Tag Archives: Contentment

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollThere is great gain in godliness combined with contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6

  • When Paul speaks of contentment, what does he mean? Hint: look at Philippians 4:11-13
  • The idea that someone should be contented is not popular. People who feel poor are encouraged to consider themselves deprived victims. How does Paul suggest a person achieve contentment?
  • Paul was assertive about the obligation of Christians to serve people in need, but he never spoke of those people as victims. Does this verse or its context explain why Paul would not have called poor people victims of anything?

we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. 1 Timothy 6:7-10

  • The word “godliness” is not too popular right now, either. Paul uses the word to speak of the way a faithful person looks to other people. “Godliness” is evident by faithful behavior, but faithful behavior may be fraudulent. What is the message of the “gain” of combining faithful behavior with contentment?
  • How would you explain this verse to someone who does not know Christ?
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Turn Around. Open Your Eyes

When John the Baptist started preaching on the banks of the Jordan River, people got very excited. He became a real celebrity. He was a spectacle in his rough camel’s hair clothing cinched up by a leather belt. He supposedly lived on locust and honey, and some may have been hoping to see how he choked down those ugly insects. However, it was his rhetoric that got people’s attention.

John the Baptist disputing with his listeners http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=29352
John the Baptist disputing with his listeners http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=29352

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

This is an opening line guaranteed to rivet the audience to its seats. John followed up with a call to repentance that some listeners considered insulting. If John spoke on television today, almost certainly someone would take offense. There would be an outcry that John was not sensitive to the needs and feeling of some hearers. John did not worry then, and if he were alive today he would not worry now, that anyone took offense at his words. John had a message for people that was so important that he could not be bothered to be sensitive. He wanted the people to be ready to receive Christ when Christ appeared. His call for descendants of Abraham to repent of their sins offended them, but they needed to be offended, because they were guilty of looking at the world the wrong way.

Dr. Rick Carlson, a professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, says that a better way to translate John’s call to repentance is to say that John demanded a “radical reorientation” of people. People needed to turn around 180 degrees and start seeing the world God’s way. He accused them of missing God’s mark, a high mark set for them as the chosen nation, and he said that the only way they would ever hit it was to turn completely around in their thinking and their worldview.

John’s message, startling as it was, was not new. God had been saying similar things to the people of Israel for centuries. Zephaniah spoke to people who were worried about their national security. Their world view was that God needed to do something and do it now to keep them from being crushed by more powerful nations. Zephaniah told them to stop worrying about that, because God already was their security. However, God’s worldview and their worldview were so radically different from each other that they would need to completely change their point of view in order to understand what God was doing for them. Through Zephaniah God said, “I will deal with all your oppressors,” and the Israelites thought, “Well, that take care of the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, and etcetera” because they did not understand that the greatest oppressor was Satan. Those other enemies were merely Satan’s way of assaulting them over and over. God promised to deal with Satan, and that victory would free the people from the real oppression they suffered because they thought life was not fair and they hadn’t received their share of the prizes. Zephaniah pointed ahead to the work Christ would do, just as John did.

Isaiah did the same thing. Just like John’s audience, Isaiah’s contemporaries were thirsty. They cried out like the woman at the well for fulfilling lives and the contentment that comes when people have everything they need. Through Isaiah, God promised “water from the well of salvation.” He promised the miracle of salvation for everyone with plenty for all and no shortage for anyone.

Paul, looking back at the work of Christ rather than forward, nevertheless called people to the same sort of reorientation. People need to be reminded and recalled to God’s worldview repeatedly. It is easy for us to be distracted by glamorous sights and wealthy displays and the constant message that we need and even deserve to get exactly what we want when we want it. Paul pointed people to a radical reorientation from the satanic worldview of self-worship to God’s worldview of trust in his provision. He said that the wealth others possess was not taken from anyone, and confiscating it by theft or taxation will not enrich anyone. God provides and God fulfills.

John’s startling message, right in line with his predecessors, was this:

Turn around and start seeing things God’s way. When you see things God’s way, you will realize what a mess you made of things, and you will tell him how sorry you are. Better yet, when you see things God’s way, you will start doing things God’s way.

And what would it mean to do things God’s way? John had an answer for that question:

Look here. If you see the world God’s way your actions will change. Your deeds will do fruit God is pleased with. If you aren’t bearing fruit, then you are deadwood, fit only to be thrown on the fire.

The question “What then should we do?” is answered with examples of the fruit:

Share food, clothing, shelter — whatever you have. Be honest with people. Show that you trust God, and be willing to live within his provision. Show that you trust that God has actually already provided what you need. Stop envying other people. Stop being greedy and worshiping yourselves. Worship God and see things his way. You will be happy.

Then John told them the real blessing that was coming: Christ the Lord. John made sure people knew that Christ was light years beyond his human advance man. John baptized with water that poured over people’s bodies. Christ would baptize with fire that would be the unleashing of God on the earth. John prepared his listeners for the day of Pentecost when the fire of the Holy Spirit would change them forever. Talk about radical reorientation!

 

A Hymn for Meditation

Peace Like a River

When peace like a river
Attendeth my way,|
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot,
Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet,
Though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded
My helpless estate
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

He lives – oh the bliss
Of this glorious thought;
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to his cross
And I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

Lord, hasten the day
When our faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trumpet shall sound
And the Lord shall descend;
Even so it is well with my soul.

