The cost of contentment

It was the second week of my very first bible study. Being a new member of our church, and the body of Christ, I was trying to learn and absorb as much as I possibly could. Last week, Judy, our bible teacher, asked us to write out our favorite verse. Mine was a no brainer.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13
 
Apparently, I was not the only one. Four of us wrote that as our life verse. The problem, as a new believer, is that I believed that calling on that verse was a sure sign of prosperity and blessing upon whatever project I was working on. It was my cure all verse to conquering whatever ailed me. Fear in making sales calls. Guaranteed success on whatever business venture I put my mind to. The trick to making me an amazing wife and mom. A sure fired verse that would help me accomplish getting the home of my dreams and a life of accomplishment. My error was when I made this verse all about me and how Jesus would serve me. How Christ could help me achieve my dreams and ambitions. How Christ could take me from the struggles of being a young, insecure wife and mom and transform me into a confident woman who could handle anything with success and ease. A woman that other women longed to be. It was not about Christ at all, but about me and my own selfish desires to succeed. It was a few years later when I discovered the verse in context:
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 to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)
 

You could say the Apostle Paul, then Saul, was on the fast track before Christ caught his attention. But on that road to Damascus, everything changed. Paul was willing to sacrifice everything to proclaim the name of Christ. His life work. His good name among peers. His comfort. And he did it all through Christ who strengthened him. He was humble in riches and peaceful in poverty. Oh, that I could achieve Paul’s belief that no matter what, Christ will give me strength.  I challenged myself to rewrite this verse in a way that applies to my own life.  Here is what I came up with:

I am not saying this because I am in need, because you have something I covet or envy. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, even when they don’t make sense to me, or line up with what I think should be the promises of God. I know what it is to be in need. To be empty and lonely in my deepest places. To not have enough to cover all the bills for the month. To be without the wisdom I need for the moment. To feel lacking and incomplete. And, I have known what it is to live in plenty. Moments when I can’t lose. Money in the bank. Time spent well. Everything rolling exactly as I would expect it. Perfection. I have learned the secret to being content in every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I used to think I could use that verse as a magic wand to pull out for a tough situation. Abracadabra- I closed that sale. Abracadabra- Super balanced Super Mom. Abracadabra- selfish plans and motives instantly transformed into God’s will and plan for my life. But that isn’t it at all. It’s a commitment to contentment. It’s me, surrendering my life like a blank page, handing the pen to God and saying, “It’s all yours.” It’s leaning on Christ to step out in faith, intentionally and passionately, to pursue the calling he has for me. Even if I’m stepping into places I don’t want to go. Seeking only God’s face. Letting go of my selfish pride and ambition. At times, making choices that don’t make a lick of sense to those around me. Trusting God to be there when I step. He promises to be the light in my darkness. He promises his power will be made perfect in my weakness. The cost for contentment is death to self and rebirth in the promise of my Savior. Lack of concern for my life, while passionately and intentionally pursuing his purpose in the time he has given me on this earth.
Lord, in this moment, may my life be an open book in which you can write my story. Lord, grant me the strength and courage to pursue my purpose passionately and intentionally. In Jesus name, Amen.

Marianna

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”  And he said,”It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”  But the Lord said, “You have pity on the plant for which you have not labored nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Ninevah, that great city, in which are more than one hundred twenty thousand person who cannot discern between their right hand and their left-and how much livestock?”  Jonah 4:9-11 NKJV

If you are noticing a theme in my blog over the last few months, you might be on to something!  Over the last few months, God has shaken up everything in my life, right down to the core foundations of my beliefs, as a means to make me take the time to stop and truly examine the motives of my heart.   My work.  The ministry opportunities He has given me.  He has humbled me before His throne in a way I have never before experienced- and though I don’t want a repeat occurence of this season, I am thankful for every minute.  The Lord has taught me so much.  Placed some incredible people in my path.  He has shown me sin I have been harboring and granted me the grace and power to turn away from it and begin rebuilding my life in a way that is set apart for Him.

Over the last few weeks, the prayer of my heart has been for God to change my attitude.   To prioritize my “stuff’ in His priority order.  To help me to see “things” as He sees them.  But mostly, I want Him to make my heart like His.  The truth is, when I am walking with my focus purely on God, the “stuff” in my life is not such a big deal anymore.  And God, always faithful to answer, has brought so many positive people across my path, it’s not even funny.  My Friend Angela posted, “So thankful to be at home today, getting paid to spend a Holiday with my kids.  I’m thankful to have a good job.”  Wow!  I just sometimes see mine as another thing to check off the to do list.  Danni, my regional director, with a gleam in her eye and a heart for service,  claims”We never give up!”  Trust me, these two are just the tip of the iceberg.    But the one that God place front and center is Marianna.

Marianna is a fellow marketer for a senior living community in Arthur.  I attended a regional marketers meeting that she hosts at her community every couple of months. It was the first time I had the opportunity to attend and I was a little nervous.  Anytime a group of marketers are in the same general vicinity, you best have your “A” game.  But last week, the mood was mellow and everyone was having a great time sharing the latest and greatest that was happening in their homes.  As the meeting came to a close, Marianna let us know that she was going in for surgery the next day.  She said it was one she had been through before and expected to be back to work in a couple of weeks.  She went on to tell us that it was breast cancer.  Her third round with it.  But by golly, she has beat it twice already, what’s one more go round.   She went on to talk about her first mastectomy when they brought in the prosthesis-the one they later played football with.  She proceeded to tell about how she went to a new hospital the second time, just in case her reputation might have preceeded her at the last hospital. This time, she took her wig to her beautician to “have a little grey” put in it because last time she had cancer, her hair wasn’t quite so white.   I don’t know what her conversations with God look like right now.  Is she scared? probably.  Is she worried?  I’m sure.  Is she angry?  If she is, she’s not vocalizing it.  She is continuing on with her life as if this is simply a hurdle that she needs to jump over in order on to proceed to the next leg of the race.  Wow!  I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it.   I left feeling blessed just being in her presence.  Blessed that God sent me such a clear message about what He expects my attitude to be, regardless of circumstances.  As another Breast Cancer fighter would say, “Regardless of what your circumstances are, someone will ALWAYs have it worse than you.”

God has been weighing the story of Jonah heavy on my heart again.  If you get time, read the whole story as if you have never heard it before. So many lessons can be learned, but the one standing out tonight is Jonah’s attitude.  His reaction to what God was doing in his life. Twice in chapter four, God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”  For a hot head like myself (and Jonah) this is a loaded question.  It makes me stop and really evaluate my attitude.  Evaluate my motives.  What am I angry about?  What right do I have to be offended?  Doesn’t God promise to take care of it?  Whatever “it” is?    Psalm 27 brought me comfort this week.  If you are facing some “stuff”, I hope you might find comfort too.  Here is a little to leave you with:

“One thing that I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.  For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavillion; In the secret place of His tabernacle, He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in HIs tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.”  Psalm 27: 4-6

I serve a Lord who is bigger that anything that life can throw at me.  I don’t have to ask for victory over my circumstances.  He has already given it to me.  When and only when I truly believe that will my heart attitude truly be changed.