Tag Archives: restraint

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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Too Much of a Good Thing

Too Much of a Good Thing

Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.  Proverbs 25:16

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of books have been written about dieting.  Eat this.  Do not eat that.  Stick with Carbs.  Avoid carbs.  Go protein.  No meat.  No bread.  No sugar.  Less starch.  Natural this.  Natural that.

In an effort, not to give medical advice but Bible advice, please note the above verse.  Finding something sweet to eat is ok, but too much of a good thing can cause pain, hurt, and suffering later.  I love Snickers bars, but man cannot live by Snickers bars alone.  It is possible to get too much of a good thing!

The best principle for what and how we eat, what we possess, and how we behave is the word “moderation.”  Having too much of something, even something good, can actually affect the quality of living in a negative way.

Moderation is a term that is unfamiliar to American culture today.  We live in a day of excess.  Excess food. Excess weight.  Excess games.  Excess work.  Excessive riches.  Excessive expectations.  People act as if they deserve the best, they deserve it now, and not many are willing to pay the true price in the present.  That is why many people file bankruptcy and rack up tremendous amounts of credit card debt trying to live a “good life.”  Most are unfamiliar with moderation and a terrible example of this is the national average of debt for the Federal Government per US taxpayer.  It is and astonishing….. $154,161!  (Forbes.com)

Words related to the term “moderation” include:  restraint, self-control, temperance, and balance.  Do these words characterize your life?  How about your relationship?  Finances?  Or even eating candy bars?  Here are three ways “Moderation” can help you today:

  • Moderation Shows –Dependence upon God. When we are not so focused on amassing “stuff” we demonstrate and evident dependence on God.  When we are able to be balanced and not excessive we show that God is able to provide, meet needs, and solve the issues we face.  Having nice things is terrific, but it is not the goal for living the Christian life.  The goal is to be more like Jesus.
  • Moderation Proves – Contentment in the non-tangibles of life. As humans we tend to place value on rare items such as gold, silver, or precious stones.  Bling and glamour are attractive to the human nature.  A person living in moderation may have gold, silver, or precious stones, but does not find these items inherently valuable in themselves.  Value in God’s economy is rooted in faith, hope, and love.  Things that you cannot touch or even hold can actually have greater value than material things.  I like the old saying : “Some people love things and use people; but we really should use things to love people.”

Peace, joy, and hope are worth more than all the things money can buy.  Contentment, fulfillment, and faith cannot be bought but can be uncovered and enjoyed by the person living with a spirit of moderation.  Fighting, longing, and working to achieve excess can actually cause the intangibles to flee away.  Some people own so much stuff, their stuff actually owns them.  Ie.  Some cannot get away from the 2 boats, 5 cars, or 3 retreat cabins and have to spend their time maintaining their stuff.  Immoderate living can be controlling.

  • Moderation Provides – Satisfaction in Spiritual, Emotional, Relational, and Physical ways. The whole person (body, soul, spirit) benefits from the perspective of moderation.  A sigh of relief, a spirit at ease, and a mind at rest are possible – with contentment.

The solution to moderation is truly finding our very contentment, meaning, purpose, and value in Jesus.  It is Jesus – Who is the cause of true satisfaction in living.

How are you doing with moderation?  Do you see balance in your eating and exercise?  Do you see temperance in how you relate to other people?  Are you restrained in finances for earthly things?  Thank the Lord for “good things” while keeping in mind that it is possible to have too much of a good thing!