Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Secret to JOY and CONTENTMENT

If, like me, you have struggled, searched and yearned to consistently possess joy and contentment, I believe that there is a secret to  finding these two elusive yet profoundly necessary elements that millions spend their lives in pursuit of but always find them just beyond their grasp.  It would be easy to say, “Send me $99.95 and I’ll send you my latest book that will unlock the secrets to JOY AND CONTENTMENT.  Call within the next 10 minutes and I’ll double your offer to share with a friend and throw in my magic chopper that slices, dices and makes julienne fries!” 

Would you believe it’s easier than that to access ….and that there is no money necessary?

Over the last 5 decades I’ve heard more than my fair share of sermons, after dinner speakers and even quacks peddling the latest and greatest items, making unbelievable and unattainable promises.  Some say, “God wants you rich and prosperous! Give a gift of (fill in the blank) today to…..” and while parts of that are true, mainly I hear a well-meaning person soliciting funds for their own pleasure and financial gain.  Don’t get me wrong: God will bless you when you give but it’s not necessarily monetary prosperity that you will know.

At a gas station once, we witnessed a father at the counter with a small child who was buying lottery tickets (which in pursuit of joy and contentment, you’d be better off to set your money on fire and douse it with gasoline, but….).  When the child asked for a piece of candy, the father said, “NO! You don’t need it.  And we’re not going to tell your Mom that WE bought these lottery tickets! It’s our little secret!” When someone tells you that you must keep a secret to yourself about anything, it’s rarely a good thing.  Nothing will be kept secret long-term:  “After having heard it all, this is the conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commands, because this applies to everyone. God will certainly judge everything that is done. This includes every secret thing, whether it is good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

When I read this morning from Philippians 4, I was reminded once again of what God continues to bring to my attention---and I am a such a very, very, very slow learner! The scripture is included at the bottom but I find lists easier to understand:
  • 1.      Rejoice in the Lord!
  • 2.     REJOICE! (see #1)
  • 3.     Be considerate.
  • 4.     God is near.
  • 5.     Never worry: Pray and
  • 6.      give thanks instead (refer to #1)
  • 7.    If, by God’s help, you can do #1-6, His PEACE and CONTENTMENT will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.

Here is where I differ from some: by God’s grace, I WILL CHOOSE to find something to be thankful for in any situation. While God does not send temptations or bad things to us, we can learn from what the evil one (I will not capitalize the name of the enemy!) uses to distract, detract, destroy or stupify God’s children!

Stop for just a minute and re-read #7.  Read it slowly. 

I’ll wait.

Did you notice that if we choose to give thanks and rejoice what will happen?  I don’t know about you but my thoughts and emotions are generally what gets me in trouble.  If I allow my thoughts and emotions an inch, they will jump on me and deflate my day quicker than a sharp pin on a big, fat balloon.  Yep.  BOOOOOMMMMMM!

Allow me to put it like this: my wonderful, loving and faithful husband is handicapped from birth.  Each year his mobility decreases a little bit more.  Tell me: how or why is that something to rejoice about?  I’ll tell you the truth: in the eyes of the world, it is grounds for anger, resentment, frustration and desertion.  I have struggled with those emotions, believe me. Boom! Burst the balloon and then POW, slap to the face.

BUT..... I am a child of the LIVING GOD. I have a choice to make! Because of this, I choose to rejoice that I have a husband who loves me just as I am.  I choose to rejoice that he is God’s child and that he is God’s gift to me!  When he needs help because of physical limitations, once again I have a choice to make: be considerate and loving or be angry and resentful of how it infringes on “my time”.  I could worry about what tomorrow or next year or the next 10 years holds and how on earth will I ever be able to care for him as we age together? No. I will not go there.  I chose to focus on today.  God is near; while I cannot see or know the future, I know who holds both the future ….and who holds me… in the palm of His hand.  Knowing this, I choose to give thanks. I choose to pray.  I choose to pour out my heart to God and trust the future---whatever may happen---into His loving care.  Let’s face it: there is very little we can do to control the future.  What I can control (by the grace of God) are my actions and reactions as the future unfolds!

Paul states in Philippians 4 how you can insure God’s peace.  Did you know that peace is a choice?  It’s not something God gives only to His favorites; it’s available to ALL of His children!  It’s as simple as focusing on what is right and deserves our praise.  The short list includes whatever is:
+ honorable
+ fair
+ acceptable
+ commendable      
= God’s peace

It costs nothing in the finances of the world but it may change some of your relationships when you choose not to gossip around the coffee pot or the water cooler.  Or when you have a choice of cutting corners to finish sooner vs. doing the job correctly, even though it may cost extra time and/or money.  What about the tv shows you watch or the books you read: is it something you could enjoy with your pastor or a child at your side? When you think no one’s looking, do you still choose to do the right thing?  Do you always give your best? Do you admit it when you make a mistake and then correct it? Do you take time to read God’s Word and talk to Him each day?

These are questions I ask myself over and over.  They are not meant to condemn you but to keep me honest.  When I go to bed at night, I want to know that I have endeavored to be and do the very best that I could because that’s what God did for me. When He created this beautiful world …and when He gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die not for his own sin of his own but for my poor, dumb, sorry, rotten, wretched self.  With that in mind, how on earth could I do anything but rejoice?

 “Always rejoice  in the Lord! I'll say it again: Rejoice! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God's peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus….keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you've learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:4-8