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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Discontentment Steals My Joy and Peace!

“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 4:12-13 NIV

 Many years ago I had a wonderful friend who mentored me unknowingly. She walked along beside me during the days when my faith was fragile. She encouraged me to dig deep into God’s Word and to appreciate all that God had blessed me with. It was during this time that my patience was short, my words were blunt, my expectations of others were high, and my discontentment with life was obvious. Vera not only taught me a better way to live but she lived out her words by example. I’m sure she would humbly deny all that I have said, but even so, her wise words brought about positive life change within my home and my spirit. One thing that she told me over and over again was that discontentment was a tool of Satan. My Father also lived his life believing that was true as well. Two amazing people both with the same message. Neither of these people lived what the world would call “a charmed life” but they lived good lives. Both suffered loss and experienced blessings. Both people trusted that God would supply all of their needs, they both practiced gratitude, and they chose to practice contentment. Both individuals lived joyfully!
Because of their examples I too made the choice to endeavor to practice contentment. I do not do it perfectly but it is always on my mind. When I choose contentment I am at peace and my cup of joy is overflowing.
On those days when I let discontentment weasel its way into my thinking, Satan shows up and snatches my joy. Then he runs for all he is worth and hides what he has stolen from me. Much to his surprise, the moment I look up to Jesus and I remember why I am able to be content my joy miraculously returns.  I have observed that people who live contented lives do so because their heart is not cemented to the things of the world but rather to the riches that are theirs in Christ Jesus.
Discontentment is only one step away from coveting what another person has. One of God’s commandments is, “thou shall not covet”. It is easy to try to skirt around that commandment. When I believe that as long as I don’t want to take what my neighbor has and leave him with nothing, it’s okay to want what he has. The problem is that often desire can move from “that would be nice” to “I must have that in order to be happy”. When the later thought begins to dominate and consume all of my thinking, I am in trouble.
It is possible for us to experience discontentment on many levels.
Discontentment with our possessions:
  • Never being satisfied with what I have.
  • Being embarrassed by what I have.
  • Always wanting to have bigger and better and the latest and greatest. 
  • Lusting for things I don’t need.
  • Trying to keep up with what others have.
  • Wanting to purchase things to impress others.
  • Feeding my need for instant gratification.
Discontentment with our situation:
  • Wanting our spouse to change
  • Wanting a different spouse
  • Wanting a different church
  • Wanting a different job
  • Wanting a more understanding boss
  • Wanting freedom from responsibility
  • Wanting our children to be older, smarter, more successful
Discontentment with who we are:
  • Wanting a thinner body or to be more physically fit
  • Despising our insecurity
  • Loathing our imperfections
  • Wanting to be important
  • Scrambling for control
  • Wishing for a more exciting and interesting life
  • Unhappy with our own measure of success
Any one of those scenarios can blow up in my mind and take control of my thinking. I must be acutely aware that Satan is always standing by, ready to steal my joy. His purpose is not to take my joy but to steal my joy so I become an unhappy, moody, angry, depressed, dissatisfied, and discourage person. These negative attitudes always affect my godly influence and can cause me to become an ineffective Christian. I must not be deceived. Satan could care less if I am happy but he most certainly is seeking to destroy my Christian influence.
