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)

 

 

 

Do You Know What You Believe? Book Giveaway

You’re playing sports with friends or participating in a summer camp when all of a sudden, someone recognizes you. “Hey, I’ve seen you at youth group,” or maybe, “You’re the girl who goes to that Bible club, right?”

Um, yes.

“So do you really believe that stuff? I mean, about Jesus being God?”

You stand straighter and reply that you do.

“But if Jesus is God, why does he allow these terrible things that are happening?”

If someone asked you that, would you know what to say? Or as we saw last week, could you explain why attending church is important to you or why God’s Word remains relevant?

If you couldn’t, you’re not alone. Many teens and adults have only a basic knowledge of their faith.

The Need to Know

The Apostle Luke wrote his gospel to a man named Theophilus for one purpose: that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed (Luke 1:4 NKJV).

Likewise, the Apostle Peter challenged his readers:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear … (I Peter 3:15 NKJV)

Don’t you want to know with confidence that what you believe is the truth? Don’t you want to be ready to share your faith with others?

I do.

When I was a teenager, my Sunday school class did a study on Paul E. Little’s book Know Why You Believe. I still have my marked-up copy and checked Amazon to see if it’s in print any more. It is, along with two other books by Little: Know What You Believe and Know Who You Believe. The What book talks about foundational tenants of our faith including the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, Jesus’ death, people and sin, the Holy Spirit, the church, and more.

A Giveaway for You

I wish I could give you and every teen in my youth group a copy of these books, but for now, I’m starting with one copy of Little’s Know What You Believe.

Between now and Sunday, leave a comment below or subscribe to my newsletter, and I’ll enter your name into a random drawing.

The winner will be announced in next week’s post.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Do you know what you believe? Book giveaway! – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

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

Just Like Dad: Biblical Fathers Leave a Model to Follow

Did you ever go to work with Dad when you were little? I remember when my dad’s company hosted “take your child to work day.”

My dad was a chemist, which pretty much equaled superhero to an eight-year-old. He took my brothers and me to “the lab,” showed us the equipment and factory, and let us look at bacteria under a microscope. He even had his own private office. So cool.

Chemistry class killed any inklings of my own future in this field, but I remember being proud and thinking how awesome I would be if I were “just like dad.”

More often than not, little feet want to follow in dad’s footsteps. Why else does Little Tikes® make junior-sized lawn mowers and grills?

I realize every family dynamic is different, and this post won’t break down all the “but you don’t know my dad” scenarios. If that’s how you feel today, I hope you’ll keep reading. This post isn’t going to romanticize fathers (like the one that maybe you never had); it is, however, going to look at three fathers from the Bible who model qualities we as believers should want to imitate.

Keep in mind that no dad is perfect, and the dads in the Bible were certainly no exception. Most of them serve as subjects for Father’s Day sermons, typically from a critical point of view.

Let’s set those illustrations aside today and learn from what they did right.

Adam

First man. First husband. First father. No pressure there! He didn’t experience the pride and joy of fatherhood until after the Fall when Eve bore their first son Cain.

We can only imagine his heartbreak when his firstborn later murdered his second son Abel. This dad must have felt like an epic failure.

But we serve a God of second chances, and He blessed Adam with another son named Seth, through whom godly men would come.

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:25-26 NKJV)

Adam recognized his children as gifts, appointed by God. Despite his own sin and the sin of his firstborn, he recognized God’s providence and graciousness at work.

We would do well to keep his eternal perspective and remember that God works through both tragedy and triumph.

Noah

As mankind spiraled downward and deeper into immorality, God grew disgusted with His creation—all except one. A man named Noah found grace in His sight (Genesis 6:6-8).

God determined to destroy his perverted creation and start fresh with Noah, described as a “just man” (Genesis 6:9). From a human standpoint, Noah was alone in a world that took pleasure in unrighteousness.

