God’s Cure for Worry: Part IV: the Secret of Contentment

God’s Cure for Worry: Part IV: the Secret of Contentment

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. For I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him (Christ) who gives me strength. ( Phil. 4: 11-13) Paul also tells us in 4:19- ; my God shall meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

In some ways this fourth belief seems to be a sum of the previous three.  If I understand and accept the sovereignty of God; believe He is my provider, who shall supply all my needs in Christ Jesus; and this Almighty, All Knowing God has a plan for my fulfillment, I can be content.

In last week’s lesson, we studied the life of Joseph as an illustration of God’s plan for fulfillment for our lives.  Imagine how Joseph’s brothers learned to be content as they came to believe their brother was not going to treat them as they deserved. Joseph assured them his intentions for them were for their good. With Joseph as their benefactor, they knew their needs would be provided. These undeserving brothers lived in contentment because their brother was Prince of Egypt.

My true elder brother is none other than Jesus Christ and He is Prince of Princes, Lord of Lords and King of kings.  I can live in contentment knowing He is watching over me and out for me.  Nothing is impossible for Him to do.

However you cannot help but notice twice in this NIV interpretation, Paul confesses he had learned to be content.  This is the weapon which defeats worry- contentment. Remember when Paul wrote this letter he was a prisoner under house arrest in Rome. He was chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours per day. Paul had endured being : stoned and left for dead; given 39 lashes several times as punishment, in prison, shipwrecked, in an earthquake and  in peril constantly in travel through dangerous regions with numerous enemies.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?

Paul said he had learned the secret of contentment. A little background will help you understand what had occurred.  Paul has received a gift from the church at Philippi. It has been probably 10 years since he was last there. This is in some ways, a ‘thank-you’ note for their gift.  Psalm 1 tells us the person who meditates on the Word of God day and night will yield fruit in due season.  Sometimes it takes a while for the seed which is planted to reach maturity and bear fruit.

Paul had a patient confidence in God’s sovereign providence. He was content to do without and wait on the Lord’s timing.  Paul did not resort to panic or manipulation of others. Those things were never called for. Paul was certain in due time, God would order the circumstances so that his needs would be met. Do you have this same certainty?

Let me ask you a difficult question:  are you discontent today with life?  Is there something missing in your life, you cannot supply yourself?  Are you trying to control circumstances, avoid problems, and minimize risks, so you can be content?  Then you have not learned to be content- for you are only content when there are no troubling circumstances. You cannot control or order your life- control is an illusion.

God’s providence is how He orchestrates everything to accomplish His purpose. God can do this two ways:  a miracle, and by providential circumstances.  His miracles seem to impress us the most, don’t they?  Parting the Red Sea; miraculous healings, restoration of life, blind made to see, etc.  Yet there are more stories where God works all things together for good as in the story of Joseph, a story which unfolded for over 20 years and actually involved thousands and thousands of people. Today He is doing the same for you and yours.

Now be careful, you do not so rely on God’s sovereign providence, you sit back and do nothing. We are to work hard- to wait on the Lord and do good. We are told to ask, seek, and knock.  We are to do all we know to do and do all we can do.

Paul said he learned to be content. It did not come naturally. He had to work at it to develop the habit of dependence of God. He had to study, he had to fast, he had to sacrifice, he had to pray, and he had to humble himself.  Why did he do all these things- because Jesus did all these things.  Paul said he disciplined himself, he labored, and he pressed toward the mark. Paul did NOT sit back and say- ‘well God is sovereign whatever will be, will be.

How can we learn to be content?   One key to this secret is found in the statement Paul makes: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  Trying circumstances steal our joy and peace more often than anything else.  This reveals we were content because circumstances were favorable. If we always depend on favorable circumstances for our contentment, we are never going to be content for unfavorable circumstances can strike us at any time. Paul through dealing with unfavorable circumstances came to believe things were not what they seemed. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4)  Paul does not leave us there thinking we must be strong and brave. He tells us the reason he can face unfavorable circumstances in verse 13:  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.   This is our source of strength in the storms of unfavorable circumstances.  The promise of His presence and His Power. Do you know where they are found?  In the yoke with the Lord Jesus which He beckons us to when we are weary and heavy laden- overwhelmed.

When you and I experience troubling circumstances we cannot do anything about in our own power and strength, this is when we experience the power of Christ to hang on, until a provision is made.  In other words:  You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.  Don’t be foolish and try to manipulate your way out of the problem. Don’t be naïve and act as if there is no problem. Do not despair- God is with you. He is your very present help in times of trouble.

