Category Archives: Contentment

The Why’s and the What If’s

Life is an interesting experience. Trying to predict what life will bring is virtually impossible. We can plan and plot, but sure enough, something unexpected always seems to be around the corner. This can be good or bad depending on what happens and how we view things. One thing that I have learned, and continue to learn, is that things are often not how they appear on the surface or at first glance. I was reminded of this when seeing a photo from my senior year of high school.

I was a member of the varsity wrestling team at my high school. I was not a great wrestler. I was pretty strong from years of weight lifting, but I did not have nearly as much wrestling experience or skill as a lot of my team members. I also had an issue with endurance, which meant I rarely had matches that went the distance. I was a pin or be pinned kind of wrestler. This resulted in my mediocre record and a lot of quick exits in tournaments.

However, if you look at our senior yearbook, you might get a different idea of my success. I have two fairly prominent photos in the wrestling section of the yearbook, even though there were a lot of guys on the team better than me. This had more to do with having a friend that was a photographer for the yearbook than my actual success in the sport. The photo shown here is my favorite, especially the caption. It says, my opponent “bites the dust as Phil Hill out maneuvers him.” I still shake my head and laugh when I see it. It makes me look pretty tough. At the time, I was actually winning the match by something like 10-0. However, less than a minute later, the match was over and I had been pinned. I made a mistake, he reversed me, put me on my back and pinned me. It is quite a different result than the impression given in the photo.

On the other side of the coin, I also had a couple disappointing experiences. I will not go into details because I do not want to negatively portray someone in print who others might know. Let’s just say that there were other areas of my life and experience where I had more talent and abilities than were on display in my wrestling career. Not only was I passed over for awards or recognition, but, after the fact, I actually learned that a certain individual had gone out of their way to ensure that I was not even nominated for an award. When the individual spoke to me, they said that that they were unable to nominate me. What I learned later, through other individuals who were there for the nomination process, was that this person intentionally refused to nominate me, even when encouraged to do so by others at the meeting.

When I heard about this, it did sting a little. However, before much time had passed, I started to be grateful for that experience. In the end, it led me to devote more time towards interests and activities I might not otherwise have pursued. And those new pursuits are things that have helped provide a foundation for ministry opportunities I am involved in to this day. So, I am thankful that God led me through that time and showed me that disappointment does not have to be end. And that success in the eyes of God is not the same thing as success in the eyes of the world.

Like I mentioned at the start, life is hard to predict. You can plan, work, and strive to accomplish things, but it in the end, the results can be unexpected and even disappointing. You can give your life to something and yet not see the fruit of your labor. At other times, people can look at you and get a completely inaccurate picture of who you are based on the one snapshot they see of your life, for good or bad. It can make you wonder why things happen the way they do. It can make you wonder what life would be like if things were different.

God sees when no one else does. Does it ever seem that living the life of faith in following Jesus Christ has no impact on the world around us? I feel like that at times. I get to the end of my day and wonder what I accomplished that day to glorify God to those I encountered. But God sees all the small choices we make during the day in our goal to honor Him with our lives. As we seek to put our trust in Him, hold fast to His Word, and follow in obedience, God sees. No one else may notice, but nothing escapes Him.

God sees through the snapshots and facades. This is something we also need to remember. We can provide others with snapshots and phony facades of who we are. We can receive all kinds of awards, promotions, recognition, and engage in all the pleasures and rewards these things bring. But if our hearts are not right with God, it is all really meaningless. Read the book of Ecclesiastes sometime. It tells the experience of someone who gave themselves to every type of pleasure and pursuit, but in the end, it left them empty. The final conclusion was, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

God gives what is eternal and will never fade. The treasures of this life will all fade away. Only what God gives lasts for eternity. If we give ourselves to the pursuit of these temporary treasures and rewards, we will arrive at the end of life with empty hands and empty hearts. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

God calls us to be faithful, not successful. God does not call us to change the world. That is His job. We are called to have changed hearts by yielding our lives to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. We are called to follow Christ and to live our lives in obedience to Him in faithfulness. As we walk in faithfulness by the power of God, He can and will use us to shine the light of Jesus and the Gospel. We may be used to impact one person’s life. We may be used to impact the lives of many. In the end, that is really up to God. If we are faithful, then in God’s eyes, this means we are a success. That does not mean we are perfect. But we continue to pursue Christ and allow Him to demonstrate the power of God through us, whether we see the results or not.

