By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11
The Hot Shot Café in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the locals used to hang out for good old home cooking. Several years ago, I had the chance to eat there. The meal was delicious, and as I was paying my bill, I noticed a shelf full of shiny new Hot Shot Café mugs. It may sound weird, but I love heavy porcelain mugs with nifty logos. Over the years I have collected so many you would think I have enough, but at the time I thought I needed just one more. It was a compulsion I couldn’t resist. So, I forked over a few extra bills and left with the mug.
If it were only about the mugs in our lives—or the teddy bears, CDs, or shoes—it wouldn’t really be a big deal. The thing is, it’s about more than that. It’s about this inner dynamic where we need just one morething all the time. The technophile needs the fastest computer processor; the fashionista must have the latest open-toe sandals; the car enthusiast yearns for the perfect low-profile tires.
I think the issue behind our constant craving for more and more, for the latest and greatest, is contentment. It is easy to let our longings for possessions, relationships, and experiences shape our lives. The danger is, when we’re constantly on the hunt for the next thing, our life circumstances become pumped up with importance, while our Bibles collect dust on the shelf.
When we let the passion to consume crowd out the contentment we have in Christ, the result is an endless chase for the proverbial carrot on a stick. Since we can never have “enough” of what we crave, the emptiness makes us vulnerable to aloneness, and that leads us to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the “next big thing” only to find that we still aren’t satisfied. Jesus alone gives the power to live a life where inner contentment abounds, regardless of our circumstances.
In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Paul listed some of his life circumstances. He was beaten with whips and rods, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. He survived a night and a day in the open sea, rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles, and false brothers. He had often gone without sleep, food, water, clothing, or heat. And, he lived every day with concern for the churches he planted. He doesn’t even mention the fact that he wrote most of the New Testament from a jail cell!
Despite all of this, Paul wrote these words in the last chapter of Philippians. “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 of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:11-12).
What was Paul’s secret for contented living? I’ll tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t his mug collection and certainly not his life circumstances. It was his deep awareness of the supernatural presence of Christ in his life, and an abiding sense of all that Jesus alone provided for him.
The next time you’re at a place like the Hot Shot Café, or wherever it is that you’re tempted to reach for “just one more thing,” remember that Christ alone provides the relaxing peace of contentment. Having Him, we have it all!
Hatred without cause
By: Charles Spurgeon
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Take care, if the world does hate you, that it hates you without a cause. If the world is to oppose you, it is of no use making the world oppose you. This world is bitter enough, without my putting vinegar in it. Some people seem to fancy the world will persecute them; therefore, they put themselves into a fighting posture, as if they invited persecutions. Now, I do not see any good in doing that. Do not try and make other people dislike you. Really, the opposition some people meet with is not for righteousness’ sake, but for their own sin’s sake, or their own nasty temper’s sake. Many a Christian lives in a house—a Christian servant girl perhaps; she says she is persecuted for righteousness’ sake. But she is of a bad disposition; she sometimes speaks sharp, and then her mistress reproves her. That is not being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. There is another, a merchant in the city, perhaps; he is not looked upon with much esteem. He says he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake; whereas, it is because he did not keep a bargain some time ago. Another man says he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake; but he goes about assuming authority over everybody, and now and then persons turn round and reproach him. Look to it, Christian people, that if you are persecuted, it is for righteousness’ sake; for if you get any persecution yourself you must keep it yourself. The persecutions you bring on yourself for your own sins, Christ has nothing to do with them; they are chastisements on you. They hated Christ without a cause; then fear not to be hated. They hated Christ without a cause; then court not to be hated, and give the world no cause for it.
For meditation: The apostle Paul knew what suffering for Christ’s sake really means (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). It was something he avoided when he could appeal to the law, (Acts 22:25-29) and he did not pretend to be persecuted when he brought trouble upon himself (Acts 23:1-5).
Finding Christ Between The Calm and The Crisis
By: Jasmine Williams
“But Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.’” 1 Kings 17:13 (NLT)
Another morning trudging out of bed with an unfinished to-do list still haunting me from two days ago, I manage to stop hitting the snooze button and begin my day, hoping it will be more productive than yesterday.
The sounds of toy blocks clicking together and little feet running through the kitchen tell me all three kids are up and hungry. Here we go, I think, anticipating another fast-paced morning.
Guilt creeps in when I tell myself I should’ve gotten up an hour earlier to spend time with God and enjoy coffee with my husband.
Then suddenly, just before I let those feelings define my mood, I’m reminded of the mother in 1 Kings 17:13 who was asked to put God first — in a much more desperate situation. Amidst a drought, with only enough food left for one more meal, she was asked to feed the man of God first. Imagine her thoughts … How could I possibly feed him first, when we’re in need as well?
Perhaps you’ve never had to make such a decision about food, but how about your time, feeling like you have zero extra minutes to spare? With all that’s going on today, how could I possibly spend time with God first?
It can seem challenging to grow in your relationship with Christ when life is so demanding. As Elijah instructed, though, “… do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first” (1 Kings 17:13b). God isn’t asking us to abandon our responsibilities. He just wants a little time with us first. That can be morning, midday or evening. “First” is a posture of the heart, not a time of the day.
Just as the woman was abundantly blessed after obeying Elijah’s request, we’ll be so enriched when we push through the fear of not having enough time and just give God our best. Some days that’s tougher than others, so here are three ideas to help set your gaze on the Father when you only have a few minutes (and sometimes less!) between the calm and the chaos:
- Start with Scripture. For whatever season of life you’re in right now, there’s a verse that will speak to your needs. Find that verse, and put it on your nightstand or bathroom mirror (or any place you’ll see regularly). Psalm 1:2 instructs us to meditate on God’s Word day and night. When the moment isn’t long enough to fully dive in, even just a snippet of God’s Word can give us the courage we need to walk in grace and love.
- Prepare beforehand. Before going to bed at night (or before you leave for the day if you have time with God in the evenings), place a journal, a pen, and your Bible nearby. Sometimes I don’t use any of these as I make my way from my blanket to my bathroom, but having them within arm’s reach gives me the freedom to jot down any prayer topics or Scriptures that come to mind before a million other thoughts do. You can revisit them later when you have a moment to yourself.
- Worship and declare. When there’s not a lot of time, I try to find a quiet place to simply worship God and express gratitude. In a brief prayer, we can strengthen ourselves in the Lord, like David did in 1 Samuel 30:6. We can speak life over our day and declare peace over our homes. Take just a minute to partner with God and proclaim victory for your loved ones as you each begin the day!
Connecting with God, even for just a moment, can make all the difference in your spirit. Whether that’s early in the morning or during a lunch break, give Him a little time “first,” and be encouraged for what the day may bring.
Lord, I know when I connect with You, You give me godly energy to keep going. You’ve entrusted me with certain responsibilities, and I’m better at them when I’m closer to You. Help me prioritize You in my life every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.