Here is the secret:  CONTENTMENT IS A BY-PRODUCT OF DISTRESS. It comes when you experience the sustaining power of Christ when you have run out of steam; when you realize you cannot fix your problems. “To him who lacks might He increases power.” Isa. 40:29 “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” ( Isa. 40: 31) Notice when we experience this contentment- when we run out of our own resources and  cast our cares upon Him, who cares for us. When we come to Him weary and heavy laden, He will give us rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me- Jesus told us in Matthew 11.  The Yoke of Jesus is where we learn contentment.  The yoke of Christ is the school of faith where we learn contentment and find rest. We come there for one reason- we have more than we can bear.

Why did the Lord allow me to experience the powerlessness I had over alcohol?  So that I would seek a Higher Power to enable me to overcome the urge to drink.

Now we have the promise of the Lord, He will never place more on us than we can bear but will provide a way so that you can stand up in it (I Cor. 10:13).  Do you realize as a believer what you have within you?  You have the spiritual power which resurrected Jesus from the dead. This spiritual power kicks in when we come to the end our resources. And we know for Paul tells us, because of this power within us- “we can do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)   The Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness. When I learned to trust God as my Higher Power to overcome the urge to drink, I gradually begin to realize why not  let Him trust Him with all my life, every area.

“But we have this treasure in these earthly vessels to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4)

Now why does the enemy want to attack you?  Because the enemy knows the power you have within you. You and I as believers have the power of God within us.  The enemy wants to neutralize us to mute our influence.

But remember Somebody up there not just likes you, but loves you with an everlasting love. That Somebody is Almighty God, creator of all things. His method is to work all things together for good and He has never failed.

BACK TO JOSEPH

When Joseph was brought before the Pharaoh to interpret the dream, God revealed to Joseph what He was about to happen.  Joseph told him what they were about to experience with seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and want.    God tells us we will experience plenty and we will experience want in our lives. Paul said he knew what it was to have plenty and he knew what it was to be in need.  Joseph had learned this also- Have you?

But the story of Joseph which confirms God has plan for our fulfillment- a desire He wants to plant in our hearts like a seed which when nourished will bear fruit in due season.  “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4)   This means God will also supply you with a plan, step-by-step to achieve the dream and desire He gave you.  Of course the three fold enemy of your soul, the world, your flesh, and the devil will attempt to sidetrack you, get you to try and solve the problem with your own resources and ideas.  Create anxiety in your life because you cannot control your circumstances.

Joseph’s plan, which God gave him, could be put on a 3 X 5 index card: save 20% of the harvest during the good years of abundance to sustain them through the seven years of famine.

James, the earthly brother of the Lord Jesus, tells us:  “Consider (count) it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking anything. If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1) James says to evaluate every trial as a blessing in disguise.  If you lack the wisdom to see this as true, ask God and He will give you the wisdom you need to see it.

Did you ever wonder why Joseph did not try to escape?  Why did Paul write from prison and say he was in chains for the furtherance of the Gospel?  What happened to those disciples who ran and hid in fear after Jesus was arrested and crucified which led these same men to face their enemies who could have them executed and say we will obey God rather than you?

They experienced the presence of God, the power of God and the peace of God.  We have the same God, the same power and the same peace available to each of us.  We also will experience trying, difficult circumstances in our lives. Guess what?  God has allowed those desperate situations to bring us to Him to experience Him in a way we could not experience Him except through this adversity.

We cannot resolve some of our problems. We cannot eliminate conflict. We cannot make our grown children live life the way we want them to live it.  We can no more control our lives than we can the economy, the weather or the violence of others.

What we can do is turn to God and find the strength to get through the situation.  Adversity will purify one’s faith and enlarge it at the same time. It will also equip us to comfort others and we gain experience which gives us hope which does not disappoint.

THERMOSTATS IN A WORLD OF THERMOMETERS

A thermometer registers and measures the temperature. A thermostats controls it. Our emotions are like a thermometer and go up and down based on conditions.   As Christians we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We have the peace of God and the God of peace. These act as our thermostat controlling our emotions and contentment. When troubles come and our temperatures rise- the Holy Thermostat kicks into cool us when we are hot and warm us when we are cold.

Paul learned as we must learn the secret of contentment is in the sufficiency of the Lord. Apart from Him we are all over the place with our emotions, anger and worry, but the yoke of the Lord  is like our thermostat it controls the environment and provides us with what we need- cooling when hot; warmth when cold. Never more than we can bear. The comfort zone is in Him.

As our thermostat we have a His Power, His Peace, and His Presence. We can weather the storms, the fires, the troubles of this world because He will never place more on us than we can bear; never leave us or forsake us and always supply our needs from the riches of heaven.

