Thursday, December 8, 2016

Be Content in 2017

USS Yorktown
               This past summer we took a weekend trip down to Charleston, S.C. to surprise my niece on her 18th birthday. We met up downtown and surprised her with a cruise around the beautiful Charleston harbor. On our tour, we passed where the USS Yorktown is moored. The ship itself is massive and one of the biggest I have ever seen. As we passed by it, the waves of the Cooper river beat up against it, and the waters moved all around it, but the battleship itself did not move. Charleston has many storms, and hurricanes throughout the years since the Yorktown has arrived, yet it stays where it is anchored and despite those storms, it has not moved.

              “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13 ESV
              Every year about this time I start to pray and ask the Lord what area of my life does He want to focus on for the upcoming year. I am not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. I prefer to seek the Lord and ask for His revolution of my soul, rather than try to keep a useless vow that won’t last the first two months. I want Him to change me and make me new again in the upcoming year. Over the years, He has been faithful and always given me a word, an area of my life that needs His divine working. One year it was obedience, in which He taught me how to read, study and obey His word. He also taught me that year about being obedient with our finances. One year it was about being faithful and living my life with integrity before Him. Another year it was thankful living. On and on, each year He is faithful to show me that area I need Him most. This year He has shown me that what I need most is contentment. He has shown me that I need to learn to be that ship. I need to learn that no matter what happens or what doesn’t happen, I am anchored and not moved because I have learned to be content.
              This is a very hard lesson for me to learn, and will probably take more than one year, because I am a Martha through and through. I want and I like results. I am a competitive person and I don’t like to sit still. My mother probably said “sit still” to me more than anything else during my childhood. I am a very active person who wants to keep moving, keep growing, keep pushing and keep striving. Unfortunately, that is not always God’s plan for me. He wants me to learn to be content where I am, with what I have, and most importantly, with Who He Is.
              Contentment, however, is more than just living a life of peace and serenity. Contentment is a state of mind. It is a character trait that we, as godly men and women, are to possess. If we are in Christ, then we are to be content. Paul writes that no matter what situation he found himself in, he learned to be content. How did he learn this lesson? How did Paul finally come to that place in his spiritual walk where no matter what beat upon the sides of his ship, he was content, anchored and not moved? I think it’s the lesson he learned in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
              “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
Photo taken from harbor tour, Yorktown
              Paul had prayed for the Lord