Monday, June 14, 2010

Living Joyfully In Difficulty

Last time I ended with by saying that we will experience contentment as we learn to live above life’s circumstances. We each have our own set of heartaches and we can rise above them and live joyful and content lives in spite of them. It involves changing your focus from self to God and His glory. At the beginning of this little series on contentment I asked you to picture a heart that is focused on "self" and the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of the heart that result from that focus. Now I would ask you to see another heart- this one with God and His glory in the center of it.

The first box with the arrow from the heart to the box that contains these thoughts as a result of a heart that is focused on God and His glory would be something like: trust, confidence, faith, long suffering, patience, kindness, love, selfless and probably many more things. The second box would contain the results or behaviors of these thoughts: they might look like: joy, peace, grace, mercy, patience, confidence…contentment.

You see; the heart that makes its goal the glorification of God is going to manifest these things, it is going to be able to live above the circumstances and not focus on the circumstances of life. This woman will make it her goal to please Him and to do what 1 Cor. 10:31- 1 Cor 11:1 says,

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
Christ and Paul lived sacrificial lives. They thought little to nothing of their own comforts or selves. It was all about the will of God for them, about bringing others to salvation in Christ, finding God, the eternal goals.
If in putting all of this into practice, you are still struggling with being discontent I would urge you to put all of self aside and begin to focus on others.

One assignment I give to my counselee’s is to choose 3 of the “one another’s” of Scripture each week and put them into practice. I have a 4 or 5 page handout I created that lists them all and they can have their pick on which ones to put into practice, but they must choose 3 each week and then report to me the results. This is in keeping with numerous passages of Scripture, but most notably Phil 2:3-4  

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

There is of course no way we can do this on our own power- we must rely on God. Does this bring Him glory? YES! This is why in every way we can be content. We only need to have a willing heart, and God promises to equip us to do the rest!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13

This means you can be content, you can imitate Christ, you can move beyond the discontent the world tries so hard to build into your heart and cause to overflow into your life.  Just as Paul did, we can trust the promises of God, and we can do it in the power and strength of Christ. Like Paul, we can learn to rely on Christ’s promises.

“He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” Eph. 3:16.

The inner man is where the heart resides, and where these changes must take place before you will begin to see them in your life.

Do you see how it all goes back to Him? The promise comes from Him, the strength and power to succeed come from Him, and all of this is for glory to go back to Him. Contentment flows out of this kind of heart out of these attitudes of the heart and the glory goes back to God.

Even in the midst of the trials and problems of these days, even these days before we are to celebrate the birth of Christ- these days that are so prone to revive our discontent we can find refuge for our souls- we can find the contentment we so long for. We can and will find it in hearts that are satisfied in Him and Him alone.

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