Friday, September 27, 2013

What Is The Secret to Contentment?

What Is The Secret to Contentment?
Philippians 4:11-12
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

The Bible identifies contentment as a virtue and speaks of contentment as a command. You are to be content with whatever you have. You are to be content with food and clothing. You are to be content with your wages. You are to be content because you understand that an infinitely and supernaturally resourceful God will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 ~ Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Contentment is a virtue. Contentment is a command.

Can you search your heart and answer these questions truthfully? 
Am I content with who I am?
Am I content with what I have and what I earn? 
Am I content with where I live and with whom I live with? 
All of these questions play a part in discovering the secret to contentment. The world tries to tell you, “You need a bigger house, more money, a nicer car, or a new mate that will satisfy and fulfill all your longings. You deserve better and need to go and get what you deserve!”

The Apostle Paul found the secret to contentment and speaks emphatically of this contentment in his letter to the Philippians. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” The word contentment comes from the Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says, My grace is sufficient (enough) for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Contentment is in knowing Christ and trusting His sufficiency in your life. (The state of being adequate to the end proposed. His sufficiency is such, that he bestows and possesses, his plenty being unexhausted)*Webster’s 1828 Dictionary used in defining the word,“sufficiency.”

We are always coping with the unknown and do not know the extent, length of time, or the frequency of the pain wherein we must trust God. Someone has expressed these truths as they relate to us: “God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.” God’s providential care of us sustains and governs us bringing all events to their appointed end. Nothing is too large or too small to escape the sovereign hand of God. His ways are often questioned because we, as humans, don’t understand what God is doing. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). His judgments are unsearchable, and His paths are beyond tracing out. Romans 11:33-34 ~ O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? The secret to contentment is found in trusting God and knowing that He is in control of all things. 

The Apostle Paul had a patient confidence in God's sovereign providence and that confidence could be seen throughout his entire life. He could do without while living in deep poverty and was still patient in waiting on the Lord. He understood that all things were in God’s hands and he would not manipulate people or turn any screws to get what he wanted. Paul was certain that in God’s timing He would bring about the circumstances needed to meet his every need. The reason Paul was content was because he knew that the times, the seasons, and the opportunities of life were controlled by a sovereign God. 

Thought:  Providence is a term to indicate that God provides and that He orchestrates everything to accomplish His purpose. Paul was content because of confidence in the providence of God and because he was satisfied with little. He was so at peace with the providence of a sovereign God that he was content even though his need was deep and great. Paul knew that the chief end of man was not to have his needs met, but the chief end of man was to worship and enjoy God.

Can we say with the Apostle Paul that we are content with whatever we have whether great or small. Or, are we living exclusively to see God meet our needs (wants) and change our circumstances? May we be like Paul and learn to trust God in His sovereign care of us, be satisfied with little, and rise above any circumstance. The end result, godliness with contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6). We are not sufficient in and of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Unlikely Tools

Unlikely Tools 
Philippians 1:12-21
But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;  So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;  And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I there in do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.  For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

More than anything, Paul’s desire was to preach the gospel in Rome. Rome was the key city of its day and the hub of the great Roman Empire. Millions could be reached with the message of salvation and Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but went instead as a prisoner!

God sometimes uses strange tools to help spread the gospel of Christ or bring someone to the  saving knowledge of Christ. In the case of the Apostle Paul, there were tools that helped him take the gospel even into the palace, the Praetorian, and unto Caesar’s special troops. Paul did not find his joy in ideal circumstances; he found his joy in winning others to Christ. One tool God used in the furtherance of the gospel was Paul being chained to a Roman solider (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul wanted his brethren to know that what happened to him was really to advance the gospel. The people around him recognized that he was no criminal but a prisoner for preaching and teaching Jesus Christ.

Paul had critics that opposed him in the gospel (Philippians 1:15-19). He preached the gospel  with love and compassion but there were men that were jealous of his apostolic power, his authority, his success and immense giftedness. They began to discredit him causing strife and contention among the people of Philippi. They were interested only in self-advancement and not winning others to the saving knowledge of Christ. God used this opposition in the furtherance of the gospel and that is evident in Paul’s statement: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Paul’s life is summarized by his love for Christ and his reason for living. Death would relieve Paul of all earthly burdens but, his passion was to preach the gospel and build up other believers to be fruitful laborers for Christ.

