Friday, July 31, 2015

The Balance Bar

Our time of visiting with loved ones from past days had come to an end.  We had spent several hours sitting at the table with friends we think of as family, discussing events from days gone by.   

We had a long drive ahead of us, so it was time we got on the road.  Saying our good-byes we made our way out to the driveway, still sharing things that made us laugh, cry and think about our own lives. 

My husband and I were talking with the other couple when a topic of conversation came up on being content. I have to tell you, after that I was a bit unsettled. 
It wasn’t what my friend said concerning another woman and her desire to have a house, because frankly I never looked at the situation in that way. I am thankful for the discussion that led me to seek the Lord in my own life.
Was my life out of balance in the desires of my heart?  The uncertainty was whether or not I was living a life of discontentment and didn’t realize it.  

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What does being content mean? 

Life is always moving forward, so our desire to have more is often coupled with accomplishments in life. It’s what I call the “if” syndrome.  If I had this, or if I had that, I’d be happy.  So many times we think that contentment has to do with having more or doing more. Chip Ingram says it like this,  

“Since there is no end to our desire to acquire or do more,
we’ll never experience contentment.”
Some believe detaching themselves from material things brings contentment, while others strive to attain more hoping it will give them the peace they desire.  Both, I have to tell you are misguided. 

If I were to answer this question it would have to be in stages with varying results or meaning.  When we think of living in a state of contentment though, we picture being happy or satisfied with the way things are in our lives at that time.  Life is peaceful, not stressed or overtaxed (literally and figuratively). 

Is comparison living hijacking your life? 

As a woman who has worked in the White House, corporate banking, mother and wife, Kay Wills Wyma has another take on living on the balance bar of life.  I love how she asks, “Is comparison living hijacking your life?” 

When we were visiting our friend Lony, she told us to take a tour of her new house.  She was a recent widow and moved after the home going of her husband.  It was lovely, bright and a pleasure to sit on her new furniture. 

It’s not a secret that I love to decorate, so looking around her home I found myself picturing how certain things would go well with her surroundings.  Things I would keep, add or take away to make it a homey environment.  I found she had so many unique things that brought out her personality, frankly there was no need to change anything. 

Have you ever done that?  Do you find that you compare your house to someone else’s?  Are you comparison shopping in another person’s life looking at their “perfect” kids, job, home, marriage, appearance or bank account? 

If we were to look at your life, would it be a copy of someone else’s?  With society telling us that we “must have” and “do more”, it’s no wonder we’re living in discontentment.  Can’t we be happy for others while we wait for the desires of our heart to come to pass? 

I’m Not Moses, John or Paul 

Not feeing “content” (at peace) with what was in my spirit I looked up every passage in the Bible about contentment/content.  Although there were thirty-three matches, the word “content” shows up nine times in the scriptures (not being confused with contention). 

Moses was content with his living conditions, because he was treated like a son.  He was also pleased with the way the sin offerings were handled when Aaron explained the conditions. 

In other passages of the Bible, there were several mentions of people being content, while others were not happy with their dwellings. Some wanted to stay in one place, others wanted to move.  What I couldn’t find was God being angry with either situation, even if He disagrees with how we're going about things. 

In the New Testament John the Baptist answered questions from his wealthy followers who had cheated people out of their money.  Responding to the soldiers, he was referring to their “protection racket” of fees they set for the people that was above their own wages. (see John 3) 

Farther along in the Bible, the Apostle Paul speaks of contentment in his letter to the Philippians.  He spoke of being content in whatever state (condition) he was in at any given time.  However, he also related to them that he knew that if they had another opportunity to give to him (financially and through material things) they would have. 

Another thing he points out to them is that he wanted them to give so God could bless their work and offerings. (see Philippians 4)

“But I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again (that means they gave him something), though you surely did care, but lacked opportunity.  Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.  Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel (when I started ministry), when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.  For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

Do you think Paul was really content with his conditions?  Certainly not. At the time of that writing the apostle was in a prison in Rome.  Not long before that he was beaten, left for dead and betrayed.  I’m sure he was grateful for the little baked goods (modern day Little Debbie’s) and blankets in that cold, dark dungeon. 

What Paul was speaking of was the joy he had found through his life as a believer in Christ Jesus.  His attitude was different.   

Being trained to be a Jewish leader, Paul had lived a life of luxury. He knew what it was like to have much.  When he became a missionary, Paul didn’t have those same accommodations or supplies. It didn’t mean he wanted to be without them.  If so, he wouldn’t have been grateful for receiving the gifts from the people, but instead would have refused them.   

He realized that being content is an attitude we learn, not what we achieve. 

But what about rich people? 

When writing to Timothy about being a young pastor in ministry, Paul tried to encourage him to stay in the work of the Lord regardless of how he was being treated or cared for when it came to his physical needs. 
At that time the congregation wasn’t listening to him, and believed that having more riches was a way of being godly and obtaining God’s favor.  Paul gave specific instructions on how this attitude could be dealt with in Timothy’s church. 

Obviously Timothy had many rich people in his congregation, but their desires were set on selfishness.  What Paul directs Tim to do is to warn his congregants not to trust in something that can vanish as quickly as it came, referring to their assets. 
He bids the new minister to tell those who had wealth to give out of their abundance.  This is what he said to do. 

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty (puffed up thinking they are better than others because they have riches), nor to trust in uncertain riches but to trust in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (from 1 Timothy 6) 

Every year Bob Blackley gives out $5.00 bills on his birthday. 
 He blessed 160 people that day!
This suggests that wealth is for a purpose and that it is not a sin to possess things, but is a sin for them to possess us.  If we are to remain content in having nothing, then how could we be “ready to give” or “willing to share” our abundance? 