Is there any way we can better prepare for these inevitable storms?  Throughout the scripture we read of encounters Jesus had with desperate people who did all they could to get to Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood, fought her way through the crowd to reach Him and touch his robe. We see Blind Bartimaeus yelling at top of his voice,” Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd could not shut him up.  The three men, who wanted to find a way to carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus, climbed up on the roof and removed the roofing to lower their friend to Jesus when they could not reach him any other way.  Zacchaeus, the short, wealthy tax collector was so compelled to see Jesus; he climbed up in a tree so he could place himself in Jesus’ path.

PREPARING FOR THE STORMS OF LIFE

“.. Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both this present life and the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:7, 8)

The spiritual disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness. You will never come to spiritual maturity and be prepared for the storms of life except through the exercise of spiritual disciplines.

God uses three primary catalysts for changing us and conforming us to the image of His Son. He uses people, for as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)  He also uses our enemies to file us like a rough rasp to file away our ungodly edges. God gives us parents, grandparents, teachers, bosses, pastors, authors, co-workers, spouses, and children as an example to change us.

Another agent God uses in our lives is circumstances. Finances, health, weather. All these can work together for good for those who love the Lord who have been called according to His purpose as Romans 8: 28 tells us.

The third agent God uses is the catalysts of Spiritual Disciplines.  You realize there is nothing much you can do about the first two for they are outside factors which God uses. This agent of change is different for two reasons:  it works from inside- out; and it is something we can do something about as we choose to exercise these Spiritual Disciplines.

Here is a list of Spiritual Disciplines which will promote spiritual growth. They are habits we must develop.

  1. Bible intake.
  2. Prayer
  3. Worship
  4. Evangelism
  5. Service.
  6. Stewardship
  7. Fasting
  8. Silence and solitude.
  9. Journaling.
  10. Learning

I will devote a couple of weeks to discussing these disciplines with suggestions as to how to begin to practice them in your life.

It will begin with Bible intake for yourself. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.

It is only through the exercise of these disciplines we will experience spiritual growth and be prepared for the tests which come into our life.

If we are to make disciples, we must discipline ourselves. Discipline is not a word and action which has favorable connotations in today’s society. It brings up images of doing push-ups, running on a treadmill, and lifting weights.  Paul even said these physical disciplines have some value. But we realize freedom comes as a result of discipline.  Want to be financially free?  It takes the discipline of budgeting and delayed gratification, something our society does not condone. Our economy runs on consumer spending and the spending is stimulated with credit which leads to debt and bondage.  Good health requires certain disciplines of diet and exercise.

So freedom is a good word, a positive word.  But freedom requires discipline.   It is for freedom which Christ set us free.  It is not His will or plan for us to live in fear and bondage.  Discipline is the path to freedom.

Christianity needs disciplined disciples making disciples.  It may be the largest failing of the body of Christ at this time in history.  It is time to train up a generation to fight the good fight and carry the message of the Gospel and make disciples!

 

SCRIPTURES: Philippians 4: 5-19; Romans 5:1-5; Romans 8:29-29; Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3, 4

God’s Cure for Worry: Part IV: the Secret of Contentment

 

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. For I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him (Christ) who gives me strength. ( Phil. 4: 11-13) Paul also tells us in 4:19- ; my God shall meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

In some ways this fourth belief seems to be a sum of the previous three.  If I understand and accept the sovereignty of God; believe He is my provider, who shall supply all my needs in Christ Jesus; and this Almighty, All Knowing God has a plan for my fulfillment, I can be content.

In last week’s lesson, we studied the life of Joseph as an illustration of God’s plan for fulfillment for our lives.  Imagine how Joseph’s brothers learned to be content as they came to believe their brother was not going to treat them as they deserved. Joseph assured them his intentions for them were for their good. With Joseph as their benefactor, they knew their needs would be provided. These undeserving brothers lived in contentment because their brother was Prince of Egypt.

My true elder brother is none other than Jesus Christ and He is Prince of Princes, Lord of Lords and King of kings.  I can live in contentment knowing He is watching over me and out for me.  Nothing is impossible for Him to do.

However you cannot help but notice twice in this NIV interpretation, Paul confesses he had learned to be content.  This is the weapon which defeats worry- contentment. Remember when Paul wrote this letter he was a prisoner under house arrest in Rome. He was chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours per day. Paul had endured being : stoned and left for dead; given 39 lashes several times as punishment, in prison, shipwrecked, in an earthquake and  in peril constantly in travel through dangerous regions with numerous enemies.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?

