Archive | November 2012

Satisfaction VS. Contentment

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Power Verse: v.6

I was recently asked, “Are you satisfied with the way things are?” I had no idea how to answer such a huge, vague question. When I hear the word “satisfied” I immediately think of how we all probably felt yesterday evening, right after Thanksgiving dinner. Webster’s 1828 defines it this way: “satisfy- to gratify wants, wishes or desires to the full extent, to supply possessions or enjoyment till no more can be desired.” Till no more can be desired? How many of us reached a point yesterday when we knew we could not eat another bite? You eventually shoveled in that last bite of pumpkin pie (or Seven-Up Punch Bowl Cake, OMG!) and suddenly you desired no more. But let’s think about at what point satisfaction is acquired. At most Thanksgiving dinners yesterday the order of events went something like this: someone asked the blessing, you got a plate and then you take a look at everything spread before you. You had plenty of options and free choice to get whatever you wanted and as much of it as you wanted. And that’s exactly what you did. You piled up your plate with anything you chose and then you ate it. Maybe you went back for seconds and that was just fine. That’s Thanksgiving. Then you headed back for dessert. Plenty of options again and freedom to take all you want and as much as you want. Then at last, you attained that magical state: satisfaction. You gave yourself everything you wanted until you could want no more: satisfaction. That’s pretty easy to attain on Thanksgiving. But can we really attain that in life? Are you satisfied with your life? I’m not sure. Is that even possible? Could I give myself everything I want until I can want no more? Could any of us do that, and not wind up in jail eventually? Satisfaction would be a dangerous thing to attempt and more importantly a sinful thing to attempt for Christians. That is why the word satisfaction was not used in 1 Timothy 6:6, but rather Paul used a very different word: contentment. Contentment is a different word, and an entirely different concept. “Content: rest or quietness of mind in the present conditions, restraining complaint, opposition, or FURTHER DESIRE!” Restraining further desire!!!!! Not fulfilling our further desire? Really? But isn’t that what everyone keeps telling us we deserve? Don’t we all deserve to have everything our selfish, silly, human brains can fabricate? The apostle Paul had no home, wife or possessions. He traveled around entirely dependent on the charity of the churches he ministered to. And yet this man, this traveling, homeless, celibate preacher says in Philippians 4:11 “…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.” Do you really think Paul had everything he had ever desired? NO! But at some point he learned to start restraining his desires and he continued restraining those desires until there was an equality, a balance between what he desired and what God was going to allow him to have. And right there, right in the center when the balance has leveled out (in Paul’s life and in ours) is the magical state of: not satisfaction, but something much more profound: contentment, rest, peace.  So what is the answer to the question I was asked?  “Are you satisfied with the way things are?” Uh….no! Are you? Have you gotten everything you ever wanted in life until you could want no more? I doubt we’ve gotten everything we wanted even this morning! A far more important, and spiritual, question is this: Are you CONTENT with the way things are?  Because as most of us found out about midnight last night, (especially those who ate Misty’s ninja dressing) getting everything you want isn’t always good for you in the long run.

How To Pick A Fight!

Read Proverbs 19:11

“Don’t pick fights! Don’t pick fights!” we tell our children. But is that entirely accurate advice? The idea is right. We shouldn’t be brawlers or trouble makers, but we should definitely “pick” our fights rather than have them picked for us. By pick I mean choose. Do you choose your battles wisely? How much time have you wasted fussing over silly things? How many real battles have you ran from when God could’ve been honored if you had took a stand?

Anger, like all our emotions, was created by God. Throughout the Bible God was often angry. What do you think that whole flood thing was about? Anger was intended to help us fight evil in the world. God wants us to be angry at sin like Jesus was.

Jesus wasn’t a weakling walking around with a lamb in His arms all the time. Our Lord was fearless and brave. He wouldn’t tolerate the Pharisees hypocrisy and He told them so. “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” he boldly says in Matthew 23. He said it right to their faces too! He was sinless in His anger, though.  Unfortunately, most of us wind up sinning because of our anger. That’s why we are told in Ephesians 6:26… “Be angry and sin not.” Anger is a motivator. It should motivate you to speak out against wrong.

In Matthew 21:12 Jesus went into the temple in Jerusalem and when he saw merchants were using the church to make money He became angry. “And Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of them that sold doves.” I don’t know about you, but He sounds angry to me. He was not sinning, though.  He chose that battle. He evaluated the situation and decided this was worth fighting for.

There are times when God wants us to fight, not with our fists, but to speak up, battle against evil. If we are told in Ephesians 6 to put on the “whole armor of God” then there must be some fighting going on. Anger can give you the courage to stand up against pressure when people want you to do wrong. It gives you courage to speak out when you see others doing wrong. When Christian activists are protesting evils in our country, such as abortion or child abuse, they aren’t out there because it’s fun. It’s because they’re angry.