Life can leave us with a lot of why’s and what if’s, at least from our perspective. If we let it, this can drive us nuts. It can leave us longing for things as we thought they should be or bitter because we did not get what we thought we deserved. God does not guarantee that things will go our way or that people will recognize us in the manner we think they should. God does guarantee that He is faithful. He guarantees that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him. He does not say how that will look or when we will see it. But nothing escapes God’s notice, and He promises to reward faithfulness, whether anyone else notices or not.

Together for His glory…

Trusting When the Way is Unclear

“I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

This was the cry of a father who had brought his child to Jesus for healing and to have an evil spirit cast out of the child. The disciples had been unable to accomplish this. Now, that father had turned to Jesus. He explained the situation to Jesus and asked Him to have compassion on them, if He was able to do anything. Jesus said, “’If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

I wonder how many times God responds this way to our requests of Him. We come to Him with our needs and desires, asking Him to bring them to pass. But in our hearts, we don’t believe that He can or will. Or at least that is what our life demonstrates. As I look back on my life, there are many things that I have asked of God over the years. Down deep, though, I wonder whether I will receive the answer I am looking for. There could be a number of things at the root of this unbelief.

Maybe I don’t believe I deserve it. Do I wonder whether it is actually the will of God for me? Am I wanting instant relief and not willing to wait for God’s best, which might be something different than what I asked for? Do my circumstances overwhelm me to the point that my focus is on them and not on God and His promises? Do I really trust God and believe that He wants the very best for me, no matter what? Regardless of the reasons, the ultimate solution is not in figuring it all out. The answer lies in trusting the Almighty God.

God has the power to accomplish anything. Throughout history, God has been reminding those He has called that He is able to accomplish what He says He will do. When God promises, God fulfills. There is no limitations on His abilities to accomplish His purposes (Numbers 11:23; Isaiah 59:1). It is not dependent on our abilities, amount of faith, or our worthiness. Ultimately, we don’t deserve anything from God except the wrath of His judgment. Anything besides or beyond that is a gift of His love, mercy, and grace (Ephesians 2:1-10). And God delights to give good gifts to His children. Jesus told us this (Matthew 7:7-11). God wants us to find our greatest hope, joy, and satisfaction in Him. And He can and will do this in our lives.

God will accomplish anything that is according to His will. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) God has said that if we will delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). When I delight in God, my ways are transformed to reflect His character. My desires and actions become more like those of Jesus, my Savior. As a result, my prayers and requests will begin to come in to conformance with His will and purposes for my life. Even still, all that I ask from God may not be what I receive, in the end. And that’s a good thing.

What is best for us is not always what we ask for from God. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) Martha said this to Jesus, when he arrived in their town after Lazarus had already died. She believed in Jesus’ ability enough to know that He could have healed her brother. However, Jesus delayed His arrival, on purpose. In the end, his delay would bring them even greater amazement and joy. God would be glorified. But it was not what Mary and Martha intended when they had called for Jesus. God does not always give us what we ask for. Sometimes, He withholds what we request so that we have something greater. He always wants us to have what is best. His wisdom is perfect. He knows what is best, for every person and in every circumstance. But when we don’t know what is going on, it can be difficult.

We may not be able to see the way clearly, but God is always worthy of our trust. God sees the beginning to the end of all things. His knowledge of history past, present and future is perfect. That includes our personal history. And His wisdom regarding our circumstances and needs is flawless. He will never miss anything. He won’t forget. He will never misjudge a situation. He will work all things for the good of those who love Him, every time (Romans 8:28). That is His promise. If we place our trust in Him, God will always lead us in the right direction and to the best possible results.

