3 Keys to Finding Contentment

Peaceful-WomanIt seems to me that finding contentment is one of the greatest challenges of the human race. I know it often is a huge challenge for me, and I see the effects of discontentment all around me every day. Some days I feel more content than others; what about you? On those days when everything seems to be going well; I’m not struggling with some major crisis; I have what I need, and even many things that I want – those are the times I feel the most content. But is that true contentment? I’m not sure if I can honestly say that it is.

According to the dictionary, the word means, the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.” One synonym that comes to mind is peace. To be at peace is to be content, and to be content is to be at peace. A familiar passage of Scripture that speaks of this is Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”  Paul had learned that being content had nothing to do with his external circumstances. 

For me, finding contentment when circumstances are not in my favor does not come naturally. I would guess that most of us are the same way. After all, we are human and we still have a body of flesh to contend with. Flesh wants what it wants, when it wants it, much like a small child. It is self, therefore it is selfish and greedy. Our flesh is never satisfied, never content, never at peace. And it never will be. Paul had learned this after facing many trials and troubles along his journey. In the verses above the ones quoted here, we see how he arrived at this place of contentment no matter what. Beginning in verse 4, he outlines it for us.

First, we must rejoice in the Lord – always. This means to be glad, to take delight, and make joyful. We do this as we focus upon Him and His goodness and nature, which leads us to worship, thank, and praise Him for who He is.

Second, we must display gentleness, or patience, and be fair and mild tempered with everyone. This is not something you can fake, at least not for long. This is the nature of Christ who was meek and humble. His nature must be displayed in and through us. We are to be peacemakers, just as He was.

Third, instead of worrying and being anxious, we are to pray, give our cares to God and thank Him for answering and taking care of us and our needs.

The result of these three activities will be that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. We will have peace that doesn’t make sense to the world, or even to us at times. Paul then goes on to say that we must think about, or meditate upon, those things that are good. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Train your mind to look for the good in everything and everyone. I have been learning this for the past year or so, and it has made a huge difference in my attitude! You can do it too, just try it and see!

This was Paul’s secret to finding contentment no matter what. He also acknowledged that it was God’s grace that enabled him to do this. Elsewhere, he spoke of crucifying his flesh daily. This is something we all have to do if we want to be at peace. Our flesh and spirit are constantly at war, but the spirit, in union with God’s Spirit, must rule and subdue the flesh. Everyone wants to be content and at peace in the depths of their being. God created us that way, and His all-sufficient grace that enabled Paul to do this, can, and will, enable us as well!

Advertisements

One Thing God and the Devil Have in Common

walking-to-light-in-dessert-smallThe title of this article sounds a little strange, I admit. Chances are you’ve probably never thought about, much less considered, whether God and the devil have anything in common. The thought never entered my mind until I heard Graham Cooke say it one time. This is what he said – “God and the devil have one thing in common, they are both trying to kill you.” Sounds a bit shocking at first, but when I started to think about it more, I realized there is definitely truth in that statement. However, their motives for doing so are entirely different.

We all know the devil is out to “steal, kill and destroy” any and everyone because that is who he is, according to Jesus. (John 10:10) He is a thief, a liar and a murderer, and always will be. He hates God and all who are made in His image. He seeks ways to wreak as much havoc in our lives as possible. He is not by any means equal to God, for he is a created being, a fallen angel who rebelled against Him and was cast out of heaven. His power is limited. He uses temptation, accusation, and deception to accomplish his twisted purposes for humanity. We actually empower him when we believe, and make agreement, with his lies. He taunts us with fleshly indulgence, beats us down with accusations when we give in to those temptations, and then deceives us into believing we are worthless, inadequate, and despised by God because of our many failures. He especially hates the cross because it refutes every one of his lies.

God, on the other hand, loves us infinitely, intimately, and unconditionally. He is a good Father who wants to bless and give good gifts to His beloved children. He always, always has our best interest at heart. But like a good Father, He must discipline His children. He does so in order to help us become more like Him. He wants to kill our “self life” – the part of us that seeks to call the shots, to make our own decisions and rule our own lives, independent from Him.

