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.

Wait on the Lord

I love the wisdom of the people who have walked with Christ ahead of me. I’ve long kept a large and growing collection of quotes that I love to page through often. They range from funny to incredibly profound.

Below are a few of the many that really jumped out at me this morning as I was just glancing through. One of the most astonishing things about the Christian life is that despite a multitude of individual circumstances, perspectives, and the fact that believers have lived through completely different eras, cultures, and countries – the basics of life in Christ are the same. The requirements have never and will never change. We’re all called to trust God with absolute abandon and to hold fast to His word and His word alone. Complete dependence, limitless faith, and total reliance on the Cross and His grace are our only hope.

I hope these words speak to you as they do me and that they serve to increase your faith in our amazing Creator:

“What is it to us how our future path lies, if it be but His path? What is it to us whither it leads us, so that in the end it leads to Him? What is it to us what He puts upon us, so that He enables us to undergo it with a pure conscience, a true heart, not desiring anything of this world in comparison of Him? What is it to us what terror befalls us, if He be but a hand to protect and strengthen us?” John Henry Newman

“God has wisely kept us in the dark concerning future events and reserved for himself the knowledge of them, that he may train us up in a dependence upon himself and a continued readiness for every event.” Matthew Henry

“God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” Elisabeth Elliot

Also see: Isaiah 30:21, Philippians 4, Isaiah 42:16, Psalm27, and Isaiah 46:11b.

Straining Toward the Goal Sometimes Means We Must Rest

Philippians 3:12-21

(emphasis my own)

[12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.]

My mom had some incredible words of wisdom to offer me yesterday. I’m so visionary and I have so many things that I want to do with my life that I really hold the verses above as my ideal – I want to always be running and pressing forward – straining forward to run directly along with God’s call on my life and into my “destiny” as a disciple of Christ. I view life as the Apostle Paul did – as a race that we run to win, and I like to run fast. The times in life when I feel like I’m in a holding pattern and that there’s nothing I can do to make things move forward faster are the times when I struggle the most with frustration.

The thing that God has to constantly remind me of is that He alone is sovereign and His plan is best. Ministry is what I’m doing now – it just looks different than I want it to. And at this point, what I want doesn’t really matter – especially since God’s already opened so many doors for me to serve in this season.

I need to be passionate about the place God has me right now, this very second, and appreciate each and every opportunity that I have to serve. Not that I shouldn’t keep dreaming, keep planning, keep pushing myself toward the goal, but right now pushing toward the goal means I need to be excellent at everything I do, not just dream about what I wish I could do.  And it means I take a step back and rest, instead of beating myself for not being where I’d like to be.

My mom is so wonderful and wise and yesterday I was so thankful for her following advice:

“You want full immersion…I understand…but The Word tells us that if we are faithful with little, He will make us faithful with much. Get up, every morning, like a missionary, no matter what your life looks like, and you will be fulfilling the call He has placed on your life….to make disciples!!! I see your value….look closer and you will see it, too. If you lose sight of your purpose, right there, right now….you will lose sight of the path….and get side tracked. Keep moving forward and He will be responsible for the rest. He knows your desires, so when it is time, He will orchestrate the change. You will have to change the way you think about this season…in order to be happy in it.”

 

Thanks Mom!