The Lens of Contentment

Most people see contentment in good health, relationships, possessions, fashions, the cars we drive and the homes in which we live, many of these indicating the measure of our personal success.

God’s people are given a means of seeing what is different from the world. The new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3) given by God our Father, come with a lens that changes our focus from the world and our dependency on what we can achieve. Our view is upward, brought to see Him as the giver and supplier of all that we need. We see beyond the world’s offerings to the special blessings that are ours through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The writer of the book of Hebrews leaves an exhortation to God’s people in the last chapter:
“Keep your life free from the love of money.

The world trains our children to seek contentment through what our money can buy.
The followers of Christ are trained to “be content with what you have.”

Why can we be content with less than what the world offers?
~ “for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (13:5)

The giver of all things is more precious than all the money we could accrue in this world.
His presence is greater that any relationship, entertainment or possession offered in this generation.
His love and grace is of more value that anything money could buy.
His blessings are infinite and eternally ours, while the temporal things of this world will either be lost or fade away.
Nothing of this world can compare to what we experience in His supply of all things .

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

There are those who are suffering physically and financially from attempting to keep up with greater expectations than they are able. When they learn of life in Christ, they can let go of the world’s offerings and enjoy Him and what He gives.

But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12

It was the apostle Paul who said, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He rolled with the pushes, at the same time rejoicing and praising the Lord because He had experienced the presence and power of God. In His calling, devotion and service he was given “visions and revelations” of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:1). As an evangelist/tentmaker he knew the God “who supplies all our needs” (Philippians 4:19). He lived with a “thorn in the flesh” ~ the buffeting of Satan through the religious and government leaders, living the last part of his life in prison because he was content with the Lord’s calling and promises of the gospel. Oh, that we might all say as he did, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Gracious heavenly Father, creator and supplier of all things, open our eyes, turn them upward to see heaven opened as you pour out all that you have prepared for us in and through Jesus our Lord. Let the world see our contentment with you and all that you desire for us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Related Post: A Year for Contentment ~ Continued
image: Google

Three Obstacles to Spiritual Growth

I would rather write than eat; pray than sleep; read His word than play, because the one about whom I write, and the one to whom I pray, is the one who gives me life, and the one for whom I live.

This has all been through a process of growing and bearing the fruit of the Lord’s work in me. Though I sometimes wonder in my thoughts and my actions, He always brings me back to the path and continues His guidance.    (Galatians 5:22-23)galatians5v22-23-700x329

Spiritual growth is from the seed of new birth, rooting, the buds, flower, and fruit, all the work of the gracious and powerful God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ~the vine dresser, the giver of life.

By the supernatural working of His Holy Spirit He births and brings to maturity those who are His children. (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1-3)

None of the life of faith is without some struggle through the wilderness in which we live, but it is where God chose and placed us to bring us to Himself.

This growth is described in Psalm 1:3. A man who turns from walking in the counsel of the ungodly, from standing in the path of sinners, and sitting in the seat of the scornful, to delighting in God’s Word, is like a tree that bears its fruit in its season. Its leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.

Why do some Christians not grow and bear fruit?

Let’s compare this to a child born to a family. Consider how this child matures to adulthood as we look at these obstacles.

  1. Words: As a child grows baby talk is put aside and new words are used to describe how we live. The family leads the child to discover new things, new tastes, and new adventures. New words are explained so that they can understand how to relate to others, new surroundings, etc.

As a new Christian we grow through the training of God’s Word. When we find words that we do not understand, we stop and take the time to find the meanings and how they apply to our new life in Christ. Words like “propitiation,”  “justification“  and “sanctification” need to be understood, along with other words that are in the Christian’s vocabulary. With the study and discovery of these spiritual things, we will experience the new tastes and the new adventures that enable us to grow.

  1. Feelings: When children exhibit their feelings and the family gives in to them, they learn to manipulate, and these keep them childish. They will never grow to a positive and joyful adulthood if they never learn to get past their feelings.

Feelings are usually a normal reaction of the flesh to whatever is happening, either in our imaginations, our conversations, or our relationships to others.