Paul said he had learned the secret of contentment. A little background will help you understand what had occurred.  Paul has received a gift from the church at Philippi. It has been probably 10 years since he was last there. This is in some ways, a ‘thank-you’ note for their gift.  Psalm 1 tells us the person who meditates on the Word of God day and night will yield fruit in due season.  Sometimes it takes a while for the seed which is planted to reach maturity and bear fruit.

Paul had a patient confidence in God’s sovereign providence. He was content to do without and wait on the Lord’s timing.  Paul did not resort to panic or manipulation of others. Those things were never called for. Paul was certain in due time, God would order the circumstances so that his needs would be met. Do you have this same certainty?

Let me ask you a difficult question:  are you discontent today with life?  Is there something missing in your life, you cannot supply yourself?  Are you trying to control circumstances, avoid problems, and minimize risks, so you can be content?  Then you have not learned to be content- for you are only content when there are no troubling circumstances. You cannot control or order your life- control is an illusion.

God’s providence is how He orchestrates everything to accomplish His purpose. God can do this two ways:  a miracle, and by providential circumstances.  His miracles seem to impress us the most, don’t they?  Parting the Red Sea; miraculous healings, restoration of life, blind made to see, etc.  Yet there are more stories where God works all things together for good as in the story of Joseph, a story which unfolded for over 20 years and actually involved thousands and thousands of people. Today He is doing the same for you and yours.

Now be careful, you do not so rely on God’s sovereign providence, you sit back and do nothing. We are to work hard- to wait on the Lord and do good. We are told to ask, seek, and knock.  We are to do all we know to do and do all we can do.

Paul said he learned to be content. It did not come naturally. He had to work at it to develop the habit of dependence of God. He had to study, he had to fast, he had to sacrifice, he had to pray, and he had to humble himself.  Why did he do all these things- because Jesus did all these things.  Paul said he disciplined himself, he labored, and he pressed toward the mark. Paul did NOT sit back and say- ‘well God is sovereign whatever will be, will be.

How can we learn to be content?   One key to this secret is found in the statement Paul makes: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  Trying circumstances steal our joy and peace more often than anything else.  This reveals we were content because circumstances were favorable. If we always depend on favorable circumstances for our contentment, we are never going to be content for unfavorable circumstances can strike us at any time. Paul through dealing with unfavorable circumstances came to believe things were not what they seemed. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4)  Paul does not leave us there thinking we must be strong and brave. He tells us the reason he can face unfavorable circumstances in verse 13:  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.   This is our source of strength in the storms of unfavorable circumstances.  The promise of His presence and His Power. Do you know where they are found?  In the yoke with the Lord Jesus which He beckons us to when we are weary and heavy laden- overwhelmed.

When you and I experience troubling circumstances we cannot do anything about in our own power and strength, this is when we experience the power of Christ to hang on, until a provision is made.  In other words:  You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.  Don’t be foolish and try to manipulate your way out of the problem. Don’t be naïve and act as if there is no problem. Do not despair- God is with you. He is your very present help in times of trouble.

Here is the secret:  CONTENTMENT IS A BY-PRODUCT OF DISTRESS. It comes when you experience the sustaining power of Christ when you have run out of steam; when you realize you cannot fix your problems. “To him who lacks might He increases power.” Isa. 40:29 “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” ( Isa. 40: 31) Notice when we experience this contentment- when we run out of our own resources and  cast our cares upon Him, who cares for us. When we come to Him weary and heavy laden, He will give us rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me- Jesus told us in Matthew 11.  The Yoke of Jesus is where we learn contentment.  The yoke of Christ is the school of faith where we learn contentment and find rest. We come there for one reason- we have more than we can bear.

Why did the Lord allow me to experience the powerlessness I had over alcohol?  So that I would seek a Higher Power to enable me to overcome the urge to drink.

Now we have the promise of the Lord, He will never place more on us than we can bear but will provide a way so that you can stand up in it (I Cor. 10:13).  Do you realize as a believer what you have within you?  You have the spiritual power which resurrected Jesus from the dead. This spiritual power kicks in when we come to the end our resources. And we know for Paul tells us, because of this power within us- “we can do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)   The Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness. When I learned to trust God as my Higher Power to overcome the urge to drink, I gradually begin to realize why not  let Him trust Him with all my life, every area.

“But we have this treasure in these earthly vessels to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4)

Now why does the enemy want to attack you?  Because the enemy knows the power you have within you. You and I as believers have the power of God within us.  The enemy wants to neutralize us to mute our influence.

But remember Somebody up there not just likes you, but loves you with an everlasting love. That Somebody is Almighty God, creator of all things. His method is to work all things together for good and He has never failed.

