Archives For Being Content

 

I can do all things through him with strengthens me. – Phil 4:13 (ESV)

This familiar verse has been used on everything from greeting cards to wall signs to a rallying cry for sports team. People tend to like this verse because it inspires them to “be all that they can be.” Yet people generally forget to look at the preceding verses. Immediately before Paul writes about his reliance on Christ to do “all things” he writes about the fact that he has learned to be content in all circumstances (v. 11-12). The focus of Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians wasn’t on his ability or capacity; instead he wanted to remind them that regardless of what situation they faced – whether they had plenty or were in need, whether they were weak or they were strong – they can be confident in Christ’s provision and could rely on Him to accomplish His purposes.

This is not an easy thing to do. Often times, it is easier to look at what we are capable of, conjure up our courage, and to try to overcome obstacles. And while all of these things may be needed, what is needed first is a reliance on Christ. Christ is the One at work; we are His instruments to accomplish His purposes. What we should mediate on when we think of this verse is the One who strengthens us, not the person that He is strengthening.

This should give us great hope. As we ponder our future, we can depend on God to give us all that we need to accomplish what He has called us to do.  As we consider His purposes for our lives, we can delight in all He is able to do through hearts that are devoted to Him. And whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, we can be content in the One who is able to transform that circumstance for the purposes of His Kingdom.

 

No Comparison

April 12, 2017 — Leave a comment

Often times when I am teaching one of my greatest challenge is to have my students anticipate how what they are learning in class will be useful to them in their professional life. Terms and theories can seem so arbitrary and more than once I have had a student question why things can’t be more like the real world, only for me to try to convince them that what they are learning is what is needed for the real world. It’s hard for them to imagine life outside of the classroom walls. And this makes sense, the class is familiar to them; their career is not.

As much as I invest time in helping them prepare for their career, my students can tell you that I also invest considerable time in trying to prepare them for another future – that of their eternal destiny. As I often tell them, I want them to be successful in whatever profession God leads them to, but I want their success to be determined by God’s standards, not the world’s. I want them to make decisions, choose paths, and commit to actions based on what will be considered “profitable” from Heaven’s vantage point, and not merely from their contemporaries’ perspective. My hope is that they are constantly looking to eternity and it is that future reality that has the most impact on what they do each day.

The challenge is that just like it is hard for them to picture life in the “real world,” it is hard for them to really anticipate the joys of Heaven. I know this because they want to delay their experience of Heaven until they can achieve certain milestones on Earth. They want to have kids, or achieve a certain professional stature. They want to grow old or make sure that they have had a chance to fall in love. Whatever their particular ideal is they want to make sure that they get to experience that first, and then they’ll be “ready” for Heaven.

It is a temptation that is not limited to college students. There has probably been a time that each of us has secretly (or not-so-secretly) wished that we will get to experience something in this life before God calls us Home. This tendency, however, fails to consider that there is nothing in this world that can compare to the reality of being in God’s presence. There is no happiness here that is not superseded by the joy there. There is no success on this Earth that is not surpassed by the delight of being with Christ.  There is no achievement or accolade of this world that is not eclipsed by the privilege of praising God in His presence.

We are tempted to think that we are “missing out” if we don’t get to a certain stage of this life, but in reality, we are currently missing out on the satisfaction of being with our Maker.

And perhaps if we gained a deeper appreciation for the majesty and delight of an eternity with God, we would find our contentment there and not in the things of this world.

 

What Seems Good

March 29, 2017 — Leave a comment

Frequently when we are going out to eat, my husband will ask me if there’s anything I want. Most of the time I tell him that I have no particular preference, and that is truly the case. Until he tells me where he’s thinking of going. More often that I would like to admit, his declaration will demonstrate to me that I do have a preference – and that preference is distinctly different from where he’s heading.

While this tendency is likely frustrating to my husband, I fear that too often, I might have the same proclivity with God. I talk a good game about trusting Him and His timing, but when His plan begins to unfold, I want to use my powers of persuasion to change His mind. I say that the decision is up to Him, but when He leads me down a certain path, I want to take the steering wheel of my life and go a different way. Intellectually I know that what He desires will win out and that in fighting against His will I am only costing myself, but in my heart I sometimes still act as if my preferences should carry the day.

