Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Contentment, Part II

I walk a fine line here, feeling the effects of everything that was dear to me stripped away, and yet walking and living and being watched by people who have nothing and yet are still content. When I think of the word content, I think of peace, joy, patience, and self-control. I also think of thankfulness. When all that was is now no more (or is not as much, ) what is purged away reveals what are my affections. And if I am no longer at peace, have joy, living patience and self-control, when gratitude does not flow freely from my lips, whatever my circumstances, than my affections are on something other than the fulfiller of all satisfactions, Jesus. And so with this life we are living in Africa, we are learning something of the idols of our hearts and it is painful, depressing and freeing. It is one thing to have them taken from you and another to give them up freely. I am not sure which one is easier. But, it may give some insight into the secret of which Paul talks about in Philippians when he says he has learned the secret of being content. It is a secret that very few know about, and yet promises such reward as the one which lives content can say, "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength." The reason Paul can do everything is because one, he doesn't need anything, and two, when these things that are usually our strength (or at least what substitutes for Christ) are removed, it is truly through Christ and Christ alone is our strength is derived and His strength revealed. When we are content in Christ alone, there is nothing else needed. It is a simple as that. He is the fullness of God, he is our mediator, he knows our troubles, he intercedes for us, he is the beginning and the end, and he is our joy and our delight. Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him. So, when these things that we cherish are taken from us, we like Job, the end all example of someone whose contentment shielded him from taking his wife's advice to curse God and die, must say with him, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. I think of John the Baptist, wearing camel hair that was neither comfortable nor fashionable, and eating locusts and honey which left a lot to be desired and not much to look forward to. What did he have to look forward to, and yet he is proof that you take everything away and Jesus is enough. I think of Paul, whether well fed or hungry, he had learned to be content. And I think that is the key word, learned. It is a process of learning and failing and giving away and God taking away so that there is purity in our following of Jesus. I remember my pastor once saying, "Say no to yourself once a day." Such great advice. And so whether God takes away or we give away, may we all learn to be content in Jesus alone, knowing that he fills all in all, and that there is nothing created that eternally fills the heart like the Savior. May we rest in the sovereignty and the gentleness and the detail of Jesus when our hearts are left gaping, that He knows us, that he is in control, that He is good and that you can do everything through Him who gives us strength. May we then enjoy with our hands open those things that God gives us for it says, that we are to, according to Paul in 1 Timothy 6:17, and we are the riches one, "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy." May everything we enjoy be Jesus and that which he provides for us… And this is enough!


Kristi Knifong said...

Thanks for the reminder Steve! We all need to learn that, no matter what we have or do not have. Praying for your family.

Stephanie Stoecker said...

I just love reading your blog! I am blessed when I read your contentment blog. My heart says yes to this truth. Thank you for sharing. Blessings!