The only way I can practice contentment is to learn to look for the good in my circumstance, my life stage, and be grateful for what I have. I must read God Word and learn who I am in Christ Jesus. I am a child of the King and nothing on this earth can ever compare with the riches that are mine because I am his precious child. A life of beauty grows from the inside out. When I focus on the little miracles of life and I open up my heart to experience the blessed life God has already given me I become content. A heart of gratitude most definitely results in a life of joy and peace.
I am also attempting to learn how to practice the spiritual discipline of simplicity. A simpler lifestyle, fewer possessions, and a calendar that has at least one empty square each week! Even God rested on the seventh day! My husband and I are drowning in the collection of our possessions. The up keep is often overwhelming! We keep things we will never use, we purchase things we don’t need, and we hoard because we may need it someday. I believe that we will experience joy when we finally discover that less really is more.
We must not loose heart. This life is temporary and in heaven we will have more than our minds can currently imagine. In heaven we will be like Him, all that he has will be ours, and we will be at peace. The struggles of life will be behind us and the word “discontentment” will not exist.
Unchecked discontentment steals our joy, dumps on our spirit, and fosters depression. It can end a marriage and sever a relationship. It can open the door for lust and coveting, and it can cause us to incur great debt. Discontentment can make us sick and shorten our life. It directs negative thinking inward and causes all manner of stress in our life. It is driven by the fear that we will never have what we want and it can make us greedy, angry, and self-centered. Discontentment can ruin our life!
When our contentment depends upon what we have, where we live, or our position in life, our self worth can become severely damaged. Comparing ourselves to others is the biggest mistake we can make if we are trying to learn to be content. Someone will always have more! Someone will always be thinner. Someone else will always have a larger stock portfolio and be able to take early retirement. Someone else will always have a bigger house, a better car, and take more vacations. Someone else will always have smarter kids and a more appreciative spouse. Someone will always earn more money than we do. Plain and simple comparing ourselves to others is disastrous. Don’t go there!
Living a life of regret is also dangerous because it pushes God away. Gratitude brings God near. I am not suggesting that we do not do things to better ourselves, nor am I suggesting that we should not have nice things. But I have found it benefits me greatly when I examine my heart’s motivation regarding these things. What is my attitude as I pursue my dream? What will happen to me if I do not get what I desire? How devastated will I be? Do I try to fit into God’s plan for my life or am I trying to fit God into my plan? How can I be more content with what I already have? Is my heart still full of joy or is it empty and void of joy? Am I at peace? Is God the object of my peace or do my desires drive me in wild pursuit of what I think will bring me happiness?
The good news is that I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” In my own strength I may not be able to choose contentment over discontentment, but if I will give this matter to the Lord in continual prayer he will strengthen me each and every time discontentment rears its ugly head. God’s Word says that I can do all things when I rely on my Lord for his strength.
  1. Do you consider yourself to be a contented person?
  2. If not, where do you experience the greatest amount of discontentment?
  3. Are you willing to give up the one thing that has you by the throat?
  4. Can you find anything to be thankful for in your unwanted situation?
  5. Do you believe that God can help you become a contented person?
  6. Will you take time to pray about your discontentment?
  7. Will you strive daily to practice gratitude?