While this temptation may be relatable, I wish instead that I was more like Joab, the commander of David’s army. When Joab and his men were caught between two seemingly impossible foes, he left his future solely in the hands of God. After giving instructions, he simply stated “may the Lord do what seems good to him” (I Chron. 19:13b). He didn’t agonize over the outcome; he didn’t bargain for his preference. He knew that God was faithful and that God was going to act in a way that was in keeping with His divine plan. Whether that meant victory or defeat was seemingly inconsequential; instead what mattered was that God’s goodness could be trusted. Joab knew that Israel may have lost that battle, but he also knew that the promises of God were true. Whatever happened in that day would not change the fact that God’s kindness would be evident in the nation’s future.

As much as this was true for Joab and his men, it is true for those who are God’s children today. We may not know the details of what the future holds, but we know that God is good and that His good plans will not be hindered. When we aren’t sure whether things will go “our” way, we can trust that ultimately they will go His. Because of this, we need not fear but can instead join with Joab in saying “may the Lord do what seems good to him.”

The Long View

February 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

There are many joys of being a parent, but there are also many hard lessons. Some of the lessons come from learning what not to do the next time around. Some of the lessons come from seeing your own sin tendencies in living color as you watch your child succumb to the same temptations as you.

Recently, I was reminded of this as one of my children protested rather dramatically after having taken a bath. The child was cold and uncomfortable and from her limited perspective, the discomfort was not going to end anytime soon. I knew that the situation was momentary; soon she would be warm and cozy and ready to conquer the day. Telling her all that though fell on deaf ears. She knew that she didn’t like the current situation and she wanted me to change it…stat.

While I certainly understood my daughter’s desire to get warm (and quickly), I couldn’t help but smile a bit at how limited her viewpoint was. I had the larger perspective and I knew that if she trusted me, all would soon be made right. She didn’t need to worry or fret (it wasn’t going to change the situation anyway.)  My past faithfulness in this regard should have been enough to calm her fears. My legacy of love and provision should have squelched the anxiety she felt. She had every reason to believe that I would take care of her, and no reason to believe differently. Yet, in the moment her loss of control overwhelmed her confidence in me.

Despite my smiles at the absurdity of the situation, I couldn’t help but also experience the twinge of conviction. How often does my behavior mirror that of my child’s when God places me somewhere that I am experiencing uncomfortableness or pain? How quickly does my confidence erode when I don’t see any benefit to my current despair? When I recognize that my control is limited and my future unclear, do I carefully recall His past perfect provision or instead do I anxiously protest and complain?  God’s remedy may be moments away, but am I so busy seeking my own solution that I neglect to take solace in Him?

Too often an examination of my life would find that my response and my daughter’s is pretty much the same. Instead of trusting the One who can see not only my present circumstance but also my future condition, I let the fear of the unknown overrule my thoughts, my heart and my response. I plead and complain – desperately wanting things to change – without acknowledging the goodness of His yet-to-be revealed plan. My perspective on the current situation is unclear; why wouldn’t I rely on the One who not only knows today, but Who also holds the future in His hand? He has the long view in mind, and from that perspective He can see just what I need, both now and in the moments ahead.

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Growing Accustomed

February 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Last year, my husband and I moved into a new house. God graciously provided us with a chance to get a little more space, which included a yard for our growing family, and we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift. A year before we couldn’t have anticipated that this provision was part of His plan; His generosity and kindness to us were evident.

When you move, they say that you grow into the space you have. Although at first it seems like you will never be able to fill the new square footage, you soon realize that the challenge is not as difficult as you once anticipated. It is easy to think that it is because we have also added on to our family, but I know that in reality that is not the case. Even without really trying to, there is a propensity towards accumulation. What once seemed like an abundance, can quickly seem insufficient. It is easy to think about what you have, what you would change, and what no longer seems ideal once its your daily experience.

Although there may not be anything wrong with pondering what you would do differently, I fear that often when we do so, we show that the gratitude which at first overwhelmed us has dwindled. Human beings are surprisingly resilient, but one of the shortfalls of this resiliency is that we quickly become accustomed to the gifts that God has given us. What was originally a daily reminder of God’s kindness can become a benefit that we ignore. What we once couldn’t anticipate can become an expectation.

The challenge is to maintain a heart of gratitude for the generosity shown towards us even when we experience that same generosity day in a day out. It’s the same reason that I teach my child to say “thank you” every time I give her a snack. She may be completely confident by this point that I will not let her go hungry, but I want her to know that every good gift is worthy of appreciation, to the person from whose hands we receive it, and ultimately to our kind Father.  When we grow weary of giving thanks, it tends to lead our heart towards sin. When we forget that we are owed nothing, and yet God graciously gives us so much, we tend to grow discontent.

