When Contentment is Elusive…

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Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV)

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 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.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

God has provided us with many things to enjoy.

But too often our lives are filled with turmoil instead of contentment.

Four practices that create dissatisfaction are . . .

Busyness.

We live in a hurry-up society, dashing from one activity to another. Jesus did not rush anywhere, yet He accomplished whatever God gave Him to do. Not once did He tell His followers to move faster. He even praised Mary for choosing to stop her work and spend time with Him (Luke 10:39, 42).

Earthly perspective.

Too often we live focused on our circumstances. Our minds think about what happened earlier in the week, what’s on today’s agenda, and the activities occurring next week, month, or year. No wonder enjoyment of life remains elusive. The solution is to have an eternal perspective, which acknowledges that God is in charge and our goal is to please Him.

Self-imposed pressure.

We have all experienced the unavoidable burdens of schoolwork, employment, and relationships. But we bring needless pressure on ourselves when we allow unnecessary “musts” and “shoulds” to rule us. The remedy is to turn to God, acknowledge His right to order our days, and ask for His plan.

Unhealthy attitudes.

Perfectionism, false guilt, and apathy all undermine our enjoyment of life.

Satisfaction is found in a life that reflects God’s priorities–and time with Him comes first.

Reading His Word, we become mindful of the Father’s great love, learn what He views as important, and experience the joy of belonging to Him.

When contentment is elusive, it’s time to examine our priorities.

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The School of Obedience…

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1 John 1:3-6 (KJV)

3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

Starting at age five, our children are enrolled in school and given lessons to learn each year.

We are students too.

At salvation, we became participants in the Lord’s school of obedience.

There, we are discovering the necessity of trusting Him and waiting for His direction.

We are taught the importance of commitment and learn to search His Word for guidance.

God also wants us to learn these lessons:

* Listen attentively to the Spirit’s promptings. 

Our God does not speak in an audible voice, but He makes Himself heard quite clearly through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit is our Helper who will bring to mind Scripture passages we have studied (John 14:26) and show us how they apply.

* Obey the next step.

Abraham was called to leave his home and journey to an unknown destination (Gen. 12:1). He obeyed even though the way was unclear to his human mind. We, too, must step out in faith even when we do not know all the details of the itinerary.

* Expect conflict. 

We can’t live obedient lives without having trouble with the world (John 16:33). Our friends or family may drift away when they realize certain interests of ours have changed. Some may hurl criticism our way or call us unkind names, while others may reject us completely.

Practicing a lifestyle of obedience doesn’t mean we’ll never make mistakes.

But it does require diligence if we are to succeed.

Obeying the Father was Jesus’ priority and purpose in life, and we should make it ours as well.

Which of these lessons do you want to tackle first?

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Teaching Through Adversity…

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2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (KJV)

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

What are we to do with our pain when, despite our pleading, God won’t remove it?

He knows we’re hurting but does nothing.

How can He be a God of love yet not come to our aid?

Today’s passage gives us intimate insight into a very painful event in Paul’s life.

We don’t know exactly what the “thorn in the flesh” was, but his account of what he learned through that experience is an amazing example of what God wants to teach us through adversity.

  • First of all, God is sovereign over the situation.

    Ultimately, He is the one who allowed the thorn and the one with the power to remove it.

  • Second, God prioritizes the spiritual.

    Paul wanted physical relief, but the Lord was working for his spiritual good. The thorn was a protection against pride, which would have seriously hindered Paul’s ministry and corrupted his character. Whatever God allows to afflict believers is designed to protect them from sin, produce holiness, and equip them for faithful service to Christ.

  • Third, God’s grace is sufficient.

    The Lord didn’t remove the pain but gave Paul both the grace to endure it and strength in his weakness. If God doesn’t provide a way out, He will provide a way through.

Once we understand the Lord’s sovereignty, priorities, and sufficiency, we can respond to our afflictions as Paul did—with gladness.

When Christ’s strength is perfected in us, we can be content in whatever difficulties God allows in our life. The Lord’s unwillingness to give us relief is not neglect. Rather,

it is evidence of His surpassing love, which seeks our eternal good.

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A Lifelong Process of Growing…

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John 14:15-21 (KJV)

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

According to John 14:21, we express love for Jesus by obeying His commands.

To love Him wholeheartedly, we must develop a lifestyle of obedience.

Let’s look at four aspects of such a lifestyle.

Our trust in the Father grows. 

This confidence comes from believing that the Lord is who Scripture says He is. And God’s Word tells us that He is good–as well as faithful to keep His promises (2 Cor. 1:20). Psalm 86:15 calls Him merciful, gracious, loving, and slow to anger. His character remains unchanged by difficult or hard-to-understand circumstances (Heb. 13:8).

We develop a deepening ability to wait on the Lord. 

Delays can be hard in our I-want-it-now culture. But we must resist temptation and wait on Him instead of running ahead.

We commit to obey God.

Without such a resolve, we’ll vacillate at decision time or allow fear to prevent us from choosing His way.

Our study of Scripture becomes consistent.

The Bible reveals God’s priorities, commands, and warnings. It acts as a light, illuminating His chosen path for us while revealing obstacles and dangers along the way (Ps.119:105). Without it, we are like a person who walks in the woods at night without a flashlight.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that obedience to the Lord is automatic.

It’s a lifelong process of growing in our trust and patiently waiting on Him before we act.

