Contentment in a Discontented World

Can we be content? Really! Can one really be content today?

We live in a world that seems to be discontent. There are reasons one can be discontent with conditions socially, politically, and even materialistically. Progression and reform are used intermittently to point to the need for change and that the mass is not content.

Wanting change and being content can be possible. One can desire justice and still be content with outlook. What I mean is that contentment points to something deeper inside us.

The Apostle Paul would say someone can be truly content. He wrote to the church Philippi, ” Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil 4:11 ESV).

Paul would emphatically say, “Yes, you can be content!”

What is it?

To be content can be defined as having a peaceful acceptance of where God has providentially placed you. Contentment is more than being at peace with what you have, it means that you rest in God’s sovereignty with his timing and where he has placed you.

The Apostle Paul points to content as something that has been learned (4:11). This was not learned by reading a book. He is pointing to learning from experience. One doesn’t have to read much of the New Testament to see that Paul faced quite a few difficulties (see 2 Cor. 11:24-28).

Contentment is Contrary to Us

By nature, we grumble and complain about things, some more than others. Paul continues to tell the Philippians that he not only learned to be content by experience, he knows the secret to it (Phil 4:15).

The secret to contentment is that it is not found in us. Discontentment is more up our alley. God does not like grumbling or complaining as we see from Israel’s wilderness journey (see Exodus 16 and Numbers 11). God actually called those who grumbled and complained rebels (Numbers 17:10).

This is serious! Our discontentment is really rebellion against God. Our discontentment questions God’s providence and provision. It rejects his sovereignty overall.

In fact, whenever we find ourselves grumbling and complaining (like Israel), that should be warning lights that we are not pursuing holiness.

If contentment is contrary to us, then how does one become content?

Contentment is Found in Christ

Paul learned how to be content because he experienced many different challenges but that is not how one becomes content. The secret to be content was not in himself but it was in the one who strengthens him (Phil 4:13).

Paul writes, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4:13). This verse is well-known. The context reminds us that Paul was not flippantly shouting that he can do everything even unimaginable things. He was talking about enduring and being content in all circumstances because it is not in himself but in Christ.

This verse points to the strength that Paul has to do everything according to the will of God for the glory of God.

His contentment regardless of the situation was in Christ!

Can someone genuinely be content? Yes! They must find the riches that are in Christ, they are MORE than enough (Phil 4:19-20).

Side by Side

Many years ago my wife and I went on a little kayak adventure in Hawaii for our honeymoon. Before we left to get to our guide the instructor gave instructions on how to hold the paddle, how to paddle, and for those who are sharing a kayak how to row together. He said, “this is called the divorce maker for some.”

Alyssa and I kind of gave an awkward laugh and off we went. It was beautiful! Sea turtles, tropical fish, eating pineapple on a secluded sandy beach. It was time to head back to where we started but the weather changed. It was windy, the water became really choppy and it was tough going. The instructor even said if he knew it was going to be this bad we wouldn’t have gone out!

We quickly learned what the instructor meant when he called the tandem kayakers divorce makers. We were striving to make headway against the wind but we kept hitting our paddles together. I quickly was getting frustrated and my new bride saw it.

We finally got back, tired, seeking forgiveness from one another, and so relieved that it was over. It was a trip that left a mark on us as it was many years before we went kayaking again.

I share this illustration to show that in the same way for the church that there can be a lot of gospel work but if we are not working in unity- we are just like Alyssa and I working hard but not getting very far in the kayak. You can actually start working against each other. 

Striving

The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi to stress the importance of unity, “with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Unity was something that Paul addresses a few times in this short letter (1:27; 2:1-4; 4:2-3).

The word that Paul uses for striving would be used similar to an athlete, especially wrestling, where one is straining or working hard to win. Instead of wrestling against one another, the Christian strives together.

Christians have the same task- making disciples (Matt. 28:19).

Christians strive together against sin and the devil (Eph. 6:12).

Christians strive together to be gospel lights to this world (Matt 5:14-16).

Already United

Paul wasn’t telling the church to do the work to be united. Because of Jesus, believers are already united together (Rom. 12:5). So in one sense he was saying, remember that you are one in Christ so strive together in unity!

Christian, remember that you are already united because of Christ. Guard that unity. Since the times are so turbulent, even more so, we need to guard our unity. Jesus is greater and bigger than our political affiliations. Jesus is greater than anything we have uncommon with one another. Let us remember that!

Busy Striving Together and Not Bickering At One Another

There seems to be a lot of bickering among Christians, especially on social media these days. What is being bickered seems so small in comparison to kingdom concerns. My hope and prayer for our church is that we will be busy striving together where we won’t have time to bicker at one another.

Waiting in Anticipation!

I don’t know why but I get excited waiting for a package that I already know is coming. I check the tracking number, I double check on it’s arrival date and you know what? When it comes I get still get excited and somewhat surprised though I know it was coming.

What do you get excited about that is coming your way? Maybe it is the holidays and spending some time with family that you have not seen in a while. Maybe it is finishing a project or anticipating that tax return. You know they may be around the corner and you can’t wait! There is something even greater that one can anticipate. That is what Jesus is doing in you and through.

