The Cost of Contentment

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4: 11 – 13)

Contentment isn’t an instinct or a reflex. It is learned. Like Paul, to have it we must learn it.

Some skeptics might say, “That’s OK for a person to say who has it easy, one who’s got it made.”

To understand how he got it, explore the text and see how the precept applies to all persons in all types of circumstances.

Paul was a human being with appetites, interest, and glands just like each of us. Twice Paul speaks of “need” in his life. He refers to two extremes that cover all alternatives in between.  He said, I know how to be – – – 

Abased, meaning “I know how to live with humble means under humble circumstances when things are difficult.”

A description of the varied adverse circumstances is chronicled: 
“…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  (II Cor 11:23 – 27)

Does it seem it would be hard to be content and productive under such circumstances? Consider the other extreme.

To “abound” means to have more than abundance, to overflow. Literally, I know how to face prosperity.

Some persons think it is wrong to have possessions, position, or power. Some even suggest wealth should be given away and position and power avoided. Not so! Possessions should not be given away, but managed for the Lord. For those who haven’t had the challenge they should know that those who once were “abased” financially and later became stewards of much causing them to “abound,” say it is much more challenging to maintain a Christlike spirit when abounding than when abased. The two extremes are noted so as to let it be known contentment can be enjoyed in either state and all in between. Learning that lesson can bring contentment. It is not in things, but in a person, Jesus.

Questions for God – Part Two

Lord, I just don’t get this. Lord, what does this mean? Why Lord? Or, “Gotcha God! Bet you don’t know the answer to this.”

Those are ways of saying, “Lord, I trust you though I lack insight.” They are questions of confirmation. It is like saying, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

If you knew everything you would have no faith.

A Lack of knowledge causes some to question or even doubt God. They insist on being pragmatic. However, even pragmatists believe some things by faith.

For example scientists believe in photons though they have never seen, or even a photo of one. Photons only exist when traveling at a constant pace of 670,616,629 miles per hour. (How did they measure that?)

Skeptics should not reject God because of what they don’t know.

They should embrace Him because of what they do know. As in algebra, start with the known to find the unknown. Work on developing a better understanding of the known. Master the fundamentals. 

Pray the words of this old hymn by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

“My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.”

Some with a background of faith have become skeptics in large part because they have become disillusioned by the conduct or lack of spiritual maturity of Christian leaders. However, more recently they have become skeptical of their own skepticism and starting to question their questions, eventually working through them. They often reach the conclusion of why do I need to know more than God wants me to know. If He wanted me to know more He would enlighten me. It is then they begin to explore with the Psalmist: 

“What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen—

Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8: 4 – 9) That is quite enough to start with. Focus on that last sentence and memorize it.

Questions for God – Part One

Have you any questions you would like to ask God? In reading the Bible as well as observing events in your life do you have any why, where, when, or how questions for Him? How about, “I just don’t understand….”

God is a respecter of questions. He likes an enquiring mind. He doesn’t look so favorably on doubts, however. The fact you don’t understand something is reasonable. That is the point at which you seek an understanding. 

A key word that is applicable is found in Isaiah 40: 28: “The Creator of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding.” Basically that means God knows all there is to know. Summarily that means God knows more than you will ever know.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Job showed his humanity and started smarting off to God. God turned the issue and started questioning him: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!” Job 38: 4, 5

God honors an inquiring mind as noted: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. ” (James 1: 5, 6) Seek answers to your questions. Give them proper attention and time. Seek an answer where it is most likely to be found. Some people get an old issue that has been around for ages and ride it. They love to ask such a question of people that are most likely not to have an answer.

God has given us more than we can comprehend. He has given us all we need to know. He has given us more to do than we are doing. Therefore, accept that there are certain things He has reserved for Himself only to understand.

In “Pilgrim’s Progress” a character was asked if in reading the Bible he came to a passage he didn’t understand what he did. After acknowledging there were such times he was asked what he then did. He said simply, “I just thank God He knows more than I do.”

Realize this principle in evaluating any question, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:8-9)

We look at things from our limited human side. God looks at those same issues, but from a divine view. We view matters from the natural, and He from a supernatural viewpoint.

What question do you have today? It is an exercise in faithful trust.