As Christians, we do no live by feelings. They most often keep us stunted in our growth, keeping us dependent on how we feel about our circumstances and others. Instead, God’s Word brings us into the fellowship of His Spirit and grace to examine our feelings in comparison to how we should think, speak and act in our circumstances. We grow when feelings are put aside and we minister to and serve others.

  1. Influences: Everything around us is an influence either for our spiritual growth or against it. Responsible adults guard their children from the influences that would harm them. We see the results in our society of children who are exposed to violence, drugs, etc. They are planted in the middle of the darkness and chaos of this world and bear the fruit of it.

God’s children no longer enjoy such an environment. Their new hearts are fertile soil in which He plants His seed, the seed of His Son, Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He waters, and by His Word He continues to nurture His plants to full maturity, so that we are compatible for an eternity with Him.

The importance of relationships with other strong but humble and fruitful Christians cannot be understated. The fellowship of a local church that studies, applies and lives according to His Word, along with personal Bible study and prayer, are the means of watering and nurturing, so that there is no question that we are God’s children. He bears the fruit of His Word and Spirit in us ~ to His own glory, and our joy.

Dear Father, Thank you for the new heart, and the seed of the Life of your Son that you have planted in us. By your Holy Spirit, draw us to your Word, assure and nurture us, grow us in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Bear the fruit of the Spirit of Life in Christ through us, so that the world sees true life in the middle of the darkness and decay. In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

(To learn more how God works to grow us, check out our book The Garden of GOD’S WORD ~ The Purpose and Delight of BIBLE STUDY. Profits from all our books are designated for missions.)

Staying In The Ship

“Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”   Acts 27:31
774px-The_Shipwreck_engraving_by_William_Miller_after_Turner

Paul’s last voyage was not a pleasant one. From Caesarea he was being sent to Rome as a prisoner to be tried before Caesar. The storm they encountered was causing the ship to break apart as it ran upon the rocks near the beach of Malta. Before this final running aground where the bow stuck and the stem was being broken by the surf there was an opportunity for the prisoners to escape by throwing out the anchor and letting down the lifeboat. This could have been Paul’s chance to avoid being carried to Rome. But, he knew that what was happening was within the realm of God’s plans for him.

The following night, after Paul had been arrested, “the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” Acts 23:11

Then, during the storm Paul stands to encourage all who are in the ship, “Take heart for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, Do not be afraid Paul, your must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:22-26

Paul trusted God’s plan for him; he trusted His Word; and he was obedient to the will of God. His was the example of the obedience of faith that he preached through the gospel to the Roman Christians.

God’s plans for us may be that we go through the storms and waves of this world. The relationship we are in may break up and seemingly all hope is lost, but in faith we must stay in the ship. Our relationship with God may encounter upheavals; our fellowship with other believers may run aground, but we are called to obedience to stay in the ship and endure through the entire course, even if that means that we are heading toward the final end of this life. Paul endured his last voyage with other prisoners and soldiers; undoubtedly they were non-believers, not knowing the promises or power of God to save His people. Paul is the example for us, even in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation to shine as lights in the darkness.

Cutting Away the Lifeboat

“Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.”  Acts 27:32

God is able: and He promises in His Word never to leave us, nor forsake us. At times He may have to cut away the ropes of anything that might help us to abandon ship. His church is that great ship that has often been run aground, but He has not forsaken her. Many leave the ship, and often have a difficult time finding it again.

Marriage and family are ships that have to bear the storms, many find these relationships on the rocks; but when we rely on God promises, His presence and power as Paul did, we will experience His working through the upheavals to restore these ships, sometimes to better relationships than they were before.

We may be the only one with faith, courage, and perseverance to stay with the ship, knowing the God to whom we belong and worship. We may be the only light that God chooses to save a whole family from darkness and disaster. This is a reality that is accepted with humility, not pride. It can be a heavy burden for us, but in time it will produce the joy that He intends for us. Wherever we are is where God places us; to testify of Him.


Sheet Music: Be Still My Soul
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