The Apostle Paul was in prison and he knew a trial before Caesar would take place. He knew death could be on the horizon for him. Yet, we see Paul writing to the church in Philippi that he was anticipating something else.

He writes, “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

Straining the Neck Forward

What was Paul eagerly expecting? That phrase means to strain one’s neck forward in anticipation. Like a child excitedly waiting for something to come Paul was eager too. Paul knew one of two things would happen, death or life. He was eager in how he would finish regardless.

It was like a student prepared for a test, saying, “Bring it on.” Paul did not want to be ashamed of Christ. He even wrote in another place, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). He was hopeful of finishing well whether it was his time in prison or his time on earth.

Do You Eagerly Expect to Not Be Ashamed?

I wonder why as Paul was already so bold that he needed to include this verse. He already proved that he was not ashamed. But I also know he was human. And, humans are prone to fail in times of sorrow, hurt, and strife. He may have seen his weakness and didn’t want to cave under the pressure. He may have felt lonely at times and he could have not been strong and maybe even ashamed of the gospel.

I don’t know why he did, but I am thankful that he included this in the letter. I am weak. I am prone to fail too and in some ways I do. There are moments that I am bold and other times maybe even ashamed. I am not even in prison for my faith and yet I am fail over and over. It should be the believers prayer like Paul that we can eagerly expect whatever happens down the road that we can go forward with full courage not being ashamed of the gospel. I am weak but he is strong and it is by his grace that I continue on with eager expectation (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The Birth of Joy

Where does joy come from? Joy is different than happiness. Joy is supernatural. Happiness is temporal. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances but happiness is.

Our middle son had some money that he saved ready to buy a particular toy. So the day came and I took him to Toys R Us (R.I.P.). It was some ball that he saw on T.V. that he just had to get. I reminded him of our dog at the time which ate everything. This dog ate my leather shoes, part of my leather Bible, our sprinklers, a plethora of toys, you name it! But my son persisted and said I will watch him. I relented (as this was going to be a teaching moment for both of us) and he was so happy on our ride home. He couldn’t wait to play with this ball.

I am sure you can guess what happened. No more than five minutes goes by and I hear, Daddy! The dog ate his new toy. That happiness he had quickly turned to anger and sadness.

Can you relate? How often have we been happy just to turn around and be sad. Maybe you were happy your team got a touchdown but sad because they lost the game. Happy you received some good news but then sad because something else happened. We are fickle creatures.

Joy is deeper and a gift that is given to the believer.

The Book of Philippians is About Joy

15 different references to joy is found in this book. 9 of those 15 references we find the verb “rejoice.” 4 of the 15 the noun “joy” and 2 references to “rejoice with.”

Commentator Steven Lawson defines joy as Steven Lawson defines joy as, “A spiritual grace that we all need to experience in our Christian lives. We live in a world of stress and anxiety that all too easily and subtly can steal the peace of God from our hearts.”

I am reminded that Paul was in chains when he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi (1:12-18). If he didn’t mention his Roman imprisonment we would not have known based on the focus of this letter being one of joy.

Paul was able to have joy because he understood that joy was something that resulted from salvation. It is from the Holy Spirit as the believer is being transformed, we have fruit of that work.

Joy is a Spiritual Fruit

The fruit of the Spirit is described as, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

This means that the Holy Spirit who is doing a work in and through the believer is working joy in the believer’s life.

Paul was able to have joy even when he was being persecuted for his faith because knew nothing can rob him from the everlasting love that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35-39).

Joy and Salvation are Connected

In King David’s song of repentance and restoration he asks the Lord to restore unto him the “joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). The prophet Habakkuk declares, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). The Apostle Paul understood that God is the one who saves, it is by his grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

No matter what happens in this life, for the believer he has eternity to look forward to. No one and nothing can rob the believer of what Jesus has done. The believer thinks about this and understands that they can have joy in what Jesus has done- conquered sin and death, the only way sin can be forgiven, the wrath of God has been absorbed by him, and it is not based on anything we have done. In fact, if it were we would be so far from God because of our sin. So joy stems from an understanding of God’s great grace and how serious our sin is. Joy comes from salvation because the believer understands that this life may be hard and we will suffer at times but their name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life (Luke 11:20).

How to Not Have Fear, Worry, or Anxiety

This is something that every person faces. Given today and the uncertainty of this invisible enemy called COVID-19 or Coronavirus. Going through pandemics is nothing new for the Church though it may be something new that we are all facing now. One of the deadliest pandemics that took place was the Black Death or The Great Bubonic Plague that infiltrated Europe between 1347-1351. More than 30-60% of the population died from this catastrophic pandemic. For example, in England alone, the population of almost four million dropped down to two million. The Church survived through this plague and continued on through other wars, famines, and pestilences throughout history.