There Was a Man Sent From God 11/9/03

John 1: 6, 7

Jesus Christ had an advocate, his name was John. What a man! His wardrobe and diet indicated he was a man close to nature. His attire of camel’s hair worn with a wide leather belt reveals him to be a man of the open country. He was no fashion plate.

His diet, though not unusual, was that of a naturalist. Locus is actually a bean in the carob family, high in protein. Honey is a wonderful food in itself.

I. HIS PERSON “There was a man….”
He was a human being subject to all appetites and challenges as we. Scripture teaches that every human being has an area of strength and of weakness.

Doubtless you have noticed this about your friends. One of our daughters said recently ever body has weaknesses and things we don’t like. You just have to decide whose faults you are willing to accept.

Your new pastor will have a number of strengths. He will also have weaknesses. The challenge regarding a pastor is that in preaching he advocates Biblical ideals. As a result people tend to expect him to be perfect. Often when he isn’t some person tend to disapprove of him. When he makes decision they don’t like they in turn don’t like him. Learn to love him while not liking some of the things he does.

Accept him for who he is and don’t try to make him some one he isn’t. Don’t make him have to wear the “king’s armor.”

When little David was about to go out to battle Goliath they tried to get him to wear the armor of the king. It didn’t fit. He had to be his own man. Accept your new pastor for who he is, don’t try to recreate him.

Don’t transfer to him all the negatives you might have built up regarding any previous pastor. Don’t impose your biases on him. We tend to do so. Some people dislike brunets simply because of an unpleasant experience they had with a brunet in the past. Some folks don’t like people from Texas because of an awkward experience in that happened to them in Texas.

This man, your new pastor, deserves to be accepted on the basis of who he is.

He will be accompanied by his wife. She should be accepted as a woman sent form God. Love her. Accept her for who she is. She is not the associate pastor or social chairperson responsible for attending all social events of the church. Of all things she is first of all the pastor’s wife and mother of their children. Her primary function will be to help provide a home environment into which he can go and find it a haven in which to be renewed. You older women accept her as a younger wife and mother to be encouraged and helped.

Much of the success this church enjoys will be determined by which side of a little conjunction you tend to live. That conjunction is the word “but.” Statements on the left side of the conjunction tend to be positive and those to the right negative.

For example: “He is a wonderful preacher, BUT he doesn’t play softball with the youth.”

“He has a good delivery, BUT it is hard to get an appointment with him.”

“He is an outstanding Bible expositor, a compassionate evangelist, a warm hearted pastor, an inspiring preacher, an exceptional administrator, and has unusual business acumen, BUT he wears the loudest ties.”

Become an individual and a church living on the left of the conjunction, or better still omit the conjunction and use a period.

II. HIS PLACEMENT “sent form God…”
As the Lord assigned John the Baptist to be the forerunner for Jesus so He has assigned your new pastor to this position for this time. He is being sent from God. The Lord has a mission for him which He will reveal to you through your pastor. At this time not even your new pastor knows fully what the Lord has I mind but the Lord does. As you pray for and work with your new pastor the Lord will increasingly reveal to him how He wants the church guided.

Your pastor is here by divine appointment. If you treat him only as a man you deprive yourself and church of blessings. No sensible pastor has any ego about being given divine authority. It is humbling to a spirit filled minister to realize he is responsible for exercising divine authority to the glory of the Lord and not to feed his ego. Some few pastors fail miserably and that causes people to look at the genuine with suspicion.

Let your new pastor guide you through the Constitution Revision Team to devise a constitution for the present time that will enable you to move into the future more rapidly and harmoniously.

I have spent months studying your constitution in light on my experience and study of other churches. I was graciously offered the opportunity by the CRT to work with them to make changes. I deferred in order that the pastor might lead this effort. If he desires I will be pleased to serve with him and the team as a consultant.

In general take out of the constitution the policies and procedures and put them in a “Policy and Procedure Manual” that can be interpreted an applied using a radical concept called “reason” or “logic.”

The letter of the law kills. The spirit of the law gives life. By having policies and procedures there is adjustability. In a constitution they become a straight jacket. A manual is a guideline to be followed if at all possible but allows flexibility in extenuating circumstances.

A progressive growing church must provide for flexibility and rapid decision making. I would remind you of the title of a significant book: “It is Not the Big That Eat the Small, It Is the Fast That Eat the Slow.” When he comes give him time to set his agenda. Some of you have shared with me good ministry concepts you would like to see enacted. I have deferred to the judgment of your new pastor. I urge you to hold your ideas and rather than try to get him to approve your agenda right away let him first set his own agenda for the church. The fact he does not think your idea should be implemented should not be taken personally. It may a good idea whose time has not come.

