TO BE CONTENT
This is a printed version of a message given at Hood Canal Community Church on May 18th, 2008. The message was given from a very limited outline and includes thoughts not written here.
Godís purpose for his people is that they learn his heart.
When we have plenty, we need to respond with thanksgiving as "every perfect gift is from above." If all good things come from God and you received something you see as good, thank him! We learn his heart as a giving God.
When we are in want, we need to reflect how the Lord was in want. He came to serve; he suffered as a man to the point of death. He suffered everything we suffer but more and out of choice. The more we suffer, the more we have an opportunity to experience how much he loves us. We learn his heart as a giving God.
FIELD GOAL KICKER The score is tied in a playoff game. With seconds left, the veteran field-goal kicker is called out to the field. The opposing fans past the end zone wave flags and the whole stadium erupts with so much distracting noise no one can hear the countdown to hike the ball. For this veteran however, everything becomes quiet. The loud crowd and waving flags seem almost non-existent. He isnít counting on his past record of superb performance. He doesnít hear an inner voice telling him that this is a long field goal and he may cost his team the game if he misses. He only sees the uprights and the twitch of the hands of the center as the ball is hiked. All of his energy is focused on the goal.
This type of focus doesnít come without discipline and hard work.
Col 3 1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
The word ďsetĒ implies making an effort, taking energy to do something. How much time each day or each week do you spend meditating on that which is above?
We were created to be Christ-like, to be imitators of Christ. To be like him, we need to as much as possible, see him as he is. In heaven what we start here will be brought to perfection as we truly see Christ as he is.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. I Jn 3:2
Consider the song:
Change my heart oh God, Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God, May I be like You
You are the potter, I am the clay
Mold me and make me, This is what I pray
Jer 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
How much of your energy, your heart do you give to seeking to know your God? Do you find yourself discontent? Seek your God with all of your heart.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. Phil 3:12-15
Everything I share is with that mindset. Iím not sharing with you because I have attained some spirituality that now I plan to impart to you. Rather Iím sharing a pathway to CONTENTMENT that I believe God has shown me.
Letís look at examples of worldly peace and contentment:
Peace from WAR
Peace from UNWANTED NOISE
Peace from CONFLICT
Contentment with a FULL STOMACH
Contentment from LACK OF FEAR
You will hear me interchanging PEACE and CONTENTMENT. When we have the PEACE of God, we are CONTENT. When we are CONTENT in him, we have his PEACE.
First, Jesus left us with a very different type of PEACE.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
When we have the PEACE of God, we have no anxiety or fear.
Jesus tries to help his slow of learning disciples learn of real PEACE as he is on his way to the cross.
But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. John 16:32
There is a PEACE of God in the life of Jesus because Jesus knows he is not alone! He is in intimate communion with the creator/sustainer of the universe. He intimately knew his Father. We were created to intimately know our God. He wants us to know him deeply. We learn of him through his word, through the teaching of others and by experiencing him. It is crucial that we know his Word because it is the basis for testing everything else we hear and read. God isnít limited to teaching us through his word, books and sermons. He reveals himself to us throughout each and every day. Some of those revelations come in the form of what we see as trouble.
You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:32-33
It is clear here that Jesus isnít offering a freedom from trouble. He in fact says that you will have trouble. His PEACE comes from being an overcomer of the world. In this world, we are at war with each other, at war with our bodies, at war with time, at war with creation. There can never be true lasting peace in this world for any individual and in any place. Yet we continue to strive for it, thinking that we can obtain enough of it to put our hearts at rest.
If Jesus was speaking in worldly terms, what peace could he expect? He was to be violently beaten and crucified. All his friends would leave him. They would ultimately suffer torture and cruel death, as would followers of his for centuries to come.
His PEACE is not of this world. It a PEACE he has left for his followers, the overcomers, those who seek a better place, those who know where their home is, those who know their God. It is peace in the midst of the storm rather than the ending of the storm.
So how does one take hold of this PEACE which Jesus has left to all who call him by name? Jesusí PEACE came from knowing he was not alone. The Father was with him. He abided in the Father. His peace came from intimacy with his Father. We need to abide with Jesus as well. When we are truly abiding, we will have PEACE.
Abiding with God is what we were created for. We werenít created to do. There is nothing we can do that God canít do without us. We were created to be his children. He wants us to seek him, to know him intimately. Out of that knowledge of God and as a result of receiving his love, we learn to rest in His love. Out of the overflowing of that love in our lives, we give to others. This is what we were created for, to know the very heart of God and to be like him.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isa 26:3
So we need a steadfast mind and a trusting heart, how do we get there? So how do we get to this contented state? How do we abide and receive the PEACE of God?
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Col 1:16-17
It is all made by him, made for him and he is holding it all together. Itís not about us. Itís about Jesus. Itís not about us. Itís about us conforming to his image for his glory. We canít conform to an image we donít know. We get to know him as we experience him through ďgood times and bad.Ē Heís holding everything together all around you and I. He has created a heaven that is beyond our wildest imaginations.
