How to be Content

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you can’t wait for it to be over? Maybe you have endured a long work week and you have encountered problems that seem to multiply every day. It could be that you are a stay at home parent and you are at your wit’s end as you have had a difficult week juggling all of the tasks that come your way. Perhaps you are retired and you just can’t figure out what to do with your time in order to make your community a better place. There are others who are faced with difficult decisions regarding their declining health or an abrupt medical issue that has suddenly come to their attention. I am also mindful of many people who are grieving the loss of a loved one and they just don’t know how they will ever come to terms with their loss. Many are hurt over relationships that have ended and they wonder if their future holds any promise for them. Numerous families are worried about their financial situation and how they will make ends meet each week. How can we as followers of Christ be content with whatever our situation in life may be?

The Apostle Paul reveals to us his secret for being content in his letter to the church at Philippi. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4: 11b-13). Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the source of his strength and the power that gives him peace and assurance in his daily life.

As a minister to the Gentiles, Paul endured many hardships along the way. In 2 Corinthians 11: 23-28, Paul tells us that he was imprisoned, flogged, and exposed to death many times. He received forty lashes minus one, was beaten with rods three times, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. Paul had also been exposed to danger from: the sea and rivers, bandits and his fellow countrymen, and false brothers. Paul tells us that he has labored and toiled, gone without sleep, endured hunger and thirst and had often gone without food. He suffered while being cold and naked while all the time facing the daily pressure of caring for and ministering to the many churches that he founded.

Our focus must be firmly fixed on Christ who will give us the necessary strength to make it through whatever comes our way on a daily basis. The world that we live in tries to convince us that we are somehow not complete unless we have an expensive new car in our driveway or the name brand clothing that will make us stand out. The world view tries to trick us into believing that we are not complete unless we have the latest and greatest product that hits the marketplace. Advertisers tell us daily that we should acquire those things that will make us happy, because we deserve it. A follower of Christ is not concerned with acquiring material things but rather those things that are eternal. Our focus must be on Christ and the promise of an eternal life where we will be so much more than merely content.

Prayer: God help us to learn to be content and thankful for what we have and not to desire those things that the world tells us that we need. Those material things or desires can never truly fulfill us, only the gift and the promise of an eternal life with you can make us complete. Help us to learn to completely trust in you for all that we need and to have faith in you God when life brings difficulties our way. God, you created each of us and you continue to remember us and watch over us, even if we sometimes forget about you. Forgive us God for believing the lie that we can somehow go through life without you. Continue to guard our hearts and our minds in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I pray for each person that reads this message and it is my hope that God will grant you peace, joy and contentment in your daily walk with God.

 

Trusting In God – Don’t Give Up!

1 Corinthians 2:1-5: When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

The apostle Paul is someone that I greatly admire as a minister for Christ. Saul (his name before he became Paul), was a persecutor of the believers in the early church. He did everything in his power to destroy the gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ. I imagine that Saul never envisioned that God would one day use him to spread the gospel message to the Gentiles. Saul became Paul and even though God used him in a powerful way, he was faced with many trials and hardships during his ministry.

Paul discovered early in his ministry that it was not about his own will or any special abilities that he possessed as a teacher and minister. Paul knew that he would only be successful by the power of God and not by his own human power or intelligence. Paul, in writing about the hardships that he suffered in the province of Asia said, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9b). He knew that his ministry would only be successful if he followed the path that God had put him on. And while on that pathway, Paul knew that if he relied solely upon himself, he would fail in his ministry. Through his many hardships and trials, Paul learned to trust God.

 This past Mother’s Day, I was asked to preach at a church that was going through some difficulty. The pastor had left the church and it was apparent that this church was struggling with their future direction. My family and I went to the church and we noticed that everyone was not quite as friendly as they were in the other churches where I have preached recently. I gave the sermon (maybe not my best, but certainly not my worst) and a church member closed the service in prayer. And then I knew that something was amiss in this church.

