Christ.

1 John 4:7-10 is one we should keep constantly in mind: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

As much as it’s humanly possible I want to love like that.

Another incredible looking ministry conference…

AHHHH! Here’s another one that looks amazing:

Drive Conference 2010:

A conference for church leaders who aren’t afraid to . . .
TAKE IT OFF-ROAD

If you’re in ministry, your tomorrow will probably be very different from your today. You’ll wear countless hats, navigate situations you hadn’t anticipated, and juggle the seemingly random responsibilities that a growing church throws at you . . . being stretched, pulled, and tested every step of the way.

In other words, you’ll TAKE IT OFF-ROAD.

You’ve jumped in with both feet. Now, how do you plan for the unplanned? How do you weigh an opportunity against a risk? How do you gain traction and momentum in a culture that seems to change every second? How do you take your church off-road if they want to “do things the way we’ve always done them”?

At Drive 2010, we’ll explore those questions together. From unpacking the tools used in our environments to dissecting the “what if’s” we all face when doing things differently, we’ll share everything we’ve learned in 14 years of taking it off-road.

Along the way, we’ll hear the latest thoughts on leadership from Andy Stanley. We’ll have breakouts and ministry showcases led by staff from all three of our campuses. We’ll laugh and learn and, above all, worship the God who is always ready to take it off-road.

So round up your church staff, volunteers, and leaders, and join hundreds of others from around the world for Drive 2010.

http://www.driveconference.com/what.php

National Outreach Convention

This looks SO cool… wish I could go sit in for a few days:

http://www.nationaloutreachconvention.com/

http://michaelhyatt.com/2009/10/national-outreach-convention.html

It would even been more cool than all the tanks and guns I saw last week at the 2009 Association of the U.S. Army Convention last week 🙂

Last week I was watching all the tweets coming out of Catalyst and wishing I could go sit in on that…

Maybe, one day in the future, I’ll get to attend conferences on ministry and not just dream about them… For now I still need to conquer that mountain of ministry books on my end table.

“Between an Egyptian Army and a Red Sea” by Mark Batterson

I love how God uses all sorts of things to speak to me. And sometimes He even highlights things that I’ve seen before. Like today, as I was reading through the list of blogs I follow consistently… I ran across this post again and it really spoke to me.

Lesson: when you ask God a question, prepare for an answer, and when you ask for a word from Him, prepare to receive.

Evotional.com

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