Contentment: Truth and Lies

Fall has officially reached Florida with cooler morning temperatures and lower humidity. Break out the boots, and get ready for bonfires!

Over the weekend, I enjoyed my first smore of the season with some friends. I watched as people piled dry branches onto the bonfire. Almost instantly, flames engulfed the branches, and the radiating heat made me step farther back.

We’ve been talking about contentment here, and as I thought about the weekend, I realized that the bonfire is a perfect analogy. If we’re discontent in one area, that spark will spread to other areas of our lives.

However, the opposite is also true. Remember that song we sang as children? This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine.

Contentment can be equally contagious. If we’re grateful, we can challenge others to focus less on what they don’t have and more on what they do.

Today, we’re going to look at a few more truths about contentment that I hope will help spread hope and snuff out guilt for those who struggle in this area.

Where we find contentment

Have I mentioned lately that I love the girls in my youth group? Well, I do. Their sweet attitudes and big hearts refresh my spirit.

One high school student who follows my blog handed me a slip of paper on Wednesday with some verses about contentment she wanted to share with me. One of the verses was Acts 2:28, which paraphrases the Old Testament truth of Psalm 16:11. It spoke to this very question: What is the source of our contentment?

You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence (Acts 2:28 NKJV).

We find true joy and contentment when we live in God’s presence. And not just live as in scrape by and survive. No, live as in abundantly! After all, Jesus Himself said:

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10b).

The bottom line is that we find contentment when we make Christ our center and stay grounded in His truth. In His presence alone are fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

What contentment is not

Some of us will still face the battlegrounds of discontentment. Sometimes, these encounters leave us feeling defeated and ashamed that we grew so easily discouraged.

Satan will try to shame us into believing we’re not enough. This is a dangerous lie, because in one sense, it’s true. In and of ourselves, we always fall short.

But we aren’t the source of our sufficiency. God is. Let the words of these two verses wash over you:

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:5).

And one more:

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Every time you’re tempted to give in to a defeated spirit, remember that God is always more than enough to see you through the struggles you face.

One last truth for the day

My final thought about contentment is this: Wanting something doesn’t equal discontentment. A few years back, I talked about this truth in a post called I shall not want.

Many of us may have unanswered prayers or unmet desires. If that describes you, take heart in these lines penned by R. Leighton, based on Psalm 37:4:

Delight thou in the Lord, and He shall give thee thy heart’s desire,—HIMSELF; and then surely thou shalt have all.

Live in abundance,

Kristen

 

Tweetables

Contentment: Truth and Lies – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Spread hope and snuff out guilt for those who struggle with contentment. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Wanting something doesn’t equal discontentment. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

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Is Contentment Possible?

A few weeks back in youth group, we were talking about what contentment means. One of the discussion questions asked, “Do you know someone you would describe as content?”

One of my middle school girls looked at me and said, “You’re content, right?”

My words spilled out like a lukewarm apology. “Me? Well, not all the time, but I certainly try to be.”

The struggle between wanting to set an example and being transparent split me in two. In the area of contentment, I sympathize more with the language of “striving after” but not yet “attaining” that Paul uses in Philippians 3:12 to describe the Christian walk.

However, my response seemed to disappoint the teen whose expression suggested: Well, if you’re not content, how can you expect any of us to be?

I thought about the question long after youth group ended: Is true contentment possible?

The next two weeks, we’re going to wrestle with this question. Read on, and let me know your thoughts.

Contentment is possible.

I Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” Contentment is part of sanctification, the growth process of our Christian faith. To have contentment is “gain.” We can’t gain something that’s unattainable.

I also believe contentment is possible, because our God is good. He wouldn’t dangle a worthwhile state before us and yank it away just before we could reach it.

The Apostle Paul declared in Philippians 4:11-12:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (NKJV)

We might be tempted to think, “Easy for him to say. He was an apostle, after all.”

Let’s take a closer look at Paul’s story. I don’t think “easy” was any part of his equation.

Contentment isn’t connected to circumstances.

Remember, Paul (once called Saul) was the man whose life God radically changed. He went from persecuting the church to boldly proclaiming the gospel, even at his own peril.

2 Corinthians 11 recounts some of the trials and hardships he endured:

  • 5x – received 40 stripes minus 1
  • 3x – beaten with rods
  • 1x – stoned
  • 3x – shipwrecked

The list only grows from there. Paul continued his account:

… a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:25b-29 NKJV)

Yes, this is the same man who said he learned to be content in any situation! In other words, he was able to experience contentment simultaneously with the following:

  • Weakness
  • Suffering
  • A state of want or need
  • Responsibility and cares
  • Frustration

But wait! Don’t we usually equate those things with discontentment? At least, I do.

