In Phil. 4:11 Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was in to be content. I wonder how many of us could make such a statement. I know any number of people who are NEVER satisfied! What was Paul’s secret? I believe it was his philosophy of life. Allow me to explain by using mathematical signs.
The + sign. This way of thinking says, “Get all you can and can all you get”. It says to take all your wants, needs and desires + the actual getting of them = contentment. Do you know anyone who is living by this philosophy of life? Jesus said that a man’s life did NOT consist in the abundance of the things he possessed. (Luke 12:15)
The – sign. This way of thinking says to take all your wants, needs and desire and – all that is superfluous = contentment. This the reason some live in monasteries. Diogenes, a Greek philosopher, had one old bowl from which he ate. One old cloak which he wore. And one old tub in which he slept. It is said that on one occasion that Socrates told him “I can see your pride through the holes in your cloak”. Diogenes had a pride problem and the way of life had not solved it.
The X sign. This way of thinking says to take all your wants, needs and desires X Christ = contentment. This is why Paul could write whether he was brought low or was abounding, he had learned in whatever state he was in to be content. So you could beat his back until it was a bloody mess or you could send him support for his missionary work, and he would praise God in both.
Notice it was something he had LEARNED. It was not something that happened overnight. He had to go through many difficult experiences in life in order to learn how to be content. He relied on the power of God within. That is why he could write in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Can you and I say this because we have learned the secret to contentment?
Shirley and I, along with Elza and Sandy, headed for Rochester, MN on April 8 after church services. We rented a house that met our needs perfectly. The Campbell’s were a huge help as Elza chauffeured us all over Rochester (never missing a turn). Sandy demonstrated her love of Rainbow sherbet.
On April 11, I went to the hospital without any food, water or medication. I was the second on the list for DBS surgery. My head was fastened in a “halo” which was painful and very uncomfortable. Next was the loudest MRI ever. It literally rattled my teeth. The procedure required me being awake. It was about 3 hours long and I repeatedly prayed for God’s help to make it through. I took comfort in knowing that many of you were praying also!
After surgery, I was off to spend the night in the hospital. They put a blood pressure cuff on my left arm, which went off every hour. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep.
Elza and Sandy left early Friday morning to beat the snow. Rochester had a record snow fall for April at 17 inches. On 18 of April a Neurotransmitter was placed in my chest. I was put under general anesthetics. On Friday a nurse programmed the unit. We were under the impression that I wound “bounce” out of there. But I learned later that it takes several weeks to begin to work. We were disappointed that I could not walk without assistance.
We want to thank everyone for the prayers that went up on our behalf. God is good. I am confident that it will get better and one day I will be able to “bounce” into the assembly.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength, in whom I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”. Notice how personal David is when writing about his God. I wonder if we could write with as many “Mys”.
My Rock - David believed he was standing on firm ground because of his faith in God. He had no fear of sinking but stood solid on the One who is like a rock. Is God your rock?”
My Fortress - What comes to mind when you hear/read the word “fortress”? Security, well defended, fortified. Faithful Christians are safe in Christ and His church. Are you?
My Deliverer - Sometimes we get ourselves into situations from which we need to be rescued. I’m so thankful that God has delivered us from the bondage of sin. And you can thank the blood of Jesus. Are you covered by the blood?
My Strength - The Bible is clear that man is weak and often stands in need of help. The beautiful old song “Jesus Loves Me” says “I am weak but Thou art strong”. So true. Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. Are you leaning on the everlasting arms?
My Shield - Ancient soldiers had a shield to ward off the enemies’ arrows and swords. They wore armor, but it didn’t cover some parts. Eph.6 talks about the Christian’s spiritual armor that God supplies for us. Of course, it must be worn. Do you have yours on?
My Horn - The horn was an instrument used in different ways. It warned of impending danger, it called the people to assemblies and it was a sound to advance. Sin is a real danger; we need each other’s closeness (assembly); we must advance in our faith. Is God your horn?
My Stronghold - Ephesians 6:10 says “Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might”. Too many people try to go through life depending on their own strength. Such is a sure sign of failure. Where is your strength?
Psalm 61 paints several pictures of God’s protection for those who trust Him. When this king’s heart was overwhelmed, he sought God’s strength. We should do the same.
Notice what God was to this King:
A ROCK (vs 2) - Whenever we say someone is a “rock”, we mean he/she is solid, stable, reliable and dependable. You can be assured that God is all these things to us who trust in Him. I like the song that says “…lead me to the Rock that is higher than I…” Are you “rock steady” because your faith is in the One who protects?
A SHELTER (vs3) - Imagine being caught in a storm with no shelter. You are cold, weak and exhausted. Then someone comes to your rescue and provides a shelter from the storm. The Psalmist says that is what God does for us. He provides the strength we need to survive. Is He your Shelter?
A STRONG TOWER (vs3) - In ancient times cities would build towers on the walls around the city. They would have “watchers” to warn of impending danger. God is our Tower and He has warned us of the enemy who is out to destroy us. Make no mistake about it we have an adversary in the devil who will capture us if we are not vigilant. Remember the words of Jesus “…watch and pray for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak…”
A WINGED PROTECTOR (vs4) - The animal world teaches us about the care and protection of a mother/father for its offspring. Jesus used the example of a hen and her chicks. How she gathers her young under her wings. We who trust in God are “under His wings”. What a touching picture of protection.
