Thinking through Contentment

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By Jeff Foerster

The Sunday before last Pastor Martin spoke to us from Philippians 4 concerning contentment.  I don’t believe it to be a controversial subject, as I have never heard anyone utter, “Contentment, that’s not for me!” Still, those who obviously possess it are harder than not to find. I myself would not proclaim to be a bastion of contentment. I do however have a few thoughts that may help us seek it out.

Contentment requires the following:

Humility — That is, submission to God’s purpose(s). We must be in agreement with the mind of God as He has revealed it to us in His Holy Scriptures. The “greatest commandments” sum this up for us by telling us to love God wholeheartedly and to love our neighbor like ourselves (Mt. 22:36-40; Mk. 12:28-31; Lk. 10:26-28).

Focused striving — This takes place not simply in any desired direction we choose, but requires our submission to God’s desires first (see above, “Humility”). By keeping God first, our efforts and work can take many pleasant and beneficial directions. If He is truly first, when our course is changed we will not be easily rattled as our foundation remains constant in Christ.

Evaluation of circumstances — If you find yourself discontent with your circumstances, I invite you to ask the question, “Is this a direct result of disobedience to God?” If your answer is “Yes,” don’t be content. Through repentance, seek forgiveness and change. If you answered “No,” see “Humility” above.

Patience — It takes time. Don’t beat yourself up if you have been seeking contentment all afternoon, but it seems nowhere in sight. Paul told us that he learned to be content (Phil. 4:11-13). This great man of the Lord was not born with it, nor did he find it an instant gifting, but rather he went through a process to claim ownership of it.

Persistence — Fight the good fight and run the race. Seek after contentment in this life.  God does not tease us with things unattainable. I am convinced He wants all those who call Him Lord to taste of this.

Adoration — God’s magnificent power. God’s merciful sacrifice. God’s unbounded love. Consider these and much more. Ponder His great acts in Scripture and in your life and the lives of others. Spending time on and with God moves our mind, our focus, and our hearts towards contentment. No other circumstance or person can accomplish this. We were created by the Father to be perfected in the Son. Only by lingering here will true rest and contentment be found.

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Suffering

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By Tomina Sharpe

As I have processed through the news this week of my dear friend Nancy’s worsening cancer, I have really been in turmoil. I know that in light of eternity it is not going to matter to me whether I lived on this earth 1 year or 100 years. The number of years that any of us has on this earth is completely up to God and His sovereign plan.  If God chooses now to take Nancy at the young age of 49, I can accept that as His plan, even though it is not what I or anyone else would choose.

What my mind has been in turmoil about and unable to accept has been seeing my friend’s pain and suffering and knowing the pain and suffering that her family is experiencing. Cancer is a horrendous disease that was never God’s intention for anyone to experience. Over the years I have seen this disease in action from afar. It has come closer to home for me recently as I have watched Nancy go through it and as I watched my grandfather die from it in February. Cancer is horrific and the pain goes on and on over long periods of time.

As I was thinking about this today, my mind went to the pain that Jesus suffered on the cross and I questioned for a while whether even Jesus suffered as much as I see those with cancer suffering. Jesus’ pain lasted a matter of days while those with cancer can suffer for years. I felt almost blasphemous even thinking the thought that someone else suffered more than Jesus. But then it hit me. The physical suffering that Jesus went through, while horrible, was nothing compared to the suffering that He went through when he took our sin upon Himself and the Father turned His back on Him.

We measure our life through the lens of time, but I don’t know that Jesus experienced this suffering within the framework of time. I cannot comprehend the suffering that my friend Nancy is going through and I pray I will never experience that suffering myself to understand it. But I know that nobody on this earth has ever experienced anything close to the suffering that Jesus felt on the cross when He took our sin upon Himself and the Father turned His back upon our Savior. This brings me to my knees before my Jesus and I can only weep at the love that He must have for me and for the whole world to willingly endure this.

As I see those around me that have suffering forced upon them through cancer or loss, I have to remember that Jesus didn’t have suffering forced upon Him. He chose it. He chose it out of love. Whatever suffering I may experience on this earth can only serve to remind me of the suffering that He experienced on my behalf. While I would never willingly choose to experience suffering such as my friend Nancy is experiencing, there is one joy that she is experiencing that I never may. She has a much more intimate knowledge of pain and suffering which gives her a deeper knowledge of the love that Jesus had in order to choose to suffer for us, a love so great that our minds will never be able to come close to wrapping around.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
LOVE SO AMAZING, SO DIVINE
DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL

O, the wonderful cross
O, the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find
That I may truly live
O, the wonderful cross
O, the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace
Draw near and bless Your name

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