In my life, there are many things that I do not understand. There are situations that I wish would change. I have life goals that I am yet to obtain, and as the years roll by, I wonder if they will ever be obtained. However, I have been around long enough to see some of the things God has done behind the scenes. Things, that at the time, seemed either mundane or that I even viewed as failures. Yet, those events have been used to build a foundation on which future opportunities would be presented. If I look closely, these moments in time go back through my very early years, as much of them as I can remember. I could have never foreseen what God was going to bring to pass. Everything from meeting my wife, choices of schools and studies, struggles of faith, and career and ministry opportunities. People that God put in my path. Things I heard on the radio. The birth of our children. There are so many things that I can, at this point in my life, say that God ordained for His glory and my joy.

God is not random. He never stumbles into anything. His wisdom and purposes are flawless. He desires the absolute best for us. And if we will place our trust in Him, He will lead us safely and joyfully home to Him. Even in this confusing world we live in, in the midst of trials and failures, God can and will work in us and through us, bringing joy and blessing to our lives and the lives of others. Though the way may seem unclear, God is worthy of our trust, always.

Together for His glory…

Confidence in God

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:1-2

I don’t know about you, but I find that I can easily become overwhelmed with life’s circumstances. Things seem to come at us so fast these days, and there is little time to think. Sometimes, there is only time to react. In the midst of all this, it is easy to just rely on our own wisdom and strength. It is just a reflex.

A major goal for my life is that my natural reflexes would be transformed to instantly turn to God, not myself, for refuge, wisdom, strength, and guidance. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). As stated by the apostle Paul, this requires the renewal of my mind. I must fill my mind with the truth of the living God. The word of Christ must live within me (Colossians 3:16). This happens by consuming and meditating on the Word. It is strengthened as we teach and encourage each other in the faith, learning and growing together.

We must be intentional. We must be aggressive in our pursuit of God’s truth. We must hunger and thirst for it in the same way as we do food and drink, as if our life depends on it. Because it does. Our reactions and decisions need to flow from God’s wisdom, guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. This renewal is essential because our sin nature is opposed to God. What we hear and consume from the world will not encourage us in confidence towards God. In fact, they preach just the opposite – that we are capable of saving ourselves. This is a lie from the pit of hell.

However, if we are in Christ, we have great reason for hope and we can come to God in confidence. God has given us abundant promises through Christ. We should review these promises from His Word and speak them to each other, encouraging each other as we walk this life, and await our Savior’s return (Hebrews 10:24-25). We can hold fast to God promises and the hope we have in Christ, for He Who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

We have confidence to draw near. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16). Not only does Christ know our weaknesses, He sympathizes with them. There is no reason for us not to continually draw near to God, through Christ, and find His mercy and grace for every need, all of the time.

We have confidence for the present need. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). God has promised, throughout His Word, that He will take care of His children. It may not always look like what we expect, but we can be confident of His provision and that He will work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). More money and possessions will not increase our contentment or security or happiness. They are an idol not worthy of our trust and, in the end, offer empty promises. God will always provide exactly what is needed, exactly where it is needed, exactly when it is needed. This is His promise for those whose confidence is in Him.

We have confidence for the future. God has told us to trust Him for today and He will take care of tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34). We can trust Him to provide for our lives. But beyond this life, we can trust Him for our eternity. As followers of Christ, those who have been born of God, Christ has come to dwell within us by His Spirit. And the Spirit has been given to us and this is God’s testimony that He abides with us. God perfects His love in us, as we abide in Him. This is a testimony of His work in our lives and gives us confidence for the day of judgment (1 John 4:7-17). As we grow in Christ, we are aware that we can place no confidence in our own righteousness or abilities. Our confidence is in God alone, Who through Christ, has redeemed us and clothed us in the righteousness of Christ. We are His children. He holds us in His hand, and there is nothing or no one who can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:31-39).