BACK TO JOSEPH

When Joseph was brought before the Pharaoh to interpret the dream, God revealed to Joseph what He was about to happen.  Joseph told him what they were about to experience with seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and want.    God tells us we will experience plenty and we will experience want in our lives. Paul said he knew what it was to have plenty and he knew what it was to be in need.  Joseph had learned this also- Have you?

But the story of Joseph which confirms God has plan for our fulfillment- a desire He wants to plant in our hearts like a seed which when nourished will bear fruit in due season.  “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4)   This means God will also supply you with a plan, step-by-step to achieve the dream and desire He gave you.  Of course the three fold enemy of your soul, the world, your flesh, and the devil will attempt to sidetrack you, get you to try and solve the problem with your own resources and ideas.  Create anxiety in your life because you cannot control your circumstances.

Joseph’s plan, which God gave him, could be put on a 3 X 5 index card: save 20% of the harvest during the good years of abundance to sustain them through the seven years of famine.

James, the earthly brother of the Lord Jesus, tells us:  “Consider (count) it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking anything. If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1) James says to evaluate every trial as a blessing in disguise.  If you lack the wisdom to see this as true, ask God and He will give you the wisdom you need to see it.

Did you ever wonder why Joseph did not try to escape?  Why did Paul write from prison and say he was in chains for the furtherance of the Gospel?  What happened to those disciples who ran and hid in fear after Jesus was arrested and crucified which led these same men to face their enemies who could have them executed and say we will obey God rather than you?

They experienced the presence of God, the power of God and the peace of God.  We have the same God, the same power and the same peace available to each of us.  We also will experience trying, difficult circumstances in our lives. Guess what?  God has allowed those desperate situations to bring us to Him to experience Him in a way we could not experience Him except through this adversity.

We cannot resolve some of our problems. We cannot eliminate conflict. We cannot make our grown children live life the way we want them to live it.  We can no more control our lives than we can the economy, the weather or the violence of others.

What we can do is turn to God and find the strength to get through the situation.  Adversity will purify one’s faith and enlarge it at the same time. It will also equip us to comfort others and we gain experience which gives us hope which does not disappoint.

THERMOSTATS IN A WORLD OF THERMOMETERS

A thermometer registers and measures the temperature. A thermostats controls it. Our emotions are like a thermometer and go up and down based on conditions.   As Christians we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We have the peace of God and the God of peace. These act as our thermostat controlling our emotions and contentment. When troubles come and our temperatures rise- the Holy Thermostat kicks into cool us when we are hot and warm us when we are cold.

Paul learned as we must learn the secret of contentment is in the sufficiency of the Lord. Apart from Him we are all over the place with our emotions, anger and worry, but the yoke of the Lord  is like our thermostat it controls the environment and provides us with what we need- cooling when hot; warmth when cold. Never more than we can bear. The comfort zone is in Him.

As our thermostat we have a His Power, His Peace, and His Presence. We can weather the storms, the fires, the troubles of this world because He will never place more on us than we can bear; never leave us or forsake us and always supply our needs from the riches of heaven.

Is there any way we can better prepare for these inevitable storms?  Throughout the scripture we read of encounters Jesus had with desperate people who did all they could to get to Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood, fought her way through the crowd to reach Him and touch his robe. We see Blind Bartimaeus yelling at top of his voice,” Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd could not shut him up.  The three men, who wanted to find a way to carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus, climbed up on the roof and removed the roofing to lower their friend to Jesus when they could not reach him any other way.  Zacchaeus, the short, wealthy tax collector was so compelled to see Jesus; he climbed up in a tree so he could place himself in Jesus’ path.

PREPARING FOR THE STORMS OF LIFE

“.. Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both this present life and the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:7, 8)

The spiritual disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness. You will never come to spiritual maturity and be prepared for the storms of life except through the exercise of spiritual disciplines.

God uses three primary catalysts for changing us and conforming us to the image of His Son. He uses people, for as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)  He also uses our enemies to file us like a rough rasp to file away our ungodly edges. God gives us parents, grandparents, teachers, bosses, pastors, authors, co-workers, spouses, and children as an example to change us.

Another agent God uses in our lives is circumstances. Finances, health, weather. All these can work together for good for those who love the Lord who have been called according to His purpose as Romans 8: 28 tells us.

The third agent God uses is the catalysts of Spiritual Disciplines.  You realize there is nothing much you can do about the first two for they are outside factors which God uses. This agent of change is different for two reasons:  it works from inside- out; and it is something we can do something about as we choose to exercise these Spiritual Disciplines.