Wisdom knows what is worth fighting for. Proverbs 19:11 “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Wisdom will turn your angry away from silly, petty things. In Mark 14:65 we see Christ choosing not to fight right before His crucifixtion. “And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to buffet him.”  In this battle He he reacted differently. He chose not to fight. Wisdom is knowing when to fight and when not to.

So here’s the deal: what is important enough to fight about? Ask yourself these three questions to help decide:

  1. Will this matter in a hundred years? If you’re a Christian you’ll be in Heaven in a hundred years. Would this fight have changed the outcome of eternity for you or someone else?
  2. Are you just angry over hurt feelings? Fighting over hurt feelings is an incredible waste of time and very un-Christ like.
  3. Will this help or hurt my witness for Christ?  In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul says, “I have fought a good fight.” Paul fought a good fight for Christ, not himself. Are you fighting a good fight or just bickering?

The world is watching us and deep down they want to see a good example. Anger is a natural part of us, use it to pick your fights wisely.

A Little Deeper

Read- Matthew 14:23-31
Power verses- Proverbs 3:5-6
My two year old daughter stood hesitantly on the shore, the Gulf Coast waters inches away from her feet. “I’m scared,” she says adamantly. “It’s okay,” her aunt coaxes, “just take one step.” Her tiny feet take one baby step. “Okay,” says Aunt Nikki, “now just a little deeper.” She takes another step and another while trustingly holding her aunt’s hand. “A little deeper, now a little deeper.” In a few moments my brave little girl is triumphantly standing waist deep in the shallow water. “I’m in! I’m in!” she shouts and does a sweet toddler dance of victory. How often have I cheated myself from that same feeling of victory because I am too scared to follow Jesus out a little deeper? How often have I chosen to stay up on the shore of insecurity? Our insecurities make so much sense to us, don’t they? We have very rationally chained our self to the shore. Where are these insecurities rooted in our lives? Likely in many places, but let’s look at a few of the most common sources. What holds us back from truly swimming in the deep of Christian life?

• OUR PAST FAILURES. Nothing can kill ambition faster than the fact you have failed before. Failure is often the natural effect of trying something. Failing doesn’t make you “a failure”! You are only a failure when you quit trying. It doesn’t matter what the ambition is: a new diet, an exercise program, nurturing your marriage, making a craft, homeschooling, witnessing to a lost person. You name it, from the most natural everyday task, to the most spiritual undertaking. Go ahead and tell yourself, “I may fail at this. I might do it wrong. And if I do I will take note of my mistake and then try again.” Failure is God’s way of telling you, “That wasn’t quite right, pray, and let’s try it a different way.” – Philippians 3:13 Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before.-

• THE CRITICISM OF OTHERS! Unfortunately even when we have rustled up the courage to pursue our ambition and have put our past failures behind us, there will be actual people just waiting around to criticize our efforts. Often it is folks close to us too, because they feel they have free reign to express their opinions to you, about you! It is important that folks in our life feel comfortable to express those opinions. None of us want people walking on egg shells around us. Wisdom, however, is in knowing when to take the criticism to heart because there is a legitimate point to be made, and when to just let it roll off. Ask yourself: are they criticizing because it is just their habit to criticize? Are they criticizing because they are frustrated about something else not even related to my ambition? If so, then politely take the high road. “Thank you for your opinion, but I feel very confident and excited about this ambition. Please pray for me.” 1st Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am; and the grace of God which was bestowed upon me was not in vain…-

• PLAIN OLD LAZINESS. If you’ve never tried something it’s natural to be insecure about it. If you never try anything then you have LOTS of stuff to feel insecure about. It is so easy to wrap yourself up into a comfortable little bubble of familiar experiences and never attempt to move beyond that. This is not a happy, healthy or spiritual way to live, though. And again this can apply to the simplest of things or the grandest. Trying a new hairstyle because you think your husband would like it, or heading to the mission field (also because your husband would like it.) Laziness is not just sitting on our fanny watching TV all day. That is physical laziness, but few of us ever address our spiritual laziness. Spiritual laziness is an attitude of refusing to push outside our bubble and grow as mothers, sisters, friends, church members and Christians. – Ecclesiastes 3:10 Whatsoever they hand findeth to do do it with all thy might-

So ask yourself today: Am I stuck up on shore, longing to go out deeper? Jesus is not holding your past failures against you. Jesus will not criticize your efforts and Jesus does NOT want you to remain spiritually or physically lazy. Jesus does not want us on the shore, but lovingly holds our hand coaxing us out to where true intimacy and victory can be found. “Just a little deeper, now a little deeper,” he whispers. I want to feel the same joy my two year old felt as she happily danced in the waves, the feeling of victory over my insecurities. The path to that kind of joy lies out “a little deeper.”