Contentment is Gain

“Godliness with contentment is great gain”
1 Timothy 6:6

Lack of contentment spoils life regardless of how much we possess. What fuels the spirit of discontent? A fine definition I once heard but cannot source is “Having what we do not what or not having what we do want.”

A contented spirit is needed in most societies if a person wishes to be happy and well adjusted. The gnawing desire for possessing something beyond our grasp—or else the abhorrence of some thing we unwillingly possess—will drive us to distraction. Well, our text tells us the obvious when it says that to be content is very profitable. But how do we cultivate a spirit of contentment when we have a miserable problem in our life or else what we desire eludes us?

It might surprise you but the next couple of verses following our text tells us that if we have food and clothing we should be content. After all we did not bring anything with us into this world, and for sure we are going to leave behind whatever we managed to accumulate when we depart this world.

In our modern western culture this view of life seems rather harsh and narrow. We indulge ourselves in so many creature comforts. We have a great medical system, pain killers, mood modifiers for depression, food galore in our supermarkets, and so on. But do we consider how the other half of the world lives? Millions hover around garbage dumps foraging for food in the latest dumps of trash. Some never see a medical person in their lives.

Do we think we are better than those who suffer such drastic privation? Do we not wish to even think of those who live in alternatives that it is hard to imagine? Some individuals wish to blame God for letting people suffer so much but they do nothing to help the poor themselves. Such criticism is sheer hypocrisy. God blesses us in the west in order that we may help those in poorer circumstances than ourselves.

How then do we content ourselves with less in order that others may enjoy more?  Can we truly give until it interferes with our standard of living and still be happy? How can we be content when we have what we do not want or do not have what we do want? We can be content and the Bible tells us how. In the letter to the Hebrews in the Bible we know the first readers were people who suffered much in various ways. Towards the end of the letter the writer tells his readers to be content with what they have because they have God. (Hebrews 13:5).

So the Bible tells us that regardless of what we have that we do not what, or do not have that we greatly desire stop fussing and dwell on the reality of God’s presence in our lives. If we have God but not health be content. It is better to have God than to be healthy. It is better to have God and be broke than to be wealthy without God. In fact the Bible’s teaching makes it clear that the rich person who knows the Lord is no richer than the financially bankrupt person who also loves the Lord. Rhea Miller wrote the following words. Can you honestly repeat them? Is Jesus actually enough to make you content? What are we saying about our Lord if He is not enough?

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

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No Escape And No Regrets

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139 (7-10)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
outside your Father’s care. 
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Some people believe that God does not see us when we are in trouble. Or they come to think that He does not care. They judge the Lord through the lens of their life experiences. Such a way of deciding the character if our Creator is utterly wrong.

When we begin to put together our understanding of Who God is we must begin at Golgotha where we see the Son of God on the cross praying for His executioners, saving the repentant thief, arranging for His mother’s care, and crying out in sorrow over the fact His Father had turned His back on Him.

Perhaps you need to visit Golgotha daily until your eyesight is restored. Read the last chapters in each Gospel and spend time visiting every scene slowly and reverently. Your heart will be blessed, and you will receive your much needed vision of reality. Make today a new beginning of love and trust for the Son of man Who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Cowper’s poetry recorded below gives us great hope. May you find the needed grace to endure because you see the invisible One (Hebrews 11:27).

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face. 

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower. 

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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Growth Through Suffering

“It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn Your decrees.”
Psalm 119:71

As I sat and listened to the patient in hospital describe their medical difficulties I was amazed at the sequence and complexity of their issues. It seems that a domino effect had occurred as each problem caused another until they had to be hospitalized and undergo a series of surgeries.

I could not help being very distressed for the person and wondering on the human level how they would ever cope. Life would not be the same for them after this series of problems.

After I left them a verse came to mind that I had been pondering for some time. The Psalmist said (Psalm 119:71),

“It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.”

How can we ever call suffering good? Is that what the Psalmist meant to say? One writer has well said, “Sin is pleasant but not profitable, sorrow is profitable but not pleasant”.

We learn more in the school of adversity than in the circus of entertainment. While the tuition fees are high in the classroom of experience the lessons learned are not soon forgotten. Only from the crucifixion of the old person does the resurrection of the new person come. Afflictions are the stuff for making exceptionally good character.

It is too bad but most of us would rather be ruined by the good life than grow into the best of people by trials. The Psalmist had learned the secret of a godly character. It comes through adversity. This principle is at the heart of true godliness.

It is said of even our Lord and Saviour (Hebrews 5:8),

“Although He was a Son,
He learned obedience through what He suffered.”

Jesus chose the way of suffering, not as a result of personal sin, but suffered—the just for the unjust—in order to bring us to God.

We learn to trust in God through our trials and it is a costly but effective teacher. It is also a powerful witness and encouragement to others when we suffer humbly—in submission to the will of God.

On the other side we need to speak in appreciation to those who suffer well and let them know their witness to God’s sufficient grace helps us in our circumstances. When a new widow goes to church the first few times and sees a widow of some years singing God’s praise and joyful in the Lord it is the best sermon she will see for some time to come.