There are many things that God has given us that we are now in the habit of receiving, and as a result we have grown accustomed to their presence. May we not let their prevalence in our life be an excuse to not give thanks.  Instead, each time that we experience that same good thing may our heart be filled with the same level of gratitude as it was when we first received it. Instead of growing accustomed to the gifts, may we become habitual at giving thanks.

 

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Having It All

January 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

It seems popular these days to talk about how you can “have it all.” You hear it on award shows when recipients talk about how we are in a day and age where “women can have it all.” You hear it in discussions with friends when they talk of their hope to get to the place where they can “have it all.” And you hear it in the media as authors debate whether such a state is even attainable. Having it “all” – however it is defined – seems to be the desired pinnacle of our success – even if it is an uncertain one.

While having it all seems desirable, I don’t know if we really know what we are asking for when we state this as our aim. Having everything we want means that we would get all the problems and challenges that come with those desired privileges, responsibilities, roles or achievements. We want it “all” but we don’t think through the ramifications of obtaining it.  The grass may look greener on the other side, but the grass still needs to be mowed and watered.

The Christian, however, should define “having it all” differently than their friends and neighbors. The Christian’s desires should be for what God has designed for them. Our goals and aspirations are filtered through the revelation of His plan. What He wants for us is more important than what we want for ourselves. In His kindness, God often grants people the desires of their heart, but when He doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that the Christian doesn’t have it “all” –  it just means that the “all” God has planned for them is different from what they expected. We “have it all” when we are walking consistently with His design and purpose for us; not only is that sufficient, but God is able to give us even more than we can ask for or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).

We may look at our surroundings and feel like we are deprived of so much (although for most reading this post, that wouldn’t be accurate even from an Earthly perspective), but through Christ, God has given us everything we need. Therefore in Him, we really do “have it all.”

 

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Withholding Permission

January 7, 2014 — 4 Comments

As a mom I find that I spend a lot of my time giving instructions. As a mom of a toddler, I find that often these instructions consist in telling my kid what I don’t want her to do. The word “no” is frequently on my lips as I try to teach her what is safe to touch and what isn’t, what should go in her mouth and what shouldn’t, and a hundred other lessons that will hopefully serve her well as she grows and matures. It can be a tiresome endeavor but I know that my consistency now will pay dividends in the years to come.
In helping my daughter learn how she should behave, I often find that my instructions precedes her behavior. In other words, as I watch her roam and wander I can anticipate the steps that might lead to trouble. So before her little hands reach out for the dangerous object, I am telling her that she shouldn’t touch it. As we are walking, I tell her where she shouldn’t go before she gets there. This isn’t because I am controlling; it is because prevention is often better than allowing her to do something which she shouldn’t. I tell her that she doesn’t have permission to do something before she attempts the action because I know that if I were to allow her to do it, the consequences could be far worse.

It is likely that this approach should be adopted more often in my own life as well, specifically when it comes to the temptation to worry. Too frequently I find that I allow myself to grow anxious and then try to tell myself all the reasons that I shouldn’t. However, Jesus said in John 14:1 – “Let not your heart be troubled.” In other words – we shouldn’t give ourselves permission to worry and then instruct ourselves as to why it is unnecessary – we shouldn’t allow our hearts to get to that point in the first place. Our hearts should be so focused on Jesus that there is no competition for its attention. If we are consumed by Christ than we can’t be consumed with anxiety. If we refuse to give ourselves permission to worry than we never have to talk ourselves out of it later on.

This is no easy task. We live in a day and age where worry is not only accepted, it is expected. The media, our friends, and our culture will attempt to fuel a concern with matters over which we have no control. However, we do not have to give into this temptation. Instead, just as I tell my daughter “no” when I can see that she is advancing towards dangerous ground, we can fill our hearts with the promises of Scripture when we feel the temptation to focus on the temporary. We can withhold permission to advance any further and trust that He who has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33b) can overcome whatever we are facing as well.

 

Wanting Something Less

June 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

It is not uncommon for people to express a desire to want more out of life. This is the impetus for why many people switch jobs, careers, churches, or marriages. For one reason or another they believe that the proverbial grass is in fact greener on the other side, if only they could get to it. Of course many of them find that once they cross the chasm their unfulfilled desires still exist. It turns out that long-term contentment is not a result of the circumstances you are in.