Here is a list of Spiritual Disciplines which will promote spiritual growth. They are habits we must develop.

  1. Bible intake.
  2. Prayer
  3. Worship
  4. Evangelism
  5. Service.
  6. Stewardship
  7. Fasting
  8. Silence and solitude.
  9. Journaling.
  10. Learning

I will devote a couple of weeks to discussing these disciplines with suggestions as to how to begin to practice them in your life.

It will begin with Bible intake for yourself. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.

It is only through the exercise of these disciplines we will experience spiritual growth and be prepared for the tests which come into our life.

If we are to make disciples, we must discipline ourselves. Discipline is not a word and action which has favorable connotations in today’s society. It brings up images of doing push-ups, running on a treadmill, and lifting weights.  Paul even said these physical disciplines have some value. But we realize freedom comes as a result of discipline.  Want to be financially free?  It takes the discipline of budgeting and delayed gratification, something our society does not condone. Our economy runs on consumer spending and the spending is stimulated with credit which leads to debt and bondage.  Good health requires certain disciplines of diet and exercise.

So freedom is a good word, a positive word.  But freedom requires discipline.   It is for freedom which Christ set us free.  It is not His will or plan for us to live in fear and bondage.  Discipline is the path to freedom.

Christianity needs disciplined disciples making disciples.  It may be the largest failing of the body of Christ at this time in history.  It is time to train up a generation to fight the good fight and carry the message of the Gospel and make disciples!

 

SCRIPTURES: Philippians 4: 5-19; Romans 5:1-5; Romans 8:29-29; Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3, 4

God’s Cure for Worry: Part IV: the Secret of Contentment

 

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. For I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him (Christ) who gives me strength. ( Phil. 4: 11-13) Paul also tells us in 4:19- ; my God shall meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

In some ways this fourth belief seems to be a sum of the previous three.  If I understand and accept the sovereignty of God; believe He is my provider, who shall supply all my needs in Christ Jesus; and this Almighty, All Knowing God has a plan for my fulfillment, I can be content.

In last week’s lesson, we studied the life of Joseph as an illustration of God’s plan for fulfillment for our lives.  Imagine how Joseph’s brothers learned to be content as they came to believe their brother was not going to treat them as they deserved. Joseph assured them his intentions for them were for their good. With Joseph as their benefactor, they knew their needs would be provided. These undeserving brothers lived in contentment because their brother was Prince of Egypt.

My true elder brother is none other than Jesus Christ and He is Prince of Princes, Lord of Lords and King of kings.  I can live in contentment knowing He is watching over me and out for me.  Nothing is impossible for Him to do.

However you cannot help but notice twice in this NIV interpretation, Paul confesses he had learned to be content.  This is the weapon which defeats worry- contentment. Remember when Paul wrote this letter he was a prisoner under house arrest in Rome. He was chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours per day. Paul had endured being : stoned and left for dead; given 39 lashes several times as punishment, in prison, shipwrecked, in an earthquake and  in peril constantly in travel through dangerous regions with numerous enemies.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?

Paul said he had learned the secret of contentment. A little background will help you understand what had occurred.  Paul has received a gift from the church at Philippi. It has been probably 10 years since he was last there. This is in some ways, a ‘thank-you’ note for their gift.  Psalm 1 tells us the person who meditates on the Word of God day and night will yield fruit in due season.  Sometimes it takes a while for the seed which is planted to reach maturity and bear fruit.

Paul had a patient confidence in God’s sovereign providence. He was content to do without and wait on the Lord’s timing.  Paul did not resort to panic or manipulation of others. Those things were never called for. Paul was certain in due time, God would order the circumstances so that his needs would be met. Do you have this same certainty?

Let me ask you a difficult question:  are you discontent today with life?  Is there something missing in your life, you cannot supply yourself?  Are you trying to control circumstances, avoid problems, and minimize risks, so you can be content?  Then you have not learned to be content- for you are only content when there are no troubling circumstances. You cannot control or order your life- control is an illusion.

God’s providence is how He orchestrates everything to accomplish His purpose. God can do this two ways:  a miracle, and by providential circumstances.  His miracles seem to impress us the most, don’t they?  Parting the Red Sea; miraculous healings, restoration of life, blind made to see, etc.  Yet there are more stories where God works all things together for good as in the story of Joseph, a story which unfolded for over 20 years and actually involved thousands and thousands of people. Today He is doing the same for you and yours.

Now be careful, you do not so rely on God’s sovereign providence, you sit back and do nothing. We are to work hard- to wait on the Lord and do good. We are told to ask, seek, and knock.  We are to do all we know to do and do all we can do.