As I came down out of the pulpit, I believe that only two or three people actually spoke to me. I could sense something that I had not noticed in the other churches where I have had the opportunity to preach. I don’t know if it was the message of my sermon or the way that I presented it – I believe that it had less to do with me and more with the internal struggle that they were going through. I tried to tell myself that the “cold response” had nothing to do with me but I’m not sure that I have convinced myself of that almost four months later. That was the last sermon that I have preached and it has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Recently, several other “doors” have closed for me and it’s something that I am not sure I have yet to come to terms with. I have asked myself why certain opportunities seem to pass me by and I do not have an answer to that question. I struggle with what God is calling me to do but I do not for one second doubt my calling. I believe that God is closing doors to established churches for me in order to call me into a completely different direction in ministry. And I am praying that I will be willing to endure and trust in God to use me in the way He has planned.

This morning I read a passage from 2 Corinthians where Paul writes about his ministry to the Gentiles. “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2: 12-14).

Hopefully one day that “door” will open for me and I will find the place that God has planned for me in ministry. Until then I will not give up and I will use each experience to help me to grow in the knowledge and grace of God so that I will be ready for whatever opportunity that God has for me. And I will continue to preach and teach the gospel message of Christ, my Lord and Savior, who defeated sin and death so that we may have life eternal if only we will believe in Him.

 

Thankful

Colossians 3:15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 4:2: Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful.

Hebrews 12:28: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…

This morning as I was reading the Bible, I began to come across passages on being thankful. I felt somewhat humbled that I didn’t begin the majority of my prayers to God being thankful. We often get so caught up in our “needs” that we fail to thank God for the many blessings that we have been given in our lives. I decided this morning that I would thank God throughout the day for those things that I have neglected to give him the proper thanks and praise for.

My ongoing prayer throughout the day went something like this: God I am so thankful for my children and for their safety. As we had another school gun incident yesterday in Georgia, I am so thankful for the protection that you have provided for my children in school throughout the years. Thank you for my children and for the many ways that they brighten my day and make me laugh. I also thank you for the health of my family. We have been so blessed when it comes to our health and it is something that I do not take for granted.  God, I don’t know how I would get through most days without my wife and I am so very grateful for her presence in my life. She is the glue that holds all of us together as a family and she is a saint for putting up with me. Thank you God for my aunt, and for the hedge of protection that you put around her and her house. It is a blessing for me to have her in my life and for her to continue to teach me important life lessons. I am thankful God that I have a home that protects me and my family from the elements and for a job that allows me to provide for my family and their needs. Thank you God for giving me another day and help me to use this day to bring glory to you in my actions and in my words.

It’s important that we as believers give thanks and praise to God every day of our lives for the many blessings that he has given us. We take so many aspects of our lives for granted and we often fail to give God the proper praise and thanks that he is due. Every day is a gift from God and we can’t afford to waste it – we must give God thanks for all that we have.

The Apostle Paul reminds us to “always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

 

I Surrender

Romans 12:1 (NIV): Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

As I was writing a Sunday school lesson on praise, I found myself listening to this beautiful song performed by the praise-filled Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. This song speaks about surrendering your life to God. It calls us to give our whole lives over to God, not just those parts of our lives that are easy to give over, but rather our whole lives. This song helps us to realize that God wants all of us and that is what we must want as well. So today, surrender those areas of your life to God that you have held onto for so long. Surrender – and experience the power of God that can truly change your life!

The Power of the Gospel

Romans 1:16-17: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Several years ago I was given some advice on how to preach and that suggestion was to “preach the gospel.” At that time, I am not sure that I completely grasped how important it is for ministers today to preach and proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many churches today are getting away from the gospel message that the early church so wonderfully proclaimed.  This is evident in many sermons that we hear today. These well intentioned messages are basically self-help type advice which presumes that we have the power to somehow make ourselves “better.” The gospel message tells us that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to bring about the transformation that God so greatly desires for each of us. The “power” that can transform lives and grant salvation is the gospel message that speaks to our deepest need – a life in Christ that is joy-filled and connected deeply to the love of God.

The Apostle Paul in our text today wants us to realize that the gospel message is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” We can do all of the good works that we can squeeze into our day but the only way to salvation and eternity with God is through belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul wants us to realize that it’s not about the steps we can take to improve ourselves as religious people. Rather, it’s about what God has already done for those who believe in his Son, Jesus the Christ. Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus came to bring salvation to those that were lost thereby granting them the promise of eternal life in God’s kingdom.