If he does not approve your idea don’t let that be cause for you to reject him personally.

If you truly believe that the pastor is under divine appointment you will respect him, avoid criticizing him, and not gossip about him.

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10: 14)

III. HIS PURPOSE “…he came to bear witness…”

As the shepherd of the flock he is to feed the flock. He is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. In calling a pastor a congregation is indicating he is to be their teacher. Look to him for spiritual guidance. Don’t confuse yourself by listening to media ministers and reading authors who are not doctrinally sound. God has given you a spiritual guide. Hear him prayerfully. Learn God’s Word from him and apply it.

A witness tells what he or she knows. Your pastor has subjected himself to the best possible formal theological training. He has associated with the most competition leaders available. He has taken advanced clinical and seminar courses and attended the best conferences. You have a learner as a leader. Follow him.

Paul said to the church at Thessalonica, “You became followers of us and of the Lord” (I Thessalonians 1: 6).

Paul was following Jesus so closely that to follow Paul was to follow Jesus.

Pray for your new pastor to follow Jesus so closely that as you follow him you will be following Jesus.

Give him time to study, pray, and prepare to feed you. If he is to minister well to you he must be often and long alone with Jesus Christ.

You owe your pastor three things:
He is a man who needs prayer.
He is sent from God and deserves your respect.
He is to bear witness of Jesus Christ and needs your help.

He is a MAN under a MANDATE to deliver a MESSAGE. Pray for him, respect him, and help him.

Here is how you can get rid of your pastor: Pat him on the back and compliment him and he will work himself to death.

Rededicate your life and ask for a job to do and he will likely die of a heart attack.

Get the church to unite in prayer for him and he will become so effective a larger ministry will open for him.

To more fully comprehend his role consider these texts.

Acts 20: 28: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

I Peter 5: 2, 3: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; not as lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

I Thessalonians 5: 11 – 13: “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love for the work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”

You owe your fellow members four things. Four things are incumbent on you as a congregation according to this text:
1. Comfort and edify one another.
2. Recognize those who labor and are over you. Respect their authority and responsibility for leading.
3. Esteem them very highly in love.
4. Be at peace among yourselves.

Fear

Fear is a wonderful thing and most of us have a lot of it. The problem is we often don’t fear what we should and do fear what we should not fear.

Proper fear is protective. Fear is actually a preservative. Fear of life threatening this is a safety factor. The wholesome fear of death for example results in cautious action.

Some persons have so many improper fears they are classified as being  phobophobia, which is fear of fear itself. There are many phobias, For example:
Arachibutyrophobia (Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth) …
Plutophobia (Fear of money), and a new one, Nomophobia (Fear of being without your mobile phone) …

Unfortunately there is an absence of the most wholesome fear. Its meaning and proper application has contributed greatly to the moral decline in America. It is the fear of God. Fear, of God? Having lost the fear we have taken Him off the throne and made Him a tolerant Good Buddy.

In Romans 3: 18 a summary statement is made of decadent Rome: “There is no fear of God before their eye.” Their moral decline was followed by the decay and eventual death of the nation.

Fear of God is not a negative thing. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for fear was “yare.” It meant “reverence, whereby an individual recognizes the power of God and renders Him respect.” Simply stated it means to submit yourself to God in respectful love.

The more reverence and respect we show God the less likely we are to be frightened or run away like cowards from the difficulties.       

Noah had respect (fear) for God and faced the derision hurled at him courageously. 

Joshua faced the seemingly impossible task of occupying the land of promise with fear for God and not the formidable odds.

The resurrection of Jesus was not met with a casual, “That’s cool,” but doubtless with astonishing gasp followed by a resounding “WOW” resulting in a holy loving fear of God. That is the fear missing in America.

That fear is not a fear of punishment or retribution. It is not fear that God will lay His hand on us, but rather that he will take His hand off of us.

I feared my dad. He was a big strong man, a man of justice. I did not fear him in the sense of being punished. I had awe, respect, and love for him that prompted me to want to please him. My fear of him was that I would let him down or even break his heart. That is something of the love we must have for God. It is fear for letting Him down.