The answer to not have fear, worry, or anxiety is the same today as it was in the fourteenth century. We can reflect back on the fact that not only God is sovereign over all but we are directed to the true peace that we can have with God. The Apostle Paul wrote these words, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). The believer who has peace with God can have the peace of God as one endures the trials and tribulations of this world.

Lessons from the Past:

B.B. Warfield wrote these words in his book, The Power of God unto Salvation in 1903. Let these words which were beneficial for Warfield’s generation be encouraging to you:

And having once entered into our peace, let us turn and look with new eyes upon this life which we are living in the flesh. These difficulties, these dangers, these trials, these sufferings, how hard they have been to bear! We have deserved no better, but—nay, therefore—how hard they have been to bear! But we have been justified by faith—actually and truly justified by faith—and now we have peace with God. What a new aspect is taken by the trials and sufferings of life! They are no longer our fate, hard and grinding; they are no longer our punishment, better than which is not to be expected—forever. They come from the hand of a reconciled God, from the hand of our Father. What one of them has not its meaning, its purpose, its freightage of mercy and of good? Shall we not follow the apostle here, and, as we find that peace with God has stolen into our hearts and that we are exulting in the hope of future glory, let that glory gild also our present pathway? Shall we not turn with new courage, nay, even with joy, to the sufferings of this present life, crying with him: “And not only so, but we also rejoice in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience triedness, and triedness hope, and hope putteth not to shame, because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us!

We have peace with God and we then now look onwards towards eternity not with dread but sing with the Apostle, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” and “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil 1:21, 3:20-21). The trials are just momentary afflictions but cannot compare to the glories that await us (2 Cor. 4:17). Because of Christ, we not are only saved by his grace but also will be sustained by his grace.

So how does one not have fear, worry, or anxiety? The answer is to run to the Lord who is sovereign over all!

What Do Christians Have in Common?

What the Church Shares-2
Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

We have more in common with Chrisitans than we do have uncommon. I have written about this in the past which is a common thread found throughout the New Testament. You can read about how Christians share in weeping for one another here and how we share in rejoicing with others here.

Sometimes we neglect the aspect of unity among believers (I call it the togetherness of the Christian life). We read in the Bible that believers, the church, are called a body. Christ is the head of the body, but each member (believer) is part of this body. Just like each perspective part of your body has usefulness so does the body of Christ. The apostle Paul reminds us,

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-20 ESV).”

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How to Pray for Others

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Many times I get this question, “Pastor, please pray for me.” Not only do I do my best to pray for them right then and there but I try to remember to pray for them throughout my week. I am often wondering how do I pray for others. I know it is lifting up their request but more so, how should my heart and mind be when I pray for them. I am so thankful for Scripture as we can see a model of what this looks like. Paul, the Apostle, would often pray for the different churches and mention that in his letters to them.
One of those particular prayers is found in the book of Philippians. In his pastoral prayer, we have a model of the heart behind praying for others.

1) Our prayers need to be thankful for others

Paul was thankful for the church in Philippi, he was thankful for them. He writes to them, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).” As a pastor I am reminded how I am thankful for the believers at my church. I am thankful for the unity that comes in Christ. Though there may be different in our interests, we have different backgrounds and upbringings, we have different likes and dislikes, different hobbies, different professions, different yet we have Christ who unites us. We go from unrelated to family. We go from strangers to a community. Christ who unites us is far greater than where we are diverse.
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Summer Reading List-2018

Summer Reading List
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It’s that time, summer! The kids are winding down their school years and I am sure that most everyone is thinking, what can I read this summer? Let me encourage you as your vacations are planned to make sure and pack a book. There are many great books out there and there are many not so great books out there. Last year I wrote a blog post “What Not to Read” during your summer time reading. Let me give you ten books that I recommend this summer.
This list is in no special order but are based on books that I feel were worth the time to read. Whether you read diligently or are challenging yourself with just trying to read more than you already do, I encourage you to grab a book, spend some time reading it, and digest what you read. Let it be something the encourages you in your Christian walk and share it with someone else.
Summer Reading List:* Continue reading “Summer Reading List-2018”

Don't Be Like Demas

I have some friends who were part of their school’s cross-country team. The importance of the long race is not just how one starts, but how they maintain their endurance through the whole race. The same is true for us as Christians. The book of Hebrews encourages the Christian to run with endurance the race that is set before them by looking to Jesus, who is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1–2). Continue reading “Don't Be Like Demas”

Marks of Christian Unity: Rejoicing with One Another

 As a parent, there are certain things that I am less desirous of doing than others, such as going to Costco as a family. Don’t get me wrong; I love being with my family and I love spending time with them. But Costco is usually busy, and when you have three young children, it’s just not that easy. I always tell my wife, Alyssa, that it is like trying to herd cats.
There have been successful trips to Costco and that is when we are all moving together with the same goal. We get in, have fun, and get the items we came for. Plus, the kids get to eat all the free samples!
In the same way, the church is made up of more than individual Christians; we are a body of believers that is called a family. We can easily start going our own way and doing our own thing. That is why Paul urges the church to be unified. He writes to the Philippian church, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1–2 esv).
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