Paul learned as a Christian that whatsoever state he was in, he could be content. Is it possible that Paul found joy in prison? If people were to search for joy, they probably wouldn’t think to look in prison. How could God use prison as a tool to spread the wonderful story of love? Fortunately, no one can imprison the Word of God; it has its free course to do a work in the hearts of men no matter where they may be. God can use any circumstance, any place, any time, any person for the purpose of spreading the gospel. God uses the most unlikely tools to give the most incredible story man has ever heard. It is inconceivable to think, the King of glory would come to earth in such a lowly fashion, die for sinners, raise from the dead and then go back to heaven waiting to return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

I Love to Tell the Story
Text: Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911 
Music: William G. Fischer, 1835-1912 

       I love to tell the story of unseen things above, 
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.  
I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true; 
it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story,'twill be my theme in glory, 
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

I love to tell the story; 'tis pleasant to repeat 
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.  
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard 
the message of salvation from God's own holy Word.

Thought: Some difficult circumstances in my life contributed to bringing me to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This most unlikely tool God used to plant the seed of the Word of God in my heart resulting in salvation. God used a young teenage girl to disciple me and share with me the love she possessed in giving the gospel to others. I will be eternally thankful to her for her undying love for Christ and will say with the Apostle Paul, I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Overcoming Impossible Circumstances

Overcoming Impossible Circumstances
Psalms 73:26
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Our Lord delights in solving what we would call, “The hard cases.” When we acknowledge God’s wisdom and truly glorify Him as we see him bringing good out of evil and making beauty out of the ashes from our impossible circumstances, it strengthens our faith to know there is nothing to hard for God. 
Jeremiah 32:17 ~ Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
Jeremiah 32:27 ~ Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

There is no circumstance or situation that is hopeless. No matter what failures have taken place in our past or how wronged we may have been, God can enable us to be joyful and content even in the midst of impossible circumstances. God is eager to make our life a trophy of His grace by His strength. He does not rely upon ours. There is no situation so impossible or so great that God will not provide all that is needed to meet the challenges of our pain. I Corinthians 10:13 ~ There hath no temptation( (trial) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful,  (He cannot lie and will not let us down) who will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted (tried) above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Comfort and Encouragement for Our Hearts in the Midst of a Trial

God loves us with a love that will never end and can never be destroyed. The love He has for His children is dependent upon His character and never ours. Knowing He loves us simply because we are His, is a great comfort in the midst of a trial. Romans 8:35-39 ~ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We fight our battles essentially in our minds. Therefore, the way we think determines the way we respond and what we believe to be true. (2 Corinthians 10:4,5)

Sin can cause you to suffer but this does not mean God has not forgiven you. God is faithful and just to forgive all of your sins. 1 John 1:9 ~ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Take Precautions When Facing the “Impossible”

Don’t make a decision until all the information is known and then avoid making a quick judgment, if at all possible. Realize that God’s way of dealing with a situation may not seem like the best way to us but He does know what is best–––all of the time.  Isaiah 55:8-9 ~ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Be certain that every response and every solution made is both ethical and Biblical. God always prepares an escape for every situation or trial and we are instructed to deal with our trials (no matter how long they last) in a righteous and moral manner.

Deal with each circumstance or situation one step at a time. Psalms 37:23 ~ The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. We must discipline ourselves to take one day and one problem at a time and control our minds from wondering what lies ahead. God gives grace for today and the needs of today not for the “What if’s” of tomorrow. Our Lord knows what we can handle and gives grace enough to endure for today.

Capitalize on the good that will come out of intense difficulty, not on the pain of the crisis itself. There is a reason for every trial. The Apostle Peter encourages believers to look forward to the purpose of each trial and the reward that is given, not on the present suffering. Every trail, problem, sorrow, and failure, can be turned to joy when we know the Lord, depend on His faithfulness, and trust His promises. Our joy is not in the trial itself, but in knowing that the end result is for His glory. I Peter 4:12,13 ~ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Thought: Will you be willing to entrust your circumstances to Christ completely and look to Him to turn your situation around in the way He desires for you? Are you willing to obey Christ, even if it takes a long time to see God’s blessings unfold? Commit yourself to live a life of obedience to God, knowing He can make “beauty out of ashes” in your life.

 Psalms 143:10 ~ Teach me to do thy will...

*Thoughts taken from, “Secrets of a Happy Heart” by Debi Pryde.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Laughter, the Best Medicine

Laughter, the Best Medicine

Proverbs 15:13
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbs 17:22
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

I love to laugh and because I love to laugh, I would like to bring a smile to your face and apply some medicine to your heart. There have been times when I have laughed at myself and at my circumstances and was able to bring laughter to others as well. I hope this short story will bring at least a smile to your face.