Jesus did for us what we were powerless to do ourselves – he bore upon himself the sins of the world and overcame death in order to give us a new and eternal life with God. There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn favor with God; Jesus accomplished what was needed for each of us when he took the sins of the world to the cross at Calvary. And when Christ arose from the dead, sin and death were defeated once and for all.

A life that is Christ centered and connected deeply to the love of God can only be found when we believe the gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV) Forgiveness of sins, salvation and the love of God are not found in self-help type sermons. These truths are found in sermons where ministers proclaim and believe the gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God’s Love

Psalm 57:10, NIV – For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Psalm 103:11-12, NIV – For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I know that there are many of you today that need to be reminded of just how much God loves you. We do not “earn” God’s love; it is freely given by a compassionate and loving heavenly father. You need to know that no matter what sins you have committed in the past or how many mistakes you have made in your life up to this point – that God loves you! And that love is unimaginable and immeasurable to us as human beings. God’s love extends to the highest heavens and he has not only forgiven – but removed – our transgressions from us because he dearly loves his creation. You are worthy of God’s love because God is love! Go out and extend that same love and mercy to your family and to those people that you will encounter today and throughout the week.

Jeremiah 29:11, NIV – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God’s ultimate desire is to “prosper” his people – those who seek him and desire to serve him. This does not mean that your life will always be problem free; there will be many times of hardship and difficulty but that is how God refines and shapes us to be more Christ-like. Don’t turn away from God when life becomes difficult – that is when you need to seek God even more. Remember the old saying, “If God has brought you to it, He will get you through it.”

Romans 8:38-39 NIV – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor future, not any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:17-18, NIV – And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

 God loves you and there is nothing that any visible or invisible powers can do, that will separate you from God’s love “that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you are feeling lonely, depressed, or let-down, you need to stop and thinking about and meditate upon the many verses in the Bible about God’s love. There is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God if we seek him and call upon his name.

John 13:34-35, ESV – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Knowing how deep and wide God’s love is for each of us, we are now commanded to love one another. If you are like me – this commandment is difficult to follow. I am only able to do this when I think of God’s immeasurable love for me – someone who, based upon my own merits, does not deserve God’s love. If you want to be known as a child of God or a disciple of Jesus, you must love everyone – especially those who don’t love you in return.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NIV).

 

The Day and Hour Unknown – The Return of Christ

Mark 13:32-37:“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Many people are intent in discerning when Jesus is going to return to this earth. There have been numerous books written on this subject and there have been many movies and documentaries made on the Second Coming of Christ. These ventures are big money makers for those involved and most include examining current events for signs of Jesus return. It’s fair to say that Jesus does give some indications of things to look for as the end of time approaches. In Matthew 24, Jesus lists several signs of the end time such as: “wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of believers, many people turning away from the faith, false prophets will appear and deceive many people, the increase of wickedness, and the love of most will grow cold.” Then Jesus concludes the list with this passage from Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Jesus plainly tells us that the gospel must be preached to the entire world before Jesus will return.

The Bible also tells us very distinctly that we are not to know the exact timing of the Second Coming of Christ. Our scripture today from Mark tells us that, “no one knows about that day, or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The gospel writer Matthew also gives us the same message (Matthew 24:36). 

The gospel writer Luke tells us that Christ will return to this earth in the same manner that he left the earth at his ascension. Acts 1:11b: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” It is apparent from this verse that Jesus will return at the Second Coming in a personal, bodily form.

This Second Coming will be unexpected and will find some unprepared for Christ’s return. The gospel writer Luke tells us in Luke 12:40: “You must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” The main point to be understood here is that we must be prepared for whenever Jesus returns. We must live our lives as alert and faithful believers while we await the return of our Lord and Savior.

While I have never been one to focus on WHEN Jesus will come back, I do tend to think about Christ’s Glorious Appearing and what that would be like if I were able to be alive and witness it. I will end my devotional with the passage from Matthew about the Glorious Appearing of Christ. Matthew 24:30: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

My prayer is that this message today gives hope to those of you reading this who may be struggling with difficulties or troubles in life. Our journey on this earth as believers is most often a difficult journey. However, we must always keep the faith and believe that God is using these times of difficulty to increase our faith and to make us stronger and more effective followers and ministers of Christ. One day, one glorious day, our pain, suffering and disappointment will end and we will be in the presence of God and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!