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In Search of Contentment, Pt. 2

The Apostle Paul was used of God to write down the Philippians 4:11-19 passage.  Included in this letter is part of the experience of Paul’s life.  Paul was a missionary during the early church years following the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Paul endured tremendous pressure to denounce Christ.  He was faced with criticism and intense persecution on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Ironically, Paul, previously known as Saul, was present at the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen in Acts 6. From that moment, Saul became a persecutor of “The Way.”  His story is found in Acts and also in his New Testament letters.  Part of his story is in our text.

As a persecuted missionary traveling the world over, Paul endures great troubles – shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, public riots, angry courtrooms, and more.

From his example we can learn about contentment.

If this is where to find contentment in the Bible, then where can I find contentment in my daily life?   Are there practical steps to take that can lead to a life of contentment?

Yes!  Here they are:

  1. Find the Sufficiency of Jesus in You. (vs. 11-12)

Jesus is all we really need for life.  Outside of the true necessities for staying alive, what do we really need to grow, thrive, and go through life?

As Paul describes himself, notice the contrasts.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

  • Abased and Abound
  • Full and Hungry
  • Abound and Suffer Need

Paul goes as far as to say that “everywhere in everything” (all things) he chose to be content.  For a man rushed upon in riots, beaten, shipwrecked, and frequently jailed, that is an amazing statement.

Abasement and Abounding.

Abase means “to depress, humiliate, or bring low.” Paul knew the pain of being pressed down by the evil people of his day.  Nearly the entire society was against his teachings and way of life.  Sure, there were converts, and the world was “turned upside down” during the time of the Apostles but 10 Roman government waves of persecution against Christianity began soon after the Resurrection of Jesus.

Beginning with Nero (whom Paul witnessed to) and ending with Diocletian, millions of Christians, over a period of two centuries, were killed in unconscionable ways.

John Fox, in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, tells the story of Nero best:  “The first persecution of the Church took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that ‘he wished the ruin of all things before his death.’ Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed; several thousands perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins.”  He continues:

“This dreadful conflagration continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution; and the barbarities exercised on the Christians were such as even excited the commiseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.”

With this as the back drop, Paul says Christians can be content.  Paul new what it was to be pressed against.  Every Christian who was persecuted in the first and second century learned about being abased the hard way.  With personal experience.

Abounding is the contrast to abasing.  Abounding means to “super abound, be in excess, overflow.”  In spite of the deflating pressure of persecution, Paul said he could abound.  He could still have a “good day” in the “worst of days.”  How is this possible?  It all goes back to the sufficiency of Christ.  Paul relied on Jesus alone to meet his material, physical, relational, and spiritual needs.

Full and Hungry.

Is it possible for a person to be physically hungry and yet content?  Many people get angry when they are hungry.  There is a new term for this: “Hangry!”  I have been hangry at times.  How about you? There were times when Paul, with limited resources and not much food, was hungry yet content with all the rest that God gave to him.

Abound and Suffer Need.

A man with one set of clothes, a single coat he left in prison one time, some parchments to write on, and a few books does not have that much.  In spite of the “lack of things,” Paul saw himself as having everything he needed for life.

Have you ever complained about not having “enough?”  Not enough money.  Not enough room.  Not enough things to do. Not enough. I have said things like that.  Be honest.  Did you say something to that effect in the last 7 days?

 

Please continue in the next posting, PART 3…

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Jesus, The First Missionary

Jesus, The First Missionary 

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

Have you ever heard anyone ever refer to Jesus as the first missionary?  Think about this for a moment.  In the above verses, we discover that God sent Jesus to this world on a mission of mercy.   The love of God was manifested or demonstrated to mankind when He sent Jesus to this sinful world on our behalf.   Jesus willingly left Heaven to come to this earth to seek and save us sinners.  He came to rescue us from our sin! In many ways, this is the first mission trip.

While on this mission trip, Jesus identified with mankind when He took on flesh.  With no sin, He took our sin and carried our guilt to the cross of Calvary.  It was there that He paid the price for our sin, taking our death sentence upon Himself.

With Resurrection Sunday (Easter) coming, this is a good reminder for us.  Thank Jesus for His salvation plan finished at the Cross.  Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead, proving He is God and demonstrating His power over sin, death and Hell.  Be thankful and stop a moment to praise the Lord for His amazing gift!

