Cultivating Contentment

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Philippians 4: 11 - I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

The Bible Dictionary defines contentment as “a state of mind in which one's desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be.” Contentment is a state of mind! Since we can control our thoughts, then we can control our contentment. Contentment is a choice.

In this verse Paul expressed gratitude for the gift the church at Philippi sent him and thanked them for their concern. While he appreciated the show of love, Paul said that he was not in need for he had learned to be content with much or little. He had known both wealth and poverty and had learned the secret to contentment was in relying totally on Christ. Paul knew that contentment is essential to both enduring trials and experiencing joy. Paul chose to be content. He cultivated contentment.

What can we learn about cultivating contentment?
1. Notice the scripture tells us Paul had to “learn” contentment. Learning contentment is not quick or easy. I imagine Paul had experience some discontent before he learned to be content.

2. Paul learned to be content in spite of his circumstances. Paul had been poor and wealthy. He had been free and imprisoned. He learned that joy comes from our perspective not our circumstances. Paul learned to be content in both his personal discomfort and his personal comfort.

3. Paul knew that contentment came from Jesus Christ as he said in Philippians 4:7 & 9. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Our faith journey is often difficult and filled with suffering and challenges. True contentment comes from a faith that is rooted in Jesus Christ. True contentment means rely on Christ and trust him even when our circumstances are not what we want…

  • when others are cruel
  • when it’s hard to make ends meet
  • when we are falsely accused
  • when the medical test results are not encouraging
  • when someone gets a promotion instead of us
  • when our plans are suddenly changed
  • when loss comes into our life
  • when a loved one tells you they are walking away
  • when a financial investment fails

Like Paul, we too must learn to be content when our circumstances are good and we begin to want more and more…

  • when we have a comfortable home
  • when we have a safe and efficient vehicle
  • when we have clean clothes
  • when we have a clean bill of health
  • when our job is safe and secure
  • when our family is in tact
  • when our investments are sound
By claiming God’s promises in all of our circumstances, we can find contentment.
He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5
He will supply all of our needs. Philippians 4:19
His grace is sufficient for us. 2 Corinthians 12:9
His children will not be overtaken by temptation. I Corinthians 10:13
All things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully. Romans 8:28
He will instruct us and teach us. Psalm 32:8
He has promised his people eternal life. John 10: 27-28

“Remember that a man's contentment is in his mind, not in the extent of his possessions” (19th Century preacher Charles Spurgeon).

Cultivating contentment is a choice!


Monday, October 19, 2009

I don’t wait well. After all, WAIT is a four-letter word. Whether I’m waiting for the traffic light to change or to see the doctor for an appointment or ….., I just don’t wait well. Last week I was tired of waiting for the rain to stop and my son’s schedule to change so that he could mow my lawn. Friday morning I decided to stop waiting and I mowed it myself. Then I began to look at the overgrown shrubs and was tired of waiting for someone else to trim them. Now I have never in my life used an electric hedge clipper. I have used the old fashioned manual clippers many times but never an electric one. I’m not the handiest gal, but I was one determined female who was tired of waiting. I fired those cutters up and went at it. Before long I had the hang of it. I glided over the first bush in one direction and then went back across in the other. Then I moved on to the next shrub and the next until all nine shrubs had been sheared. Mind you the final creation had sort of the asymmetrical look. Hey, who wants a set of perfectly matched evenly trimmed shrubs anyway? I had taken action instead of waiting for someone else to act.

I was tired of waiting last week after the Tennessee vs. Georgia game too. Larry and I had parked on the seventh level of the garage and needed to descend to level five to exit. We waited 45 minutes before moving an inch! I read the newspaper, chatted with Larry, listened to the radio, watched some fans doze in their cars and saw others commence to have another tailgate party. We all waited and waited. Then we began to creep down the ramp and finally entered the street. The 10th car in line, we waited for the traffic cop at the next corner to let our lane proceed. We watched as the lanes in all other directions took turn after turn. Our lane didn’t move. By this time, I had listened to all of Vol Talk on the radio I cared to hear, had tired of watching orange Volunteer shirts whiz by the car running to their apartments or cars, and my stomach was crying out for a burger. Then I heard the traffic cop at the corner behind us say, “I wish the cop at the next light would help me out here and get this traffic moving.” I was propelled into action. I unfastened my seat belt and leapt up through the sunroof and shouted in the direction of the misguided cop, “Hey, how about us! It’s time to let us go!” The only one more surprised than I was at my outburst was Larry. I shrugged my shoulders, gave him a sheepish grin, and recoiled in my seat. I had let waiting get the best of me.

These are two silly examples of waiting but they illustrate how we often react to waiting. Sometimes we act wisely and sometimes we don’t. Are you in a waiting period in your life? Are you waiting for a child to be born? Waiting for a new job to begin? Waiting for a medical report? Waiting to meet Mr. or Miss Right? Waiting to be healed? Waiting for a loved one to be saved? Are you trusting God in your wait?

The Bible tells of many people who had to wait. The Israelites waited 40 years in the wilderness before God allowed them into the Promised Land. The Israelites had strayed so far from their faith that God put them in a wilderness “classroom” to re-educate them in the ways of God. They were cut off from everything familiar to them and were to learn again to rely only on God. The Israelites didn’t wait well either. They complained, worshipped idols, built a golden calf, and were impatient with their leaders and with God. It took the period of an entire generation to teach the wayward Israelites to obey and to trust God. The 40 years were filled with freedom, choices, and consequences until finally, they learned to rely on God and obey his rules. When at last they chose to accept the love and forgiveness of a generous God and to commit to serving him, they were set free. The wilderness experience tested their patience, faith, and strength. Wouldn’t their time in the wilderness have been much more productive if they had reflected on what God was doing in their lives and on the promises he had made?