This requires a steadfast commitment to obey so that we can say no to ungodly choices and yes to God. 

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Learning How To Respond…

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Acts 16:16-34 (KJV)

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

One way we tend to judge whether we’re walking in God’s will is by the outcome.

The assumption is that when we’re doing what the Lord wants, life will run smoothly.

But if all sorts of problems and heartaches occur, we often assume we must have wandered away from His will.

But Paul teaches that is not always the case.

In 1 Corinthians 16:9, he writes, “For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

And that’s exactly what happened when God closed one door and opened another on the apostle’s second missionary journey. (See Acts 16:6-10.)

After Lydia and her household received the gospel, this new opportunity must have seemed hopeful. However, a short time later Paul and Silas, having been stripped and beaten with rods, found themselves sitting in a Philippian jail.

We don’t like to think God’s will for our life might include pain, suffering, or persecution, but that’s what Scripture teaches.

The Lord uses affliction to test our faith, teach dependence on Him, develop godly character and spiritual maturity, and equip us to comfort others (Rom. 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 1:4).

But He also uses our suffering to draw others to Christ.

It’s doubtful the jailer would have been so ready to accept the gospel if Paul and Silas had not responded to their unfair treatment by singing hymns of praise to God.

When the Lord opens a door of suffering in our life, it’s an opportunity for unbelievers to witness God at work in us.

Instead of trying to escape, let’s learn to respond in a manner that draws others to the Savior.

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As You Walk Through Those Storms…

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (KJV)

16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Is there something God has told you to do that seems just too difficult?

You can be sure that if He has called you to carry out His will, He’s going to be faithful to accomplish it through His Spirit living and working in you.

So if you tell Him, “I can’t do that, Lord–what if I fail?” you’re really saying, “God doesn’t keep His word.”

And yet, our total expectation should be in Him–not in our own energy, ability, or experience.

When you doubt God’s trustworthiness, that unbelief becomes a gap in your spiritual armor, and you can be sure that’s exactly where Satan will attack you.

You’ll begin to doubt even more about God’s character, such as His goodness–and that distrust will become a heavy load of baggage you’ll needlessly drag through every area of your life.

You might feel that you do not have enough faith to obey, but the Lord isn’t asking you to have faith in favorable circumstances.

He’s asking you to trust that He is who He says He is.

Do you believe that God is a liar?

It’s really that simple: either He is truthful or He’s not.

But if you believe that faithfulness is His character, then you can do anything He requires.

You’ll be strengthened by your dependence on Him–whether a deluge or trials or a flood of blessing comes.

It’s actually when life gets rough and rugged that the sweetness of God’s faithfulness makes itself real in your heart.

As you walk through those storms in complete reliance on His strength, your trust in His character becomes part of who you are and strengthens from within.

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His Perfect Will and Timing…

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Acts 16:1-15 (KJV)

1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
6Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
8And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Have you ever prayed about a situation, felt confident of God’s will, and made your plans, only to discover the door has suddenly slammed shut?

Maybe it was relocation to another city, a relationship leading toward marriage, or a job opportunity that seemed so promising.

Whatever the situation, the result was confusion, disappointment, and maybe even despair. What was God doing?

Paul and Silas had a similar experience on their second missionary journey. After originally intending to visit previous church plants, they instead decided to move into new territory with the gospel.

But the Holy Spirit forbade them from going into Asia (modern-day Turkey). So they went north to Mysia with the intention of heading east to Bithynia.

Yet once again the Holy Spirit closed the door.

At that point, they may have wondered why God would prevent them from preaching the gospel. After all, hadn’t Jesus given them the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20)?

The answer came to Paul in a dream as the Lord redirected them to Greece—a nation with great metropolitan cities.

From there, the gospel could spread more rapidly, and eventually Paul circled around to Ephesus, bringing the gospel to Asia.

By the time John wrote Revelation, there were at least seven churches on that continent.

God often uses closed doors to redirect us into His perfect will and timing.

Therefore, the wisest response is to rely on His infinite wisdom, wait for His clear direction, and follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

God’s redirection brings blessing if we’ll simply trust and obey.

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Withstanding the Upheavals of This World…

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Romans 14:7-12 (KJV)

7  For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8  For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
9  For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Followers of Jesus would agree that whether we live or die, we do so for Christ.

But His sovereignty is not limited to those who claim Him as King.

The entire world—the whole universe, in fact—is subject to His authority.

At the final judgment, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess and praise God.

In the here and now, relatively few people recognize the Lord’s rule and seek to remain in His will.

Most refuse to see that all of our human constructs—such as government, culture, and society—thrive or falter in the palm of God’s hand.

Moreover, nonbelievers resist Christ’s sovereignty in their own lives.

People who won’t surrender their will to the Lord’s great purpose assume control of their own destiny. However, the Lord’s supreme reign cannot be thwarted.

It’s common for men and women today to believe that there are no consequences for rejecting the lordship of Jesus Christ.

You may have heard people say things like, “That Christian stuff works for you, but it’s not for me. I’ll live on my own terms.”

Yet Jesus’ parable of houses built on either solid rock or sand offers a different perspective (Matt. 7:24-27).

Only those who make their abode in the Lord can withstand the upheavals of this world.

Kneeling before Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life is the wisest decision you can make.

The sovereign Ruler of the universe loves you and desires to bless all of your days.

Make your eternal home in the safety of His kingdom, and forever delight in Him.

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