Contentment

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;  
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.                                                     Psalm 16:5-6

A person can attain wealth in two ways.  By working hard, excelling at that work, being rewarded financially for it, and saving it.  Or by being content with what one has.  Both achieve the same end —- experiencing happiness for what one has.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.                                  1 Timothy 6:6-11

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.                                                                 Philippians 4:11-13

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have;  for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. . .”                              Hebrews 13:5

Gratitude is a character quality of maturity that is precious in the sight of God.  Contentment is gratitude for what we have, a vote of trust in our Creator to have provided us with all that He knows we need — all that is best for our situation and for His Kingdom.

O Lord, give me a heart that is contented with what You have deemed necessary for me.  Let me rest in You as a little child rests against its mother.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.                                        Psalm 131:2

 

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Building up one another

O God, give me Your tender heart for the multitudes around me.  You looked at them “and had compassion on them, for they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36)  You prayed over Jerusalem with a sobbing heart, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!”  (Luke 13:34)

Having failed many times in my desire to be a healing, encouraging presence to hurting people around me, I now feel that I must cling closer to my Shepherd in order to develop ears and a tongue and a heart like His.  I must be a learner, disciple.

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.                                         Isaiah 50:4

Lord, let me empathize with Your hurting sheep around me.  Let me care enough about them to hear them out,  listening to their hearts.  Help me not to be always thinking about what I should say next, but to focus on the plaintive cry of their heart.  Let me take time to understand, then give me the words to speak Truth into them, Your healing Truth full of Grace, Forgiveness, and Encouragement.

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances.                                          Proverbs 25:11

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.                                                                                                           Ephesians 4:29

Edification is from the same root as edifice, a building.  We are to build one another up, to help one another become better people, who are following closer to the Shepherd.

Lord, I feel that, in order to be ready to sustain the weary ones You bring my way, I need to maintain a well-supplied bag of provisions, nourishing balm, medicine-like truths that will be healing to their souls.  The only way I know to be ready for the encounters You will bring me is to memorize Your word extensively.

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.                                                Proverbs 22:17-18

Keep your powder dry!

 

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Burn your bridges to sin.

[Jotham] did what was right in the sight of the Lord; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.                                2 Kings 15:34-35

A repeated phrase in 2 Kings, regarding the kings of Israel and Judah, is “but they did not remove the high places where they worshipped.”  This was the case even during periodic revivals led by relatively godly kings in Judah.  They were not tough with themselves. They evidently minimized the danger these relics of idolatry were to them. Or they feared the public outcry expected, were the people’s values and worship practices to be challenged.

burn shipsThis continued presence of the occasion to sin against God led to repeated failures. They would have done better had they been more radical about “burning the ships” that could take them back to their comfortable addiction to Baal and Asherah worship.

Let’s be radical in our hate of sin and bondage.

Do you and your children operate your computers, tablets, and smartphones without protective filtering software, opening the door to natural curiosity and the inclination to lust over pornography?  Do you lead a double life, keeping your weaknesses and temptations from your spouse and friends, who could help you stand firm if they only knew your need?  Do you keep a ready supply of rich, caloric foods in the house, even when you are trying to lose weight?  If you are struggling to overcome your habit of overspending, how many credit cards do you carry?

I know of a prominent Christian pastor, speaker, and author who, when away from home on a speaking engagement always calls home nightly to his wife from his hotel room.  He told her to expect it.  Once when I had to travel alone, I removed the cable from my hotel TV and had the room clerk keep it until I checked out.

Keep your way far from her
And do not go near the door of her house,
Or you will give your vigor to others
And your years to the cruel one
”                    Proverbs 5:8-9

My pastor takes a bag full of the sweets he receives over the Christmas holidays from grateful admirers and throws them out into the trash the first week of January.  A friend of my son who was trying hard to get out of debt cut up all of his credit cards to avoid the temptation of overspending.

John the Baptist said to the multitudes going out to be baptized by him, “Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance . . .”  (Luke 3:8)  Let us “put our money where our mouth is,” in our seriousness to turn from sin to the life God has designed for us.

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Enabled to do His will

impossible task - SysiphusWretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Paul says in Romans 7:24, grieving over his inability to perform in life in the way he feels that God intended for him.  For all of us, this does seem an impossible task.  It is exhausting, and repeated failures are discouraging.

Paul finds comfort in the realization that reaching God’s design for him does not depend on him, but on His Designer.  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25)

plugged inOur comfort and encouragement comes from this Hand-in-glove relationship.  If we stay plugged into our intended Power Source, our machinery will operate according to “factory specifications.”  Our lives are masterpieces of God’s careful artistry, and we will accomplish what He intends when we let go of the controls and let Him operate our machine.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”                         Ephesians 2:10

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”                           Hebrews 13:20-21

child n dad ride bike

 

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Listening to God’s Voice Takes Prayer and Practice

By our own choice, we too often live in spiritual poverty, ignoring God’s wonderful offer of help:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”                       First Corinthians 10:13

hands over earsAlthough He graciously offers us His own help at our crossroads, we often clap our hands over our ears and go our own way, resulting in damage to us, to those around us, and to His kingdom purposes.  We are very much like those in the days of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.”           Jeremiah 32:33

Behold, their ears are closed
And they cannot listen.
Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it.”                                                                                   Jeremiah 6:10

They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.”                                                                       Ezekiel 33:11

The pain of repeated failures to heed the loving, wise prompting of the Holy Spirit makes us long for unplugged ears that hear and hearts that are eager to heed and live according to His design. To this end He is eager to take us.  We can prepare our hearts and ears to be responsive to His promptings by seasoning them with prayer, “Lord, help me to do, in Your supernatural strength, what I cannot do on my own!

hearingThe Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
”                                                     Isaiah 50:4

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”                       John 6:27

Lord, I am Your sheep.  Make me to hear Your voice and follow You!

And practice makes perfect.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”                                                                                             Hebrews 5:14

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Frustrated with yourself?

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.   

divided heartI find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”                  Romans 7:15, 22-23

 

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”                                                                                             James 4:7-8

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.”                                                     
Psalm 86:11

What is the answer to this universal human problem of a heart that is divided between heaven and earth?  Between the kingdoms of God and the Prince of This World?

  1.  Feed the new creation, and starve the old.  That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”       Ephesians 4:22-24     “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”    Romans 13:14

2.  Walk according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son . . . .  Do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”        Romans 8:2-4

3.  Let Christ live through you.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, butChrist lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”    Galatians 2:20

4.  Set your mind on the things above.  Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”                          Colossians 3:1-3

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Watch carefully for your rescue!

bailing boatPicture the scene of a man lost at sea in a little boat filling with water.  Hopefully, he is not so busy bailing out his boat that he does not see the search airplane passing overhead and miss his opportunity for rescue.  As we face temptation to sin, where we are looking for help is crucial to our successfully being removed from harm’s way.

For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.  [Jahaziel] said, “Listen, . . . thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”                                                                                               2 Chronicles 20:12, 15

Paul says, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:22-25)

We find resolution to the dire circumstances and temptations we face, not by looking intently at the problem, but in gazing trustingly to the Source of the deliverance that will come.

eyesBehold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God,  until He is gracious to us.  Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us.”                                 Psalm 123:2-3    (see also Psalm 13:5-6)

The surest victory in the temptations we face will not come from ourselves, from our white-knuckling, teeth-clenching discipline.  “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”           (2 Corinthians 3:5)  Our deliverance will come as we humbly admit our helplessness and our need for God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

 

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