Like the Israelites, we also can build our patience, faith, and strength while we wait.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. Isaiah 40:31
I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

When we are in our own spiritual wilderness we would do well to become more intimate with God and learn to thank, worship, praise, and honor him. Biblical waiting should not be a passive time. We should be active in our study and in our service. God is at work in our wait. We suffer when we wait, but Paul says that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. Hope based on Jesus never disappoints! (Romans 5:3-5) We must trust God’s timing in our wait. He’s always just in time!

God, my circumstances are not what I want them to be, but I will trust and obey you in my wait. Amen.

Worry Warts

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Worry and anxiety are mentioned 25 times in the New Testament. The Greek word for worry means to be divided or to choke. The Old English word for worry meant “to gnaw.” Like a dog gnaws on a bone, we gnaw on our problems.
50% of us are chronic worriers or “worry warts.” Chronic means that worry frequently reoccurs. Data shows that there is nothing we can do about 70% of our worries.
40% are things that will never happen.
30% are about the past – which can’t be changed
12% are about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% are about health, which gets worse with stress
8% are about real problems that can be solved.

Worry causes us to fix our eyes on our circumstance instead of our Savior. Worry short-circuits our relationship with him. The truth is we face legitimate concerns every day. We have real problems, broken relationships, health concerns, family issues, and pain all around us. Jesus knew better than anybody about concerns. He was harassed and pursued constantly by his enemies, but he spent time in prayer with his Heavenly Father and moved forward with acts of service to others. Jesus knew that a life filled with fear had little time left for faith. Instead of worrying and gnawing we need to focus on what we can do and what should be left entirely up to God.

When worry creeps up on us the form of negative mind chatter, we need to re-frame the negative thoughts into positive ones. Turn fretful thoughts such as, “I’m afraid my son will get into an accident on the way to school” into prayers, such as “God bless Jordan as he drives to school today. Help him to be alert and attentive. Thank you for the hedge of protection you will place around him.” Then we must let the worry go.

To help you turn your worry switch off, you might try some of these suggestions.

STOP – Say it, write it, read it. Say aloud the word stop the moment you begin to worry. Write the word on a card and place it in the places where you tend to worry: your bedside table, your bathroom mirror, the console in your car.
Snap - a rubber band. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when a worry creeps in.
Switch -your mind channel – Force yourself to think of something else. Look out the window, read a book, etc.
Schedule - another time to think about your problem. Concerns are very real and it helps to schedule a time to talk to a friend, family member, or counselor about them, but don’t turn concerns into worries by letting them gain a stronghold.
Say – a prayer to God for discernment and thanksgiving for his divine guidance.

What will be the result of turning our worries over to God?

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

We need to burn off the worry warts! I had warts burned off my finger when I was a child and it was pretty painful, but after it healed, I had a smooth, wart free finger. It may be painful to let go of our worry but in the end we’ll experience real peace.

In Honor of Christ

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I was touched last week when some friends and family walked in my honor at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Among them were my niece Kaiti and friend Cynthia and her daughter Emma who wore signs on their back, “In honor of Cathy Turner.” What a humbling tribute! Years ago my own race for life was almost cut short by breast cancer.

In June of 1995 my sister Lori, who worked for my doctor, asked if I would come in for a mammogram. They had some new equipment and wanted to “experiment” on me. I had had my last mammogram a year earlier and wasn’t due another one until the following year, but I agreed to go. A few days later, on June 30th, I received a call from my gynecologist’s office. My doctor was referring me to a surgeon for further testing due to a suspicious mammogram. One week later I sat in the examination room at Dr. Phillip Burns’s office and heard him say those dreaded words, “Cathy, I’m so sorry to have to tell you, but you have breast cancer.” The tears flowed.

I was an unlikely victim of cancer. I had been fanatical about taking care of myself with a good diet and had been diligent about exams. Having no cancer in my background, I quickly realized that cancer is no respecter of persons. Upon Dr. Burns’s advice, I underwent a mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. Fortunately, my cancer was caught early. Had I waited another year for a mammogram, my doctor confirmed that my type of cancer would have seen tremendous growth and the quality and length of my life would be vastly different. Lori’s phone call that summer was no coincidence. It was a God-incidence, a coincidence divinely arranged by God.

God goes before us and prepares us for the racecourse of our lives. He often uses people and circumstances to guide us in our race. And he runs with us. When we get weary, he even carries us. God was faithful to me during my bout with cancer. He used my family and my Christian family to minister to me during that time.

God has given each of us a race to run. He has a purpose for each of us.

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, keeping your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1

The runners in “Race for the Cure” run with endurance to cross the finish line. They are sure of their purpose: for the cause and cure of cancer. They fix their eyes on the end of the race. Everyone who finishes is a winner. Christians are expected to run our spiritual race with endurance. We can be certain that God’s purpose for us is to have a personal relationship with him. He doesn’t promise that our race will be run without stumbles. He promises to be there when we fall or get tripped. When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we run the race of life, we too will be winners.

Imagine, as we cross the finish line, a sign on our backs that reads, “In honor of Christ.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all women to schedule a mammogram and practice self-examination. Early detection saved my life!

Leading Forward - by Templates para novo blogger