Dear Lord,
Forgive me for practicing the sin of discontentment. I am beginning to understand that my discontentment is not pleasing to you. I also see that my discontentment is hurting others and damaging my body and mind. Lord, help me to practice gratitude in all things. Even if I hate my job help me to be thankful for it. When I am upset and dissatisfied with my spouse, help me to see their good qualities and be thankful. Lord, help me to love myself as you love me. Father, I am so grateful for all I have. Sure, there are others who have more, but there are plenty of people who have less. Free me from the lusting after that which I can’t afford. Fill me with your joy and peace that only comes from a contented heart.
In your name I pray. Amen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Misunderstanding a "Good Thing"

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor,
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.”
Psalm 84:11 NIV

 In times of trouble when it seems that all has gone wrong we must find a strength that surpasses our own. We cannot trust our self because our emotions are raw. We cannot trust others because they are not walking in our shoes and may not understand. We cannot trust man made gods because they cannot breathe, see, hear, or feel our sorrow. Our only hope is to trust the only One who has been a man of sorrow himself, Jesus Christ. The Psalmist says it well, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2 NIV God is our help in times of trouble.
It is human nature to doubt the goodness of God in times of trouble. Many things that happen in this fallen world make no sense at all. Both believers and non-believers shake their heads in amazement when tragedy strikes and abuse abounds. Personal loss, pain and suffering leave us feeling helpless and sometimes abandoned by God.
But God’s Word assures us that is NOT the case. Joshua 1:5b God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” In the very next verse God tells us to be strong and courageous. In verse 7 we are also given a word of caution. “Be careful to obey.”
Obeying God is our first rule for our spiritual success. We are not to turn to the right or the left when it comes to obedience. God wants us to stay on the path of obedience and God is to be our focal point, not our circumstance.
This pathway is very well lit by our Lord. Along the sides of this path there are also guard rails of our Lord’s protection to be used against Satan and his lies. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield;” Psalm 84:11a NIV  When we  begin to experience darkness within our spirit we must be on guard,  take notice, and consider the possibility that perhaps we have veered off the Lord’s path. We have not lost our salvation; we have merely lost our focus! When we look to our Light, he promises to shield us. What exactly will God shield us from and who will he shield us from? God will shield us from Satan for sure, but I also believe that many times, unknown to us, God has shielded us from the unthinkable. When I get to heaven God may hand me a list of all the times that he protected me from the hand of another, kept me away from the fire of self destruction, prevented an accident, and yes, spared my life. I don’t think about those things because on this side of heaven I am completely unaware that they have existed. Nevertheless, those were the times when God bestowed his grace and his favor in my life.
It is so like me to place my focus on the bad times. Of course, I am human, and what is in my face is my nearest point of reference. Still, if I will but look to Jesus in the midst of my pain God will bestow on me a different kind of favor. His grace will rest upon me as he comforts, sustains, and continues to provide for me. God will not leave my side because he must be true to his Word. In today’s scripture we are reminded that it is the LORD (who) bestows favor and honor. God is honorable in all he does. His glory surrounds him and we are the recipient of his favor and honor. As a result, we are blessed and others are blessed as well. God receives glory when we understand and share that he is the source of our blessings.
Still I tend to be a bit confused as to this next phrase. “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11b NIV Oh! How glad I am that he said I must walk blameless instead of saying I must walk perfectly! Talk about God bestowing his favor and his grace. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that covers my sinful state. It is only his shed blood that covers me and makes me blameless. Because of this truth I can be assured that God will not withhold anything good from me.
I am reminded of another scripture that tells us that God works in our behalf. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV
The only problem that still remains is perhaps my misconception of what a “good thing” really is. I think that to understand good I must know that God is good. Goodness and “good things” originate in the only One who is perfect in goodness. “He is good; his love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:3 The good things of the world pale shamefully by the standard of what God considers to be good. God’s list of good includes valuable jewels of love, joy, peace. His compassion, mercy, and grace sparkle in the light of his love. Forgiveness, hope, and eternal life are priceless gems that are the direct result of his goodness to those who love him. These are the “good things” that God promises to his children who have been called according to his purpose. The faithfulness of our Lord is one of the greatest “good things” that God has ever chosen to bless his children with.
God’s purpose is to redeem mankind from the curse of sin and get us safely back to our heavenly home. He has called us all but not all have answered his call. It is only for those who have answered his invitation to be redeemed from sin that these “good things” are given. His jewels of goodness always work for the eternal good of all his children and are vital resources to be enjoyed in this life as well.
Men and women are many times driven by their purposes instead of God’s purposes. Most of us believe that for life to be good and work well there must be freedom from poverty, sickness, pain, suffering, and death. Things in our life need to run smooth and end well. By the world’s standards those are indeed good things. When favorable things happen in the life of a believer or a non-believer, God calls them blessings and for these blessings the believer expresses gratitude to God. However, the non-believer usually sees their blessings as something that is a direct result of their own effort, or a stroke of luck, or good karma. The truth is that we all live in a fallen world that is dying all around us and because of this fact we will all experience many things in life that will not be good. But God’s “good things” are available to all who have put their trust in him. God’s “good things” are available to those who will reach up and take hold of all that he has promised to those who love him.

  1. Have you ever been confused regarding what a “good thing” really is?
  2. What does the human mind identify as good things?
  3. What does God identify as good things?
  4. What “good things” from the hand of God are you currently enjoying?
  5. How do the temporal blessings of this life differ from God’s spiritual blessings that are truly good?
Dear Lord,
I am embarrassed to admit that many times I have misunderstood what a “good thing” really is. Even in the middle of so many things in my life that are not so good I am still bombarded from the storehouse of heaven’s riches with so many “good things” that you are using to bless me with daily. It is with gratitude and joy that I say thank you. Lord, help me not to take for granted all the “good things” that come from your hand. In addition, thank you for all the many blessings that I am privileged to experience and enjoy. Lord, I also want to thank you for who I am becoming as a result of the things in my life that I do not consider good. Again Lord, it’s about me trusting you with all that concerns me. Lord, this day I chose to trust you!
It is in you name I pray. Amen.