On the other side of the spectrum you may find Christians who talk about how they wish God didn’t trust them with quite so much. We know that no trial or travesty comes to us without it being under the purview of God’s sovereign plan and it is His desire that our lives would be a glorious reflection of Him. Knowing that He will equip us to do the good work that He has called us to do (Eph. 2:10) and that often times it is through the difficulties in life that our mettle for ministry is formed, we may wish that God’s plan for us were a little less grand. Given enough time most Christians can articulate how God used difficulty to accomplish good things in their lives, but sometimes we may wonder if we can withstand the problem long enough to get to the payoff.

In His wisdom and graciousness though, God is not prone to letting us off easy when it comes to accomplishing His good purposes in our lives. He knows that when we get to eternity the difficulties will seem inconsequential compared to the eternal glory that they produced. As C.S. Lewis stated, “It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.” God wants us to experience the full expanse of His love and despite our short-term desires to the contrary, He is not willing to let us sacrifice eternal significance for temporal comfort.

It may be tempting to wish for less of the responsibility of trials; it is understandable why we would desire that hardship be reserved for another. However, let us not forget that it is often through difficulties that we experience God’s love, grace and kindness in ways that we neglect to pay attention to during times of ease. May we desire that our lives be filled with His glory – by whatever means will produce it.

Even the Small Things

March 19, 2013 — 2 Comments
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A medical diagnosis we didn’t expect.

Our desire for a spouse or children.

The job we can’t seem to get.

We are driven to our knees for these things because it doesn’t take long for us to realize that they are outside of our control. Even the most “how-to” guides can’t ensure that we will obtain these things. They are in the hands of a sovereign God and our dependence on Him is evident when, despite our desire to the contrary, we are unable to accomplish them on our own.

However, it’s not just the big things in life that are in God’s hands. Even the small things reside within His palms. Which means when the small things in life go awry we can trust that they didn’t do so without Him being unaware. And just like He can give us what we need to persevere in the big things, He can equip us with everything we need to continue to glorify Him in the small ones.

Like when the kids won’t sleep which mean neither will you.

Or when everyone else on the road is seemingly in need of a driving lesson.

Or the to-do list is too long and time is too short.

These things may be small, but our God is big. He not only cares about these details, He is fully able to meet our needs in them. And when we fully place our trust in Him for the small things we are more apt to glorify Him – in both big, and small, ways.

 

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. – Mt. 6:28-29

 

Consumed

March 6, 2013 — 2 Comments
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As I’ve written about many times before, I am a planner. Being a planner means that I constantly have things on my mind as I try to anticipate what I need to get done and where I need to be. Years ago, I read a book that helped me add some organizations to these thoughts by encouraging me to not keep my to-do list in my head. Instead, increased productivity was promised if I would simply either write the task down and schedule it or complete it right away. While this certainly helped with freeing my thoughts from my list of to-dos, it didn’t completely cure my planning ways. My thoughts may not be focused on tasks, but they still are focused on the future, living in anticipation of what may be next.

For many this probably sounds like a good thing, however, as any planner can tell you, there is a fine line between being future-focused, and being a worrier. When you are constantly thinking of the things that you need to know or the opportunities that may (or may not) come your way, it’s easy to become obsessed with what “might be” rather than being content with what is. Our thoughts are indicative of what we treasure (see Luke 12:34and if we’re constantly thinking of “what’s next” we are likely discontent with “what is.” 

Scripture, however, encourages us that our thoughts shouldn’t be centered on the tasks to complete or the opportunities that we may have. Instead, as the Psalmist writes, the blessed person is the one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” and who mediates on it “day and night” (Ps. 1:2). Our thoughts shouldn’t be focused on what our concerns and priorities, but instead they should be focused on God’s. Our desire should be that what is on our mind increasingly mirrors what is on His. Our contemplation should not be our list of to-dos, but the truth contained in His Word.

If we were to do this, if our thoughts were centered on His Word, than there wouldn’t be time or the opportunity for them to be consumed with our worries. If we were constantly focused on our Father, than we wouldn’t be hindered by our fears. Meditating on Him and His Word not only puts things into perspective, His perspective, it obliterates anything lesser that may seek to distract and sideline us. When we are consumed with what He has to say, we aren’t troubled by our own thoughts and considerations.

This is by no means easy. Regardless of whether you are a planner or a person of spontaneity, it takes discipline to center our internal dialogue on the truth of Scripture. However, God promises that when we do so we are “blessed”  – not only because we are delighting ourselves in the same things that He is, but because we are demonstrating that our treasure, and our trust, are in Him.

 

 

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