                              Horatio G. Spafford

  • How could anyone say that no matter what, it is well with my soul?
  • When I failed to get a job I thought I had earned, I was angry with the people who made that decision. I wanted to hurt them the way they had hurt me. Why did I feel that way? How would the hymnwriter describe my problem? What had I forgotten?
  • What is the focus of this writer’s hope? How does he deal with the kind of hurt that made me feel vengeful?
  • What is the biggest problem you face right now? Do you think the economy is a complete disaster? Did the wrong person win the presidential election? Have you been betrayed by someone you trusted? How would this hymnwriter work through these problems?
  • Where did the hymnwriter get the imagery of his final verse? Why does he find that image encouraging when his life is full of problems? (See Revelation 21-22)

It Takes Faith to Say Yes

Mike Glenn is not an economist, a fact he readily concedes, which may make you wonder why he then proceeds to attempt an economic analysis. When you read the book, don’t dawdle over this part. It is more of a rehash of political speeches than a picture of the economy. In fact, you could simply skip pp. 169-171 and be just as well off. The remainder of chapter 13 is very well done, except for overuse of the word greed. You will be hard put to forget the political definitions of the word, even though that is not what the author is talking about.

 

What is he talking about? Here is a selection

 

Gluttony – I don’t just need this. I need all of this.

Insatiability – I am hungry, and when I eat, I am still hungry.

Self-indulgence – I deserve the very best.

Avarice – I not only know how to make money. I know how to make money by hurting my competitors.

Covetousness – I have lots, but you still have something, and I need it.

Materialism – Don’t talk to me about things I can’t see.

Acquisitiveness – I have lots, but I don’t have that one.

Longing – I can’t die till I have one of those, and I think I will die if I don’t get one.

Craving – I can taste the essence and smell the aroma and feel the silkiness and hear haunting pipes and see that voluptuous shape.

Appetite – I will have it, and I will shape every day yet to come in order to have more of it.

Acquisitiveness – Tell me when the next new one will be released. I must have the first five.

Stinginess – I know I have ten of them I the cellar, but I might not be able to get another one. No. Find your own.

Selfishness – Just make sure that before anybody buys any more I get all I need.

 

There is a single problem at the root of all these attitudes and behaviors. Doubt. The opposite of Faith. Mike states it this way: “the hard truth [is] that … I am not completely convinced of the message of the gospel.” He doesn’t mean that he hasn’t received Christ as his Savior. Mike Glenn simply means that much as he believes that Christ has saved him from Satan, he isn’t quite sure that Christ is enough. For a pastor to confess this problem ought to comfort every reader who was starting to squirm at the message of this chapter. We are all human, and we all have our doubts, and our doubts about the gospel are at the root of our need for more and more new things. All those attitudes and behaviors that are listed above grow out of our doubt that Christ is enough.

If we really believed that God loves us so much he was willing to suffer and die for us, we would never doubt that we could share with people in need and still have enough. The rich young ruler is no different from you or me or Mike Glenn. He was so sure that he would starve if he gave up his wealth that he walked away from the Savior of the world. Mike confesses that, try as he will, he still does the same thing. Me, too. I can tell you right now that I don’t have the faith of that widow who put her last mite in the offering at the temple. I don’t have that kind of faith, even though I know for a fact when my next check will be deposited in the bank, and I know how much it will be. There are a lot of certainties in my life, but I cling to my budget and I always doubt that I can give anything when I am faced with real need.

Paul wrote to human beings who suffered from doubt, too. Just like me, they were not sure that Christ was enough. They had the same issues I have with want and need, and they had the same doubt that Christ loved them enough to give them enough. Paul told them, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” With thanksgiving? If we listen to the news or to our political candidates, we would believe that there is nothing to be thankful for. If the Philippians spent much time thinking about Rome or the emperor or the corruption of the Roman government, they would not have had anything to be thankful for, either. Political leaders, secular thinkers, idolaters, and pure scoundrels all tell stories of present chaos and impending doom in every age. Unless we have the faith to give thanks for Christ’s love and care before we get around to asking for what we need, we won’t have the faith to ask. We will never hear Christ’s “Yes.” Yes, you have enough. Yes, I love you. Yes, I will always be with you. Christ’s “Yes” is the gift of his presence and his power and his life-transforming grace that shows us when we actually have enough. 

Some people truly believe that they can count on Christ’s “Yes.” They trust that he will provide, and no matter how much he provides, they trust that it will be enough. Some Christians say “Yes” to Christ’s “Yes” and trust him for everything. Here is an excerpt from the Handbook of the World Mission Prayer League .

The Mission’s financial policy believes and assumes that God is faithful, and may be counted upon to provide in every way, both spiritually and materially, for the advancement of his kingdom’s work around the world. The Mission, therefore, does not curtail or delimit its activities on the basis of a formal budget, or pledged and calculated income. New workers are accepted, commissioned and sent without requiring that there first of all be money in sight to support them. No stated salary is pledged or promised to any worker wherever assigned. All workers in the Mission, whatever their location or position, share impartially in the distribution of living allowances made each month out of the general funds of the Mission.

Do you have the faith to say “Yes” to Christ’s simplicity?

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