Noah understood how lonely a godly lifestyle can be. In addition, God tasked him with building an ark to take him and his family through a worldwide flood. To his neighbors, the job seemed absurd. Imagine their further consternation when Noah began collecting two animals of every kind and loading them onto the ark.

The ark was the first zoo, and I’m sure Noah’s neighbors enjoyed many jokes at his expense. But Noah didn’t listen to the world’s mockery. He listened to and obeyed God. As a result, he saved his family from destruction.

From Noah, we learn godliness is better than popularity and obedience to God’s plan is always best.

Abraham

If our lives unfolded like this man’s, I wonder if we’d still be faithful.

  • God commanded Abram to uproot his family and go to a destination yet unseen (Genesis 12:1). At 75 years old, Abram obeyed (Genesis 12:4).
  • God promised Abram that he would be the father of “a great nation,” even though he and his wife had no children of their own (Genesis 12:2, Genesis 15:2-5).
  • Ten years later, no baby (Genesis 16:1-3).
  • Abram and his wife Sarai took matters into their own hands and obtained a son through Sarai’s concubine Hagar. Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16).
  • Fast forward. Abram was 99 years old when God next appeared to him and restated his covenant with him. God changed his name to Abraham, for he would be “a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, for she would be a “mother of nations” (Genesis 17:15-16). The heir of promise would come from their union, not from Hagar.
  • At 100 years of age, Abraham and his wife Sarah welcomed their son Isaac into the world (Genesis 21:5).

Twenty-five years after leaving his homeland, Abraham finally saw God’s promise fulfilled. How well we would do to follow his example and walk by faith, not by sight!

Conclusion

These “first” fathers made their share of mistakes—everything from committing the first sin to fathering a child with his wife’s concubine. However, they also walked with God and believed in Him despite human odds and impossibilities.

I don’t know your dad. Maybe he isn’t in your life right now, and if that’s the case, I’m truly sorry.

Regardless, we can learn from the dads in the Bible who have gone before us and model their positive traits in our lives.

Little Tikes® may have grills and lawn mowers. Bible dads demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance. Those are qualities worth imitating.

Plot Twists, Starting Over and Ruth’s Story: Part 1

For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me“Sorry!” I didn’t really mean it. I just read what was on the card.

And yes, I smiled when I sent my brother back to start.

Growing up, I think “Sorry” was one of my favorite board games. After all, what other game allowed me to be both polite and competitively mean at the same time?

In seriousness, though, doesn’t life sometimes play a “Sorry” card on us? We get sent back to home base, square one, and have to start over again. It’s uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst.

Somewhere between those two emotions is how I imagine Ruth must have felt as she buried the husband of her youth. Ten years of marriage ended with a freshly dug grave (Ruth 1:4). There would be no growing old together. Now, she was a widow with an uncertain future ahead of her.

Her mother-in-law told her to return to her family. Family? But wasn’t Naomi family? Ruth had left behind her childhood home when she married. Going back wouldn’t be the same.

Her mother-in-law said to find a new husband back in Moab. Of course, that was the expectation of the day for young widows.

Although Ruth was a Moabitess by blood, she wasn’t by heart. She had accepted the God of her new family. And so, she determined to stay with her mother-in-law and go with her to a land completely foreign to her.

For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God. (Ruth 1:15b NKJV)

Ruth was starting over.

Plot Twists in God’s Plan

There’s a meme from Pinterest that makes light of the upsets in our lives.

As a writer, I can laugh and appreciate this word play. As a Christian, though, I know a larger hand is orchestrating the events of my life. There are no plot twists in God’s book. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

Next week, we’re going to look at Ruth’s story some more and see three ways to approach circumstances that send us “back to start.”

For today, if you’re facing life events you wish you could discard but can’t, I encourage you to bathe your week in the prayer of Psalm 31:3.

For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me. (NKJV)

Learn from the Psalmist. Instead of focusing on the situation, focus on the Solid Rock that never moves. Nothing can shake or startle our Maker.

~ Kristen