Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Can you spell c-o-n-t-e-n-t-m-e-n-t?

Good morning friends. I am much more awake this morning as we turn to the Word together. If find it interesting that there are some things we all have in common and can relate to, such as, we have all been tired from lack of sleep at some point in our lives. You can relate to my tiredness. Also, we have all felt hunger pains, so we can relate to that with each other. There are many things, like the experience of rain in the face, the comfort of a warm beverage on a cold day, the delight of a child's laugh, the experience of a good meal, that we share as common experiences.On the other hand there are many experiences that we cannot relate to, that we do not have in common. For many people, this describes what it is like to read and study God's Word; there are some things they relate to and others they have never experienced.

If we are honest about it, there are parts of the Word that seem like it relates to an alien planet more than it fits in to today's society. We use the vocabulary of the Word but for some people they have no understanding of that word. For example, let's consider contentment. Paul writes to Timothy:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Some of us have experienced what it is to have plenty and I would say all of us have experienced what it is to lack, but have any of us tasted contentment? Can you say that you are really content with your life right now? Can we even understand the vocabulary? The dictionary definition of content is: "satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else." Does that describe us? Can you say that you are satisfied with who you are and with what you have; that you do not want to change a thing? The vast majority of people cannot say that, including Christians, and that is sad.

How can we even relate to Paul's words, "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that"? Would you be satisfied with nothing more than the basic necessities in life? Paul states that godliness (the character of Jesus) with contentment is great gain. He is saying that if we can get to that place in our journey then we have really accomplished something. Are we even trying to get there? Forget I asked that question, ask this one instead: Do we even know we are suppose to be trying to get there? In another of his letters Paul wrote:

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 of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Notice Paul says that he had "learned" to be content. He wasn't born with it. It didn't just happen. It wasn't a gift he was given. The Spirit didn't zap him with it. In both passages we are left with the idea it is something to be learned, something to be gained. But if we do not know that it is one of the goals of our journey how will be ever know to pick it up along the way?

One of the reasons we struggle with it is because we have yet to gain the mind of Christ. Paul says that we have the mind of Christ but from my experience it is not something that we care to consider experiencing. The passage reads:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
 "For who has known the mind of the Lord
      that he may instruct him?"

But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)

The "mind" referred to here is different from how we understand the mind today. At that time the heart represented everything that it meant to be human; love, intelligence etc. The mind referred to how we took in information; it referred to perception and perspective. Today the mind represents intelligence. So when Paul refers to the mind of Christ he is referring to how we perceive things, now having the perspective of God. We should then understand that eternal matters are far more important than non-eternal matters. This is the reason Paul is able to write:

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

That is from a mind focused on Jesus and why Paul was so effective in his calling. We are ineffective because we try to keep a foot in both worlds. Paul has a warning about that:

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Even Jesus warned us:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

This is why contentment is such a foreign thing to us, even in the Church. We are living with this false notion and teaching that God wants all of his children to be rich. Those without money start feeling less blessed than those with money. The honest truth about it is that our Dad is more concerned with our heart and mind than he is with our pocket book. He did promise to bless the work of our hands but then we need to work, not try to take short cuts to getting rich. When money replaces our faith and trust in God; when money becomes a greater desire than growing in God; when money is always on our mind; when we can't do anything because we don't have money; when we are feeling our life is a waste and the work God gave us is useless because we don't have money,  we are in trouble because we do not have the mind of Christ and we will never come close to discovering or gaining contentment. Even worse, we are on a pathway away from Jesus, heading toward our destruction.

Let me ask you in all honesty today, who is your God; what do you worship?

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