Paul said he learned to be content. It did not come naturally. He had to work at it to develop the habit of dependence of God. He had to study, he had to fast, he had to sacrifice, he had to pray, and he had to humble himself.  Why did he do all these things- because Jesus did all these things.  Paul said he disciplined himself, he labored, and he pressed toward the mark. Paul did NOT sit back and say- ‘well God is sovereign whatever will be, will be.

How can we learn to be content?   One key to this secret is found in the statement Paul makes: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  Trying circumstances steal our joy and peace more often than anything else.  This reveals we were content because circumstances were favorable. If we always depend on favorable circumstances for our contentment, we are never going to be content for unfavorable circumstances can strike us at any time. Paul through dealing with unfavorable circumstances came to believe things were not what they seemed. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4)  Paul does not leave us there thinking we must be strong and brave. He tells us the reason he can face unfavorable circumstances in verse 13:  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.   This is our source of strength in the storms of unfavorable circumstances.  The promise of His presence and His Power. Do you know where they are found?  In the yoke with the Lord Jesus which He beckons us to when we are weary and heavy laden- overwhelmed.

When you and I experience troubling circumstances we cannot do anything about in our own power and strength, this is when we experience the power of Christ to hang on, until a provision is made.  In other words:  You will get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.  Don’t be foolish and try to manipulate your way out of the problem. Don’t be naïve and act as if there is no problem. Do not despair- God is with you. He is your very present help in times of trouble.

Here is the secret:  CONTENTMENT IS A BY-PRODUCT OF DISTRESS. It comes when you experience the sustaining power of Christ when you have run out of steam; when you realize you cannot fix your problems. “To him who lacks might He increases power.” Isa. 40:29 “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” ( Isa. 40: 31) Notice when we experience this contentment- when we run out of our own resources and  cast our cares upon Him, who cares for us. When we come to Him weary and heavy laden, He will give us rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me- Jesus told us in Matthew 11.  The Yoke of Jesus is where we learn contentment.  The yoke of Christ is the school of faith where we learn contentment and find rest. We come there for one reason- we have more than we can bear.

Why did the Lord allow me to experience the powerlessness I had over alcohol?  So that I would seek a Higher Power to enable me to overcome the urge to drink.

Now we have the promise of the Lord, He will never place more on us than we can bear but will provide a way so that you can stand up in it (I Cor. 10:13).  Do you realize as a believer what you have within you?  You have the spiritual power which resurrected Jesus from the dead. This spiritual power kicks in when we come to the end our resources. And we know for Paul tells us, because of this power within us- “we can do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)   The Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness. When I learned to trust God as my Higher Power to overcome the urge to drink, I gradually begin to realize why not  let Him trust Him with all my life, every area.

“But we have this treasure in these earthly vessels to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4)

Now why does the enemy want to attack you?  Because the enemy knows the power you have within you. You and I as believers have the power of God within us.  The enemy wants to neutralize us to mute our influence.

But remember Somebody up there not just likes you, but loves you with an everlasting love. That Somebody is Almighty God, creator of all things. His method is to work all things together for good and He has never failed.

BACK TO JOSEPH

When Joseph was brought before the Pharaoh to interpret the dream, God revealed to Joseph what He was about to happen.  Joseph told him what they were about to experience with seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and want.    God tells us we will experience plenty and we will experience want in our lives. Paul said he knew what it was to have plenty and he knew what it was to be in need.  Joseph had learned this also- Have you?

But the story of Joseph which confirms God has plan for our fulfillment- a desire He wants to plant in our hearts like a seed which when nourished will bear fruit in due season.  “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4)   This means God will also supply you with a plan, step-by-step to achieve the dream and desire He gave you.  Of course the three fold enemy of your soul, the world, your flesh, and the devil will attempt to sidetrack you, get you to try and solve the problem with your own resources and ideas.  Create anxiety in your life because you cannot control your circumstances.

Joseph’s plan, which God gave him, could be put on a 3 X 5 index card: save 20% of the harvest during the good years of abundance to sustain them through the seven years of famine.

James, the earthly brother of the Lord Jesus, tells us:  “Consider (count) it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking anything. If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1) James says to evaluate every trial as a blessing in disguise.  If you lack the wisdom to see this as true, ask God and He will give you the wisdom you need to see it.

Did you ever wonder why Joseph did not try to escape?  Why did Paul write from prison and say he was in chains for the furtherance of the Gospel?  What happened to those disciples who ran and hid in fear after Jesus was arrested and crucified which led these same men to face their enemies who could have them executed and say we will obey God rather than you?