Contrary to what many believe, He is not a killjoy, trying to take all the fun out of life. He is not looking over our shoulder, waiting to catch us doing something wrong. He is not angry or vengeful. His chastisement is always because of His great love for us. He does not punish, in the sense that we typically think of punishment. The Apostle John understood this when he said, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love (God’s love) drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect (complete) in love.” (words in parentheses added)

Because of His unfathomable love and desire for intimacy with us, God aims to destroy any and everything that stands in the way of that. He is a jealous lover – it is one of His names – Jealous. (Exodus 34:14) He created us, saved us, and wants all of our affection and devotion. He wants first place in our lives, and He deserves that. I realize more and more how often I fail to recognize when other things creep into my life, crowding Him out, little by little. It is too easy at times to forget that the pleasure of knowing, loving, and being loved by Him is far superior to the inferior pleasures of this world.

The struggle to die to ourselves, to crucify our flesh, is very real and extremely painful. But God, in His extravagant goodness, even made provision for that. His name is the Comforter. The Holy Spirit comforts us and helps us to remember He is always with us, and will never, ever leave us. He is committed to finishing the good work He has begun in us, and because of that, we can trust Him, even when it hurts.

 

Learning to Walk by the Spirit

One of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered as a believer is learning to sunlit pathwalk in, or by, the Spirit. Though I didn’t grow up in church, I’ve been in it long enough to have heard the admonition to be led by the Spirit many times. However, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me how to do it. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what that phrase meant. Several years ago I came across a little book by Graham Cooke called, Towards a Powerful Inner Life. Though it is small, it is packed with wisdom and truth that greatly helped me. I highly encourage you to read his books and listen to his teachings, they are amazing!

Just as God is triune (three parts) in nature, so is man. We are made up of spirit, soul, and body. (1 Thess. 5:23) Our spirit is dead at birth, but is reborn at salvation. (John 3:3-8) Our spirit then becomes one with His indwelling Spirit, which is how we commune with Him. God releases revelation to our spirit, which is then processed through our mind and applied to our soul. Our spirit is always in agreement with God because we are one with Him through the Spirit.

Our soul is made up of three parts: our mind, will, and emotions. Obviously, we think with our minds, feel with our emotions, and make choices with our wills. Unbelievers live entirely from this realm. (1 Cor. 2:14) After the Fall of man, the spirit died and we lost our communion with, and the true knowledge of, God. This is clearly seen when Adam and Eve tried to hide in fear and shame from the One they once walked and talked with freely in the Garden. Ever since then, man came under the dominion of his soul rather than his spirit. The soul is the part of us that is influenced by the enemy.

Our body is the vehicle that carries our spirit and soul, and follows the dictates of whichever one we allow to be in charge of our decisions. If we live from our soul, we will indulge in fleshly passions that can bring great harm to our bodies, even if we are “born again.” When we live from our spirit, the Spirit will influence our decisions and we will put our fleshly desires to death, by God’s empowering grace. (Gal. 5:16, 24)

God has given us free will; we can choose whether we are going to listen to, and follow, our soul or our spirit. Since our soul is used to calling the shots, we must put forth the effort to build up our spirit. We can do this through communing with God in His Word, in worship, and prayer. We must take responsibility for renewing our minds, according to Romans 12:2. In time, this will bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, and whatever we make agreement with, we empower. When we agree with the enemy’s lies, we give him power over us.

The carnal soul is self-absorbed. I think of it as a spoiled child – it wants what it wants, and it wants it now! It is influenced by our ungodly thoughts, our damaged emotions, and the enemy who tempts us to indulge our flesh. Our soul loves God, but wants Him on our terms, not His. It is stubborn, independent, and rebellious, and must be disciplined in order to come into submission to our spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, a soul that has been trained to submit to the indwelling Spirit, in union with our human spirit. As we bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, allow Him to heal our damaged emotions, and resist the temptations of the enemy, we can bring our soul into submission to our spirit. This is how we learn to walk by the Spirit.

What has God taught you about walking by the Spirit? Please comment below.