So as we enter 2012, let us run the race of faith with confidence – a confidence that is not grounded in the economy, political change, world events, our bank accounts, retirement funds, or our own strength and abilities. Let us hold fast to our faith, growing in our love and knowledge of God, and a confidence that is grounded in the faithfulness and promises of the Most High God.

Together for His glory…

Am I Really Thankful?

This past Sunday, our pastor taught on contentment from Psalm 131. I have been thinking about it ever since. One statement he made has particularly remained with me. He said that if we are not satisfied in God alone, we will not find contentment in anything else. I think I am paraphrasing a bit, but this was the general idea. The question I have been asking myself ever since is “Am I satisfied in God alone?” And if not, why?

When we moved back to St. Louis over 20 years ago, we had virtually nothing. We pulled up to my parents’ house with about $5 in our checking account and very little possessions. The next several years were pretty lean, as I worked seasonal and temporary jobs. As the years went on, I found more consistent employment and our financial situation became less erratic and more secure.

However, as the years have progressed and God has provided for us a family, I have not found that I have become more content. When we were poorer, I was actually more content. One of the reasons is because I think I trusted God more when we had less. I had nowhere else to put my trust. I certainly could not put in my ability to make money!

In addition, my satisfaction was found more in God than it was in other things. I think this is partly because I knew most things were completely out of my reach then. Now, they are still out of my reach, but they are close enough to see and almost touch. You know the things I am talking about. Those possessions or opportunities that your friends or family or other churches have. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just…? You fill in the blank.

I believe that we will find no true satisfaction in life apart from God. The problem is that I don’t really believe it. Huh? How can I believe something and yet not believe it? Well, I believe Scripture teaches that there is no satisfaction in life apart from God. However, my actions and desires prove that I don’t really believe it. I think if we are honest, many of us could say the same thing.

We think that earthly things will bring us satisfaction. There are so many things to turn our gaze from God and away from the things above. Even though we acknowledge that those things will not satisfy our heart’s desires, our pursuit or longing after them says otherwise. Whether its homes, cars, vacations, a different job, sex, money, power or influence, relationships, or any number of things we could list, we think they will bring us satisfaction in life. But they won’t. Once we have obtained them, the hole we were trying to fill is still there. Only God, through Jesus Christ, can fill the void in our lives. There is a love that surpasses knowledge and that alone will fill us completely, with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

We don’t believe God will provide for our situation. I think that we sometimes get sucked into a martyr complex. This is not to disrespect those who are truly suffering for their faith around the world. However, some of us make ourselves into martyrs and unjustifiably so. We look at our circumstances in life and just resolve ourselves to the fact that God is going to leave us unfulfilled or not provide us with a path to victory in our situation. This happens when we focus on our circumstance instead of God. We look at the bigness of our circumstance instead of the bigness of our God. We need to remind ourselves that we serve a God Who is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). How much can you ask or think? God can do far beyond that.

We are not thankful. In the end, a lack of contentment reveals an unthankful heart. I confess that my lack of contentment reveals this in my life. I grumble about the things in my life that I want to change. I forget the abundance that I already have. I forget that, although I deserve absolutely nothing except judgment and hell, I have been given an eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus my Lord. It will never spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-4). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:31-39). God has promised to take care of us and loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 7:11). God’s wisdom is perfect. He knows what is best for us, always. We can thank God and trust in Him to bring to pass those things that are for our good and His glory.

I want to strive for more contentment in my life. I know this will only come as I find my satisfaction in God alone. Nothing else will provide this. If you are pursuing contentment in anything but Jesus Christ, you will not find it either. So, let us draw near to God and thank Him for His indescribable gift of Christ and the salvation we can receive only through Him. His unfailing love is better than life (Psalm 63:3).

Together for His glory…