Sometimes we take life way too seriously. We have been taught to run through our lives with such a speed we have no time to laugh. I remember reading that children laugh over 300 times in a day when adults laugh less than 15 times. 15! What happens to us when we grow up! If you are down, laughing aloud may seem impossible. You may even look at laughing people and feel they are inconsiderate and loud. But if you are one of the laughing groups, you’d never think that. I hear the real saints of today are the ones who make you laugh. They give you the best gift - the gift of joy. They really show laughter is the best medicine. 

One beautiful sunny day, while living in Southern California, I had just taken my married daughter to her home, dropped her off and was returning to the church where my pastor/husband was patiently waiting to take me to lunch. The wind was a major factor living in the high desert and blew constantly. On this particular day, I was not paying attention to the blowing wind, I was just enjoying life while driving down the road.

The street I was traveling on was a large street with a continuing downward slope and on the west side of the road was an elementary school. As I passed by, I saw the children playing outside at recess. All of a sudden, a ball came over the fence and my first impulse was to stop the van and retrieve the ball for the children. So, I did! I stopped the van, jumped out and headed towards the ball. Unfortunately, I was dressed in a skirt, nylons and non-running shoes. As I walked around the front of the van to get the ball, the wind caught the ball causing it to roll faster and faster down the street. I started to jog after the ball which was unusual for me–––being the non-runner that I was. (Remember the downward slop of the street?) With all the children on the playground watching me, I began to pick up speed as I continued after the ball. I could feel myself leaning forward and now knew my feet could not run any faster. The pull of the downward grade had a grip on me. Then it happened! I lost control and fell on the side of the road. It wasn’t a pretty sight, my skirt flew up over the back of my head, I ripped my nylons, scraped my knee, cut open my hand and my chin on the asphalt curb. By this time, the children on the playground were hanging on the fence watching the funny lady in a skirt–––WIPE-OUT! OUCH! As I limped back to my van, bleeding and crying, I realized I had lost all pride and self-control on the two-foot asphalt curb. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the children looking at me and no doubt wondering, “Will she get our ball for us”? I’m sure you’re wondering the same question and the answer is, NO! I didn’t get the ball! My legs and hands were shaking from the trauma of the fall and it took all my strength to hoist myself back up into the big sixteen passenger van. I cried all the way to the church and wasn’t looking forward to the response of my husband when I arrived.

It truly was a lovely day despite my collision with the Maple Street Road. When I arrived at the church, my husband had his office door open and was enjoying the sunshine and warm air. I managed to get out of the van without falling down but I looked as if I had been in a wreck of some kind. With my nylons torn, dirt on my skirt and blood running down my chin and hand, I was a sight to behold. My husband heard me crying from inside his office and as I limped through the opened door,  he shot up like a jack rabbit shouting, “What happened to you?” My tearful response was, “I don’t want to tell you, you’ll laugh at me!” He said he wouldn’t, laugh but I knew better and hesitated to give any reply. I went to the restroom in his office and began to wash my face and my hand which had some gravel embedded in it. He sat on the lid of the commode and continued to ask me, “What happened?” I finally gave in and as I had already supposed what he would happened....he laughed! “Oh,” He said, “Is that all? I thought you had been in a car wreck or something.” “What do you mean is that all?  Look at me! I”m a wreck and hurting!”  I called my daughter to get some sympathy but to my surprise, she laughed as well.  Even my husband’s secretary, who was my friend, laughed out loud over the phone. That night at church, a scab had already formed on my chin from the fall. A lady came up to me and with a quick lick of her thumb, tried to clean my chin of some dirt she thought was there. I stepped back before she could actually “clean” my face and then the question came ....”What happened to you?” 

Laughter is one of the best natural pain-killers in this world. According to a recent study, laughter can lower risks of a heart attack by a LOT. Laughter also reduces stress, therefore lowering blood pressure. That's a whole lot of health benefits just from laughing! It produces happy chemicals in the body called endorphins which work in the brain to give an overall feeling of well-being. 

Thought: I hope this story has made you laughed just a little and produced some happy chemicals in our body. I read this story to some of my grandchildren and one of them asked, “Gram, is that true, was that really you?” In case you were wondering if this was a true story, I want you to know, “Yes,” it was all true. LOL