When missionaries take the Word of God to other regions and nations, they take the Good News, the Gospel.  Since Jesus is the first missionary and His love for us is demonstrated by His coming to earth) and since the Bible teaches us about missions it is apparent and a good conclusion that the heartbeat of God is missions.

God sent His Son.  He gave us His only begotten Son.  Missions is giving.  Missions is sacrificial.  Missions is the pulse, heartbeat, and breath of God to us people on earth.

Since missions is so important to God, I would suggest that missions should be important to the Christian.  Each church member and each disciple of Jesus, should feel the pulse of God’s heart concerning missions.

Something to consider for your life personally is “do I have the same heartbeat as God?”

Examine your own heart.  Have you ever noticed this:  Some Christians do not like to pray, so they do not come to prayer meeting?  How about this:  Some Christians do not come to missions conferences or attend when missionaries are visiting because they do not want to hear about missions or be challenged to give money to missionaries? I suppose it could be some other motivation to avoid – if they are actually avoiding on purpose. Sometimes people are truly “providentially prevented.”

Could an avoidance phenomenon simply be and indicator that “my heart is not yet in sync with the heart of God?”  Sure it can be.  Even if you do not like to pray in public, the Lord can develop your heart to begun to pray with no fear or shame.

Even if you have avoided missionaries in the past, the Lord could change your heart – if you let Him.  Most avoidance issues are really a matter of trust.  Do you trust God to hear and answer your prayers? Do you trust God with all your finances, not only your tithe?  Do you trust God to give money to missions? God even gave a wonderful promise to all those who give to missionaries.  He promised to supply each and every need a person will ever have…when they give to missions!

Answer this: Do I trust God with every aspect of my life?  Is the Bible a perfect prescription for the problems of life?  Can I rely on God’s will, revealed in His Word, to truly provide for every need?  Have I trusted Jesus for salvation and been able to fully rest in His promise of salvation to all Who trust in Him?  Do I trust Jesus each day?

The next time a missionary comes to church, get involved.  Find ways to support your church missions program.  Make a missions promise to God.  Clear your schedule to provide a meal, housing, fellowship, or your attendance to encourage a missionary.

Recently, WBC experienced a tremendous Missions Conference.  We were blessed to see 5 people respond to the call of “being willing” to be a missionary if God would call them to that.  We saw the faith of the people in attendance at each service increase.  I believe most people in our church were praying for the conference – and continue to pray for God to send laborers into the harvest.  Some people were sick.  Others had schedules that would not permit them to attend.  A few were out of town.  Many were battled by Satan to not attend.  All who attended contended with work, school, household needs and more.

One girl, in an emergency room, through tears while being stitched up, expressed to the doctor that she was hoping to get home in time to attend the final night of the missions conference.  She did not get home on time to make the start of that particular mission conference service, but she did get there in time to hear the preaching.  I love that heart.  I mean, I really love that heart.

This is an example of the heartbeat of God that we should have for missions.  Yes, Jesus was the first missionary, and if as a Christian we had the same heartbeat, missions would be important to us as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marathon Marriages

Marathon Marriages 

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  Ephesians 5:31

I have never aspired to run a Marathon.  Running for 26 miles is an incredible achievement that I may never arrive at.  If I am not chasing after a ball (basketball, baseball, even a golf ball) it is difficult to want to run.

Marriage is a teaming up of two people for fulfilling God’s plan for the family.  God ordained a man and woman to come together to form a new unit called and He even called them “one.”  In marriage a couple can enjoy life, procreate children, and establish a home.

Mistrust, jealousy, and misunderstandings all create greater possibilities for divorce.  The culture emphasizes “do what you want” in relationships to the neglect of honoring the spouse you have declared your commitment to.  Notice how definitive this commitment is in Ephesians 5:31, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  Two become one.  That is real commitment.  

This marriage commitment changes the daily lives of the couple.  The physical, emotional, and spiritual beings that we are unite together in marriage.  Becoming “one” could mean a man and woman now share the same e-mail accounts.  It could be getting a new e-mail name that reflects your marriage union.   It could be that all the social media platforms are shared or at least, both partners have password access to those accounts.  These are just samples of how the concept of “two become one” could look in the media portion of a marriage.  It takes commitment, trust, and humility for this.  Just as a marathon requires intense commitment, so does marriage.