I hope you are trusting in the One who is all these things and more to His Children.
Those who are in the construction business know the importance of having their figures correct. In ancient times it was vital that the building be properly aligned with a chief cornerstone. Otherwise the structure would be out of kilter.
The New Testament speaks about a chief cornerstone and applies the image to Jesus. Peter quotes Isaiah 28:16 “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame”. This picture of Jesus creates a division among people. You see, Jesus is either your Rock of Ages, or He is your Stone of Stumbling. There are no other options. Luke 19:17-18 “…the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Notice there is no third option. One either repents or he perishes (Luke 13:3).
Those of us who are Christians are called to be “living” stones. We make up the spiritual house of God (the church). I Peter2:5 says we are a holy priesthood who are called on to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. This will make our lives “lively”. An old television series was entitled “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. Such is not true when it comes to our place in the church. We must be ALIVE in Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
If you like sports, you have probably been watching the Olympics. If Paul were alive today, I’m reasonably sure he would be also. He wrote about the sport of running in I Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that those who run a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
Those who win are those who love. Did you know the word “amateur” comes from a Latin word that means “a lover”? The amateur athlete participates in a sport because he loves the sport. The Christian who wins the spiritual race loves the Lord and His Word.
Those who win are those who are disciplined. I Timothy 4:7-8 “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (NASV) The Greek word for “discipline” gives us our English word “gymnasium”. Paul was making a contrast between physical and spiritual exercise. Notice that he does not condemn physical exercise. He only pointed out that spiritual discipline pays dividends in this life AND in the life to come. As far as going to the gym and working out, it is ok, but not to the neglect of the spiritual.
Those who win are those who obey the rules. II Timothy 2:5 says, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” The Greeks not only had rules for the game, but they had rules for the contestants as they trained for the games. Any violation during training was grounds for immediate disqualification. Paul wrote “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians. 9:26-27)
It is a frightening thing to understand that God knows all our good points and that he knows all our bad thoughts as well. David called them “our secret sins” (Psalms 19:12; 90:8).
In the day of judgment all those secret sins will be revealed (I Timothy. 5:24) unless God has forgiven us of them already. As bad as these things may seem, perhaps there is a certain resolve which can come from them.
If this seems somewhat strange, just remember the forgiving spirit of our God extended on out into infinity. He conveyed this truth to us through his Son when he was asked how often should we forgive our brother. The reply was, “I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).
When we look at some of God’s greatest men and see the sins which were committed by them and couple their sinful deeds with the forgiving spirit of Christ, it gives hope to those of us who may have our own “secret sins.” The Apostle Paul confessed that he was the “chief of sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).” These words were written late in the life of this man of God. However, not too long after this he wrote: “I am now ready to be offered” (II Timothy 4:6), meaning that he found forgiveness of all his sins.
While we need to strive to live above sin, there is still the confidence that God, through his Son, will always forgive if we only ask him to do so.
Dennis R. Smith
It is my conviction that the value of being a Christian may be observed in any of the circumstances of life. Those who allege that Christianity is only of use as a crutch for those who are weak, or as an emergency escape for the troubled, or as a dream world for the sheltered, are wrong.
The value of being a Christian may be observed when one is passing through the pleasant seasons of life. A Christian can have things go well without arrogantly thinking he did it all himself. He can prosper without becoming selfish and greedy. A Christian can receive blessings with gratitude for the good gifts of God, and use them for the benefit of himself and others.
The value of being a Christian may be observed when one must face those “routine” days of life. A Christian can do the ordinary things which must be done in life without growing weary. He can stick to it and do it well because he is doing it for his Lord. He can continue to fill his place in life while he waits for the Lord.
The value of being a Christian may be observed when one must pass through the rough seas of life. A Christian does not panic amidst difficulty as though all life were coming apart. Neither does he grow bitter as if God had forsaken him. Instead, he commits himself to the care of his Lord and lets his hope serve as an anchor for his soul.
As Frank C. Huston put it in the old song: “It pays to serve Jesus whate’er betide; It pays to be true whate’er you may do; ‘Tis riches of mercy in Him to abide; It pays to serve Jesus each day.”
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When I think of a “yoke” my mind goes back in time to the ox. William Barclay writes, “In Palestine ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken. The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on. The yoke was carefully adjusted….so not to gall the neck of the patient beast.”
There is a legend (may or may not be true) that Jesus made the best ox-yokes in all Galilee. Men would come from all over to buy the best. Barclay says that in that day shops would have signs over their doors.
He points out that the Greek word for “yoke” can mean “well-fitting”. It has been suggested that the sign over the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth may have been: “My yokes fit well.”
When we take the yoke of Christ upon us, it is not meant to gall us, but to guide us in life. Your yoke is tailored to fit you! Jesus once said, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”
This beautiful invitation of Christ also says, “My burden is light.” There is an old saying, “My burden has become my song.” There is a song that talks about an older, bigger brother who is carrying his younger brother. He is asked if his load is heavy. He answers “No, he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” The “burden” of Christ is always light because He is our elder Brother!