Jesus tells us to open our homes for His work in the book of Timothy.  How can a home serve as a house for ministry if a person doesn’t have one? There is definitely a problem with balancing the Christian life if we think living in contentment has only to do with material things. 

Spiritually, Physically & Emotionally Content

“If we have Christ we already have everything and all else is a bonus. If we saw things in this way, and embrace it with joy, then the richest man has nothing on you. (revised excerpt from Ron Blue article Focus on the Family)

The same frame of thinking, when it comes to “getting ahead” to have more stuff, is related to us in Hebrews 13:5.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be
content with what you have, because God has said,
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 

Learning to live a contented life is complex and can include physical, spiritual and emotional contentment.  Not all have to do with money.
Wanting to have nice things doesn’t mean that a person is necessarily not content with what they have.  There comes a point however, that one should evaluate whether or not their quest for more is based on greed, envy or need.
When we pursue things for the sake of “having” them, we step into an area that companions itself to the sin nature.  Our state of mind changes and we become unsettled, not content, which is the opposite of what Christ wants for His church.  If we are driven by money or the things it can buy, there is never a time when we will be satisfied.
Families who struggle with their finances may do so for various reasons.  Let it be said though that not only those who seek the nicer things of life wrestle with living contented.  Studies have shown that those who have more than enough are less content than those who have little when it comes to material things.

What about my desires?

After I read through all those passages the Lord led me to read Psalm 37.  I questioned it, and again the scripture was giving.  In my head I was thinking of Psalm 35 …

“Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion. Who rejoice at my hurt (in my difficulties); Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor who exalt themselves against me.

Let them shout for joy and be glad, who favor my righteous cause; and let them say continually, let the LORD be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant. And my tongue shall speak of Your Righteousness and of Your praise all the day.” (Psalm 35:26-28 NKJV)

Oh yeah! Now we’re talking! God grants me favor when I do things for His glory, and it gives Him pleasure when I live in abundance (prosperity).  Not exactly what the Lord was thinking when He directed me to turn two pages more in my search.

This is what calmed my spirit when it came to my thoughts being hijacked concerning living content in my circumstances.

“Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:3-5 NKJV)

God knows how I feel about Him, and understands the desires of my heart.  He put those dreams and passions in me for His glory.  They will work together for my good, according to His plan for my life when I commit my life to Him.

I don’t have to feel ashamed for wanting things to be better in my life, but will trust Him to bring them to pass in His way and timing.

God isn’t the thief of your contentment.

Our living a contented life has everything to do with the relationship we have with Jesus, which includes how we view wealth.  It isn’t wrong to have a desire for nicer things, a better marriage, job or future as long as it is in balance with what God has in store for you.

We don’t get to set the balance bar; God has already done that through Christ Jesus and it’s higher than we could set for ourselves.  After all, He is the One who died that we might have life more abundantly spiritually, physically, emotionally and yes, even materially.

“The thief (satan and his workers of iniquity) comes to steal, kill and destroy. I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (from John 10:10)

The devil wants us to get side tracked when it comes to seeking God.  He also wants us to believe that more is better, so we have to commit our ways to things and not to Jesus.  If we follow that path it will ultimately destroy us, kill relationships and steal anything meaningful in our lives.

When we pursue Christ and not riches, we will find that our contentment lies in Him and not the things of this world.  We’ll learn to be satisfied in whatever our state, even while waiting for the things we desire in our hearts.

This Week’s Challenge:
Balancing Our Heart 

Are you one of those people who are always looking for something different than what you have?  If so, then this challenge is for you.  God doesn’t want you to live a life of discontentment or discouragement, but one that is full of His peace. 

Learning how to live contented in our spirit comes with spending time with the Lord.  When we fellowship with the KING of Kings, things look differently and we approach life in a whole new way. 

Instead of focusing on the things of this world, we start to live a life of joy, always being mindful of Father God, and begin thanking Him for the blessings and favor He has shown us.  Our hearts become more teachable and grateful (for what we have at our disposal and this time). 

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank Him, because you believe in Christ Jesus.” (from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) 

Our challenge this week will require asking the Lord what He wants us to learn about the life we are living right now.  What mindset do we have when it comes to being content?  What is our definition and what is God’s?  Do they match?  If not, we’re the ones who have to change. 

Whether you realize it or not, God wants you to have a fulfilling life that isn’t always looking at the other side of the fence.  Whatever you are experiencing, God has given you the strength to “hold on” through Christ Jesus.  You can do all things through Him, and that may mean waiting a little longer. 

Look to Jesus to replace the dissatisfaction and discontentment you are now facing.  Stop looking for a way out as the road you need to take.  If your marriage isn’t the best and you’re about to end it … don’t.  Maybe you’re about to quit your job or bail on a partner in business, hold on a bit longer.   

You’ve been waiting for that new car, family or dream home, and are about to give up on hoping.  Keep "doing good", while hoping for whatever it is.   

Believe God will give you the desires of your heart, but at this time He is doing something else in your life.  Don’t look at it as if you are giving up something, but look for the greater need.   

You will never be disappointed when God is in control of the “Balance Bar of Contentment” in your heart and life.  His grace is enough to carry you though.  He is faithful to His Word and promises. 
Believe Him.

Your Grace is Enough by Chris Tomlin
Until next time, seek the favor of God’s grace!

“I will favor you with My grace.”
Jesus Christ 

Note: The words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.
Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues, but geared toward spiritual awareness. 

What’s New This Week: Click on links below.
I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really):
Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison
by Kay Wills Wyma

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Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy.
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provided by Bible Gateway.
Image credit: Google Images or Dreamstime Creative Common License if not specified.
Chip Ingram quote 6/13/14 article The Secret to Being Content
Image:  Neighbor's Doormat  Studying the Bible  Bob Blackley  Thief Cartoon
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