The following ideas are designed to help you start the Marathon of marriage and finish it.  These “mile markers” that come along the road will not be achieved all at once.  Your marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.  Arriving at these identifiable marks will take time as well as teamwork.

Here are a few “mile markers” each couple should cross along their race to the finish line.

  • The Cellphone Mile Marker. Back 20+ years ago, it was a big deal when a recently married couple got their first phone number.  They were living separately and then the wedding day came and from that point on, they were happy to give out their new home address as well as their new home phone number.

Today, many couples opt to keep their cell phones without getting a new home landline.  Many even keep their old phone numbers on their parent’s plans.  This may seem harmless, but it is not the healthiest arrangement.  If money is keeping the newlyweds from “joining” their cell phone accounts then they are misguided.  The positive psychological effect of passing a mile marker together totally surpasses saving a few dollars on a bill.

  • The Combining of Checking and Savings Accounts Mark. His and her credit cards or bank accounts are not a good idea.  If a couple is “joining together” then they should do so financially as well.  The love of money could cause the man or the woman not to commit to this idea.  Money is never a good reason for not consolidating the interests of the man and the interests of the woman into one.

In the era of prenuptial agreements, lawyers and clerks who do not have the Bible conviction of marriage will say “save up for a break up.”  The Christian should never look at his marriage as having the potential to fail.  More times than not – it is the same love of money that becomes a sore spot and a symptom of hard hearts of people headed for divorce.

  • The $1000 Savings Mile Marker. Many Christian Financial leaders recommend that a couple save up and have $1000 available as an emergency fund.  I recommend you have this in cash, safely kept, yet available in the case of an emergency.  Have you ever been to the store when the credit cards machines are “down.”  If there is another disaster and power is lost, then having cash to buy needed supplies is a good idea.

An article I read recently suggested that with the combined debt of the citizenry of the United States that a person who has no debt and has a $10 bill in his pocket is richer than most folks.  The point is- we should be saving money.  Save money together.  Look at ways to trim your expenses and then celebrate when you arrive at your $1000 goal.

  • The Church Ministry Service Mark. Serving together in a ministry is a great team building exercise.  Bus routes, Sunday School, and Youth Ministry are great places to serve together.  The choir, special music, greeters, and sound /media production are all enriched by the service of competent couples working together.  Embracing ministry together grows the husband and wife closer emotionally and spiritually and they may see their consistent labor bloom into viable fruit they can see.
  • The Car Purchase Marker. Researching, deciding, and settling on a car can be nerve-wracking, but it can be an accomplishment for the couple to win in together.  Driving the emotions of an item as big as a vehicle will cause great consideration in each spouse to reveal his or her thoughts.  Avoiding research, neglecting mutual decisions, and not learning to “settle” on an issue like this can feed a common problem among couples: a lack of investment.  A vehicle is a big deal, but it is not as big a deal as when you decided to get married.  Avoiding big scenarios is a way of being ill prepared for bigger life challenges that a couple will encounter.  By the way: the car does not have to be brand new.  “New to you” at 2-3 years old is a great price point and will give you a vehicle with a lot of life left in it.  A cash purchase of a nearly new vehicle is a terrific milestone in marriage.
  • The House Purchase Mark. A historically important characteristic of freedom loving Americans is the opportunity to buy a house.  Sometimes houses are inherited and sometimes spouses will live at the house the other had before they were married.  It is helpful to visit, consider and purchase together.  The victory of a house purchase and then paying off that purchase is monumental.  It is a big mile-marker.
  • The Giving Mile Marker. The Bible teaches that we labor in order to give.  Ephesians 4:28 says, Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.  With your spouse, deciding to give large gifts to others or to church ministry can be very satisfying.  I know several couples that have given away cars to friends, family, and church ministers.  One couple has given 7-8 good vehicles to other people in recent years.  They just were looking for ways to help others and to encourage some of God’s people.  The result of your combined effort at work, saving, and living and bring about generous giving to the work of the Lord.  This is a mile marker that starts with the basics of money discipline and bringing a tithe to God from your combined income.  Start with the 10 percent and see how big of an impact you can make together in giving above and beyond to others and to the Lord.

Achieving something worthwhile takes time and teamwork.  Your marriage is a marathon.  Run the race of life together.  Marathon marriages have been won the world over.  Perhaps you know a couple or two who have raced their entire lifetime together.  With God – all things are possible.