Some of the most powerful sermons ever delivered have been given without a word spoken. The sermon is the life lived trusting God when circumstances are painful and confusing to the one who suffers.

I believe everyone should read the books written by Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary to what was then the Belgian Congo in Africa. She has remarkable stories to tell of how people lived and some died for their faith under dreadful circumstances. As one who suffered greatly she can say, “It was good for me to be afflicted.”

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Remember Me

“Lord remember me”
Luke 23:42

We are in the midst of winter and have endured creation’s bluster and cold. This is the time of year that people seem most discouraged and depressed. Counsellors seem to be busiest from after Christmas until Easter. The nights are long and the days cloudy and short. We long for the warmth of the sun and the blooming of the spring flowers.

The man who uttered the words of our text was in spiritual darkness and was being crucified beside Jesus, the Light of the world. He was extremely aware of his need and sensed that the One beside him could give him light for the darkness of death that was descending upon him.

Sometimes people in sorrow feel they are walking in darkness and need the day to dawn. Their misery has taken away the light of day and nothing but blackness can be seen on their horizon.

What is needed is to see God when we are in darkness. We need to have Him come to us and make His presence known. We need to pray and pray as this man on the cross prayed to Jesus. Our prayers need to be demanding if you will. When you look at the words this man uttered in the original Greek text of the Bible you discover that he commanded Jesus to remember him. He did not ask or suggest, he commanded Jesus to remember him.

There must be urgency and persistence as we call out to God to take away the darkness of our night and let us delight in His holy presence. God loves to hear us and answer prayer and we may be bold when the need is great. This man’s situation required an urgent calling on God. And when he spoke so boldly Jesus assured him that his prayer would be answered that very day.

God tells us that He comes to the lowly but the proud He sees from a distance. He also says He is near to the broken hearted. He shows His face and morning dawns. We do not need to wait for heaven to bask in the presence of God. He draws near to all who seek Him in truth.

If you sense you are far away from God today, come to Jesus and ask Him to make you clean and suitable for God’s society. Your prayer does not need to follow some ritual or ceremony. Many people in Scripture found peace with God by the simplest prayers you could imagine. All the repentant thief said to Jesus on the cross was, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” It does not get simpler that that! How humble and to the point.

The humblest supplicant cannot fail
to have his needs supplied,
Since He for sinners intercedes
Who once for sinners died.

Use your own words, say your prayer in language you understand. Will you seek God persistently today until the morning dawns with joy? Come to Him now He gently waits to hear your voice and to give you light for darkness.

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Heaven, The Believer’s Great Hope

“I will gather you to your fathers,
and you will be buried in peace.”
2 Kings 22:20

The Old Testament is full of vivid imagery that substitutes for abstract terms. For example it says, “the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them” instead of using the abstract term earthquake. Or, as in our text it uses the softer and more physical term “gather to your fathers” instead of using the term “death”. The Old Testament is not full of information on those who have been gathered to their fathers. To people then it was not as clearly defined as in the New Testament. Yet there was a hope that gradually formed in the minds of God’s people over the centuries until the full revelation came in the New Testament.

Sadly today among the people of God, heaven is not talked about much. The New Testament gives us wonderful ideas about the future of those who love Jesus but we do not treasure those thoughts or meditate on them much except at the funeral of someone who has died in the faith.

Why do we ignore our future hope? What causes us to neglect this glorious prospect? Perhaps it is because we treasure so much what we western Christians have in this life. Or is it because we have so many ways of sensing this world via taste, sight, and so on and so little ability to connect with heaven? Is it our fear of the act of dying?

Possibly it is because while heaven whispers its joys to us, earth shouts its virtues and it is so much easier to pay attention to the one who speaks the loudest. Somehow only those desperately ill or weary of life’s sorrows can hear the whisper of heaven above the shout of this life.

Well, we are missing out on the best thing to think about and it is our loss. I deal with people weekly who are soon to depart this life. This is my work and I have a lot of wonderful things to say to these people about where the Christian is going when they leave us.

We live in what is called by some the “Shadowland” and the real world is the one to come. I often ask the question, “Why should an heir of heaven be afraid of claiming their inheritance?” As a cancer patient I have said before, “I have stared death in the face and it blinked first.” Christians should never fear death rather they should embrace the idea of being in God’s eternal presence and enjoying all He has planned for His people.

A very readable Puritan writer Richard Baxter writing on heaven said, “If we but believed the promises of God we should be as impatient of living as we are fearful of dying.” He also said, “Let him not wish to die who does not wish to see Christ.”

These are challenging thoughts. Can you speak the words of Baxter with confidence? We do not have to be seriously ill to have thoughts about heaven and our destination with Christ. We will be better able to live in this world the more we think of the next.

The Bible calls on us to set our hearts and  minds on things above and not on the things of earth. This is the secret of living the good life here and now. Then when this world robs us of health, wealth, friends, loved ones, whatever, we will still have our compass intact and be able to chart our course well.

If this world comes first in our lives we shall surely lose all and be eternally miserable. Only by trusting in Jesus the only Saviour can we cope and live confidently. Then we shall know the promise in the verse for today. God Himself shall place loving arms around us at the end and gather us home to where we truly belong.

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