However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him I Cor 2:9
He is a very big, very powerful God. When we go to him in prayer, it helps for us to see him as he is. He is a very loving God. He is showing us his love throughout the days of our lives and we miss so very much of it. He wants us to walk in his PEACE.
I liken the PEACE of God to walking along a mountain ridge. On one side is anxiety and fear, on the other side is self and pride.
Philippians 4:12-13 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 who gives me strength.
How did Paul do it? In the plenty times, he thanked God.
In the want times, he found his suffering incomparable with what God had in store for him. He knew the love his Savior had.
He could have sung ďIt is well with my soul.Ē
Life is kind of like riding a bike. There are uphill times that build our muscle. There are level times that we need to keep pedaling or weíll stop and fall over. Then there are the downhill times. Sometimes we wish they would continue forever.
THANK GOD FOR ďTIMES OF PLENTYĒ
James 1: 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lightsÖ
We tend to take credit for things that we really havenít accomplished.
I Cor 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
When we take credit for what God has given to us, we miss out on experiencing his gift to us. We miss out experiencing his love. He is expressing so much love to us throughout each and every day and we miss out on most of it. We abide with him as we give him credit for what he has done and is doing in our lives, which is every good thing we have ever received or done! We abide with him as we get to know him better.
During your quiet time, thank him. Make up a list and go through it.
Throughout the day
Thank him for the thing.
For warm showers
Thank him for the moment
Thank him for the tasty morsel of food, not just dinner
Thank him for the warm drops of the shower on your head as he showers you with his love.
There are two things most of us arenít normally thankful for. We were born here and now and we had nothing to do with it. God put us in this country at this time and that is an incredible physical blessing in itself. Someone from a third world country, who woke up in your bed with your life, would be exuberant.
Also we would do well to be thankful for what our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and their fathers before them have done for us. They built this great country we live in. They traveled by stagecoach, lived in terrible conditions, and much of what they did was for us to have a better life. They risked their lives, gave their lives, shed their blood so we would have worldly peace in this country. In my opinion, we owe them our gratitude in the way we live our lives today. If we arenít thankful for what we have in physical blessings, we will have a hard time being thankful for spiritual ones in Christ.
SEEK HIM IN THE INBETWEEN TIMES
Pray (talk with God)
In your quiet time as you talk to him and listen.
Throughout the day
Lord, what are you showing me here about you?
Lord, what are you showing me about my relationship with you?
Talk to God, ask, and it will be given to you. Ask him to show you his nature. Read his Word so you know how to test what is of him. Once you have the foundation of his Word, you will know his voice and he will show you wonderful things if you ASK.
We abide with him as we spend time with him, intimate time both in our quiet times and throughout the day.
LEARN OF HIS HEART DURING ďTIMES OF WANT.Ē
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rather than think of ourselves during these times, we can think that Christ suffered so much more than we are suffering. He did it by choice. He did it out of love for us. When we experience suffering, we can know all the more how much he loves us. We to some extent experience the very heart of God.
I Jn 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
We really get to know Godís heart, his ever loving, ever giving heart. Jesus came not to be served but to serve. He had his downhill times in the mornings when he went to be alone with his Father. The rest of the time, he kept pushing on, serving, for us. Unless we suffer, we will have a very hard time appreciating what he has done for us. He wants us to then love with his love.
Worldly troubles can either distract us from his love or make us aware of it. You have a higher calling. You are an over-comer, not one destined to suffer without a reason bigger than the suffering. This world is not your home. Live in victory.
We need to look at one other cause of suffering. It is our own sin. When we suffer, we will do best to ask ourselves if it is a result of our actions. If it is, confess it, learn through it, and move on.
When you know, when you experience the love of God, you will walk in peace and contentment. Itís called abiding in Christ.
So here is out creator, sustainer God, in heaven, everywhere, the very source of love, showering his love down upon you. Receive his love. He is loving you in so many ways every moment of your life. Right now, you only have this moment. The past is gone, the future on this earth uncertain. This moment, receive his love. Heís giving it to you. Every moment you can; receive. In times of plenty, receive all that plenty from the hand of God. In times of want, stop for a moment and step aside from your own pain. Meditate that the God of the universe suffered worse than you suffer. Why, because he wants to be with you that badly, because he loves you. Stop for a moment and praise him for loving you so much. Your pain is real. It wonít just go away on this earth. Just spend some time considering his pain, for you, his love, for you.
So the contentment comes as we know we are not alone. We exercise spiritual disciplines as we seek God. We acknowledge his presence and his love in the times of plenty. We acknowledge his presence and his love in the times of want. We rest knowing that we are so loved and taken care of by our God.
So, letís conclude as we look again at the bike example: When God allows the uphill times in your life, thank Him that he loves you so much that he endured the up-hills in his life for you. STOP for a moment and say in your heart, ďYou love me this much?Ē During the downhill times, know that the free ride is from Him. Thank him. Keep thanking him. Thank him for the big things, the little things, the spiritual blessings, the relationships you have and for the physical blessings as well. And when youíre just pedaling along, discipline yourself to do what you were created to do, to become Christ-like.
Seek who he is. Keep asking him to reveal himself to you. It is what you were created for, to seek and know your God.