Perhaps we’re missing the point. If contentment demanded a perfect set of circumstances, it would be impossible to attain (at least for long).

Much like joy, contentment isn’t grounded in experience. It’s grounded in an eternal perspective, possible only when we fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

I didn’t say contentment was easy. I just said it was possible.

Next week, we’re going to tackle another misconception about contentment, but for now, I’d like to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree that contentment is possible? Why or why not?

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Is Contentment Possible? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Contentment isn’t grounded in experience but in an eternal perspective. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

 

A Lesson in Contentment

A few weeks back, I enjoyed spending time with my niece and nephews. They taught me several things:

  1. Sugar rushes are real. When you mix a nine-year-old and a Boston Creme donut, you get off-the-wall energy and contagious laughter.
  2. With a little imagination, you can reinvent board games so that any age can play.
  3. If there are two boys and one has the toy helicopter, the other will want it too—even if he has a whole box of LEGO® blocks. The toy itself isn’t the issue. The fact that the other one has it is.

The truth is that we all tend to want what we don’t have. Maybe we’ve graduated from coveting toy helicopters, but we fall short in many other ways.

  • Why can’t I be more musical like Sarah?
  • I wish I had Pete’s athletic skills.
  • If I could only be smart like Claire, I wouldn’t have to do summer school.
  • I wish I were taller, thinner, prettier, etc.

I imagine that some days, God sees us and wants to shout, Cut it out! 

Stop fighting. Stop envying. Be content. I gave each of you good gifts, so instead of wanting the ones you don’t have, start using the ones you do.

A Special Skill Set

In I Corinthians 12, Paul reminds his readers that the Holy Spirit has equipped each believer with his own skill set. The purpose is not so that we can glory in our gifts, but rather so that we can better serve each another.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV)

Paul underscores this point by using the body and its parts as a metaphor. What if the ear wished it were an eye, or the hand wished it were a foot? Ridiculous, of course! Yet how ridiculous are we when wish to trade places with Justin, Katie, or Sam?

Never Say Can’t

But, Kristen, I really want to make the team this year. I’m just not as good as my peers. Are you saying I shouldn’t even try?

That’s not what I’m saying at all. Maybe you’re not as naturally athletic as someone else, but if you have a desire to play, go for it. Even if you don’t think you’ll make the team, you ought to try.

Why? Because God uses things we’re not good at to keep us humble, to make us depend on Him more, and to prove that we can do things beyond our natural capabilities in His strength.

There’s a fine line between coveting another’s talents and growing your own.

Here’s my practical, though imperfect, measuring tool:

  1. Thank God for the gifts and talents He’s given you.
  2. Recognize and praise the gifts and talents He’s given others.
  3. Attempt the desires He’s placed on your heart.
  4. Regardless of the outcome, praise Him.
  5. Celebrate others’ successes. One day, if God wills, your turn will come.

The moral I have learned is this: Don’t fight over your gifts. You’ll enjoy life more when you share them with others.

How has God uniquely gifted you for a specific task or job? What is one thing you can do this week to share the talents He’s given you with someone else? 

~ Kristen

If you didn’t have the chance last week to enter the book giveaway for Little’s Know What You Believe, I’m extending the deadline through Sunday. To enter, simply leave a comment below, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Tweetables

A Lesson in Contentment – Such Things as We Have- @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

There’s a fine line between coveting another’s talents and growing your own. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway – a classic that will strengthen your faith – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

 

 

 

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 2

If you missed last week, you’ll want to look back at the first in this two-part series by Tami Myer. In these posts, she maps out a beautiful and biblical perspective on marriage for Christian singles.

Today, we pick up where we left off last time with the fourth thing singles should know about marriage.

If this post is a blessing to you, please leave a comment below-or share it with your single friends to encourage them in their walk.

***

#4. Marriage will not complete you.

Single people are not “halves” waiting for their other “halves” to join them. Two single people are two complete people. But after a man and a woman marry, God unites these two individuals as one married couple. Two people become one flesh and one team.[i]

Christ is the only One who is able to fully satisfy us. Whether we are married or single, Christ is the Lover of our souls who knows us completely, loves us unconditionally, and cares for us perfectly.

#5. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness.

Singles struggle with loneliness, but so do married people. In fact, some people say that the loneliness they experienced within marriage was more intense than the loneliness they felt when single.

Ravi Zacharias points out that the only lasting cure for loneliness is worship.