They experienced the presence of God, the power of God and the peace of God.  We have the same God, the same power and the same peace available to each of us.  We also will experience trying, difficult circumstances in our lives. Guess what?  God has allowed those desperate situations to bring us to Him to experience Him in a way we could not experience Him except through this adversity.

We cannot resolve some of our problems. We cannot eliminate conflict. We cannot make our grown children live life the way we want them to live it.  We can no more control our lives than we can the economy, the weather or the violence of others.

What we can do is turn to God and find the strength to get through the situation.  Adversity will purify one’s faith and enlarge it at the same time. It will also equip us to comfort others and we gain experience which gives us hope which does not disappoint.

THERMOSTATS IN A WORLD OF THERMOMETERS

A thermometer registers and measures the temperature. A thermostats controls it. Our emotions are like a thermometer and go up and down based on conditions.   As Christians we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We have the peace of God and the God of peace. These act as our thermostat controlling our emotions and contentment. When troubles come and our temperatures rise- the Holy Thermostat kicks into cool us when we are hot and warm us when we are cold.

Paul learned as we must learn the secret of contentment is in the sufficiency of the Lord. Apart from Him we are all over the place with our emotions, anger and worry, but the yoke of the Lord  is like our thermostat it controls the environment and provides us with what we need- cooling when hot; warmth when cold. Never more than we can bear. The comfort zone is in Him.

As our thermostat we have a His Power, His Peace, and His Presence. We can weather the storms, the fires, the troubles of this world because He will never place more on us than we can bear; never leave us or forsake us and always supply our needs from the riches of heaven.

Is there any way we can better prepare for these inevitable storms?  Throughout the scripture we read of encounters Jesus had with desperate people who did all they could to get to Jesus. The woman with the issue of blood, fought her way through the crowd to reach Him and touch his robe. We see Blind Bartimaeus yelling at top of his voice,” Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd could not shut him up.  The three men, who wanted to find a way to carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus, climbed up on the roof and removed the roofing to lower their friend to Jesus when they could not reach him any other way.  Zacchaeus, the short, wealthy tax collector was so compelled to see Jesus; he climbed up in a tree so he could place himself in Jesus’ path.

PREPARING FOR THE STORMS OF LIFE

“.. Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both this present life and the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:7, 8)

The spiritual disciplines are the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness. You will never come to spiritual maturity and be prepared for the storms of life except through the exercise of spiritual disciplines.

God uses three primary catalysts for changing us and conforming us to the image of His Son. He uses people, for as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)  He also uses our enemies to file us like a rough rasp to file away our ungodly edges. God gives us parents, grandparents, teachers, bosses, pastors, authors, co-workers, spouses, and children as an example to change us.

Another agent God uses in our lives is circumstances. Finances, health, weather. All these can work together for good for those who love the Lord who have been called according to His purpose as Romans 8: 28 tells us.

The third agent God uses is the catalysts of Spiritual Disciplines.  You realize there is nothing much you can do about the first two for they are outside factors which God uses. This agent of change is different for two reasons:  it works from inside- out; and it is something we can do something about as we choose to exercise these Spiritual Disciplines.

Here is a list of Spiritual Disciplines which will promote spiritual growth. They are habits we must develop.

  1. Bible intake.
  2. Prayer
  3. Worship
  4. Evangelism
  5. Service.
  6. Stewardship
  7. Fasting
  8. Silence and solitude.
  9. Journaling.
  10. Learning

I will devote a couple of weeks to discussing these disciplines with suggestions as to how to begin to practice them in your life.

It will begin with Bible intake for yourself. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.

It is only through the exercise of these disciplines we will experience spiritual growth and be prepared for the tests which come into our life.

If we are to make disciples, we must discipline ourselves. Discipline is not a word and action which has favorable connotations in today’s society. It brings up images of doing push-ups, running on a treadmill, and lifting weights.  Paul even said these physical disciplines have some value. But we realize freedom comes as a result of discipline.  Want to be financially free?  It takes the discipline of budgeting and delayed gratification, something our society does not condone. Our economy runs on consumer spending and the spending is stimulated with credit which leads to debt and bondage.  Good health requires certain disciplines of diet and exercise.

So freedom is a good word, a positive word.  But freedom requires discipline.   It is for freedom which Christ set us free.  It is not His will or plan for us to live in fear and bondage.  Discipline is the path to freedom.

Christianity needs disciplined disciples making disciples.  It may be the largest failing of the body of Christ at this time in history.  It is time to train up a generation to fight the good fight and carry the message of the Gospel and make disciples!

 

SCRIPTURES: Philippians 4: 5-19; Romans 5:1-5; Romans 8:29-29; Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3, 4

 

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