Tuesday, August 5, 2008

“I have LEARNED to be content…”

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. I hope that each of us will pause and rejoice in this new day.

This past Sunday, I preached a message entitled, "Six steps to Joyful living." I would like to share a part of that message with you during today's blog.

Philippians 4:11 "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." It wasn't natural; he had to learn it. It's easy to be content when you're living on Easy Street. But Paul's life was not easy. It was very difficult. 2 Corinthians 11 Paul tells us a little of his biography. He says this, "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received forty lashes minus one [in other words, he was whipped 39 times in five different experiences. Add that up and you can figure out how many scars were on the back of Paul.] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I've been in constant danger. I've labored and toiled. I've often gone without sleep. I've known hunger and thirst. I've often gone without food. I've even been cold and gone without clothing. Besides everything else, I've faced the daily pressures of my concern for all the churches. In spite of all this, no matter what happens, rejoice. In all situations rejoice in the Lord. Always rejoice." He says "I've learned to be content."

Bottom line: Joy is a decision. You are as joyful as you choose to be. If you're discouraged today, it's because you're choosing to be discouraged. You can choose to be joyful because there are many things you can be joyful about. God is saying, If you learn to be content and you choose to make the right decision, you can be joyful.

We get caught up in "When and then" thinking. "When 'this' happens in my life, then I'll be happy. When I get married, then I'll be happy…. When I get a job then I'll be happy. When I graduate then I'll be happy. When…." fill in the blank, "then I'll be happy."

No you won't. You are as joyful as you choose to be. Because joy is a choice. God EXPECTS us to living a life of joy. Joy is one of the nine fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:19-24 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If you are going to live a joyful life, and allow the "fruit of the Spirit" to be developed in your life, then you are going to have to CHOOSE to crucify "the flesh with its passions and desires." Again, that is a choice that you have to make daily.

Please understand that I am not talking about HAPPINESS, because it is determined by your "happen stance". Whatever circumstance you find yourself in will determine whether you are happy or not. If it is a good circumstance, then of course you can be happy. But what about the storms of life, than you will not be so happy. But Joy is something that will stay with you through the good and bad times of life if you choose to put your trust in God and His sovereignty. Some of you are facing some not so happy circumstances right now. You may be going through some very tough times; it brings up some very hurtful memories. Some of you have to swallow a bitter pill right now financially or physically or in a relationship. You think, "There's nothing in my life worth being joyful about. How can I be joyful when everything is wrong in my life?" Two reasons:

I can always be joyful no matter what happens because I know God is in control. Paul says "I'm going to keep on being glad [remember he's in prison awaiting execution] for I know that as you pray for me and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is all going to turn out for my good." He says I've got a couple of encouragements here: you're praying for me and the Holy Spirit's helping me. But here's the real issue: God sees it all, God knows it all, God cares about it all, God's in control of it all, God will use it for my good, God will give me the power that I need. So what am I worried about? Nothing.

Granted, this isn't the way that Paul had planned it. Paul wanted to go to Rome, rent the coliseum and have a Billy Graham crusade with him being Billy Graham. He wanted to share God's love with all the Roman Empire. Instead he goes with his hands and feet shackled, put in a dungeon for two years with a 24-hour guard. I'm sure he shared Jesus Christ with every one of those guards. They changed every four hours – that's a couple thousand guards over a two-year period. Who was the real prisoner? Paul had a captive audience. The Bible tells us that some of these guards took the Good news back and even members of Nero's own family became believers. That's what you call a chain reaction!

Not only that, he did something else while he was in prison. He wrote most of the New Testament. Aren't you glad God made Paul set still in prison? We wouldn't have the New Testament. If he'd gone out, Mr. Evangelist, and been traveling all over he would have never slowed down long enough to write what we now know are the inspired New Testament books. Paul had a plan but God had a better plan. Paul said, I trust God's plan better than my own. Therefore I am full of joy because I know God has a better plan. I also know that God's going to write the final chapter. "I am sure that God who began the good work within you will continue His work until it is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ comes back again." We get so frustrated and discouraged because we don't know what God's doing in our lives but God knows. What we need to do is trust Him for the things we can't see how they're going to turn out because we know that what God starts, He finishes. God has your best interest at heart. Therefore no matter what happens, you can be joyful. Because what He starts, He finishes.

You may think that joy is some kind of characteristic for naturally upbeat cheerful kind of people. And your personality type isn't the joyful type. You're wrong. The Word of God talks about the importance of joy for all of God's children. I read recently that there are over 500 joyful words in the Bible. Five hundred references to words like joy, rejoicing and gladness and merriment and mirth and laughing. In contrast there are only 158 references in the whole Bible of sadness and mourning and tears. So, why don't you today make the choice to walk in joy, and to LEARN to be content. You really can do this, with God's help! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty


Treasure Seeker said...

love it! as always, you spoke to my heart...
of course you have my heart already.. :)
love you,

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rusty,

Thank you for these words of encouragement. I was actually on Google looking for a scripture from Paul's writing to help a friend in need and I came across your blog. How great it was to read! I actually got some additional encouragement from your site and through God's word while I was trying to find a word of encouragement for someone else! I love God. He does have an awesome and great plan.

God Bless and thank you