That may seem like a strange statement unless we understand that true worship is actually an expression of relationship. Worship is not a monologue of verbal praise or a one-person performance. Instead, it is a two-way relationship: we delight in knowing God, and God delights in knowing us. Genuine worship requires that we know God in our spirit (not just as facts in our brain) and in truth.[ii]

Without worship, we experience only temporary relief from loneliness through various distractions. But true worship can be a continual posture of our soul; it becomes a lifestyle. If we live in worship, then we can live free of deep loneliness.

#6. Marriage is an assignment from God.

Instead of looking for a soulmate, listen for God’s calling. Click to Tweet.

Marriage is a calling to serve another person. It is as much a calling as a missionary’s call to Africa or a pastor’s call to preach. A wife is called to minister to her husband’s needs, and a husband is called to minister to his wife’s needs.

If you marry because someone makes you happy, what will you do on the day that he or she doesn’t make you happy? (And that day will arrive sooner than you expect.)

Most of the reasons that people give for marrying then flip into their reasons for leaving: “he was kind, but now he’s not,” or “she was attentive and appreciative, but now she’s not.” However, if your reason for marrying is to serve, then you will never have a reason to leave because you will always be able to serve.

If God is calling you to serve Him as a single now, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

If God calls you someday to serve as a husband or wife, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. (1 Corinthians 7:17, MSG)

The calling is God’s business. Faithfulness to the calling is our business.

 

Notes:

[i] Genesis 2:20-24; Mark 10:6-9

[ii] John 4:24

Content to Bloom

Rose Blooms_for my websiteAre you ever tempted to think “the other girl” has the perfect life? Somehow, the flowers on her patio look fuller than yours? (In my case, it’s the truth. I am no gardener, which is perhaps why I appreciate someone else’s healthy garden all the more!)

The other day, I was jogging around the lake at my apartment complex and enjoyed seeing roses, azaleas and hibiscus in bloom. The thought struck me: How ridiculous would it be if one flower compared itself to another instead of doing the job God gave it?

Yet, isn’t that what we do sometimes? I wrote today’s post Content to Bloom with this question in mind and to think through the reasons why we should stop comparing ourselves to others and start blooming right where God has planted us.

My friend Ashley Jones and her husband know much more about gardening than I do, and when I ran this idea by her, she liked it enough to share it on her blog BigSisterKnows.com. Click over to her site to read the full post Content to Bloom, and while you’re there, check out her other posts (including an amazing taco soup recipe I may never stop raving about).

If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate her “big sis” perspective on faith and family. Thank you, Ashley Jones, for sharing this word with your readers.

I hope it is a blessing to you.

~ Kristen

 

A Challenge in Contrasts

Photo credit: Miss Kristen
Photo credit: Miss Kristen

I shall not want

Sweetwater Creek_Psalm 23
Photo Credit: Miss Kristen / Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia

The words of Psalm 23:1 have been a comfort to countless many when facing circumstances beyond their control.

But what does “I shall not want” mean?

Let’s eliminate the obvious. It doesn’t mean we get whatever we want.

Honestly, it also doesn’t mean we will never be in want (or in need of) something. Look at the Apostle Paul. He faced all sorts of terrible situations – shipwrecks, stoning, homelessness, beatings, hunger, and more. Yet in Philippians 4:11, he says, “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (ESV). 

Clearly, he had unmet physical needs. Yet, he was not “in want.”

Why?

Let’s look at Psalm 23:1 again. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (KJV). The key to understanding this verse lies in the first few words: “The Lord is my shepherd.”

When the Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need. In other words, my Shepherd is all I need.

The holidays can be lonely for many and painful for some who have lost family or friends. It’s hard to feel thankful when our surroundings aren’t merry and bright.

I don’t know what your needs are this Thanksgiving holiday, but the Shepherd knows.

  • Is the Lord your Shepherd? If He’s not, then the first step to finding true contentment and peace is knowing Him. To do that, you must admit your need for a Savior and Shepherd, believe that Jesus Christ paid for your sins by His death on the cross, and choose to follow Him.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

– Titus 3:5-7 (NKJV)

  • If the Lord is already your Shepherd, commit your cares to Him with the full assurance that He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).

It’s not wrong to want something you don’t have or ask the Lord to provide for you. I ask all the time!

But whether the answer is yes, no, or wait, you and I have to remember that at the end of the day, our Shepherd knows our needs, and He will supply as He sees best. He is our source of blessing, and knowing Him is the richest blessing of all.

My prayer for you this Thanksgiving is that you may know the Shepherd and enjoy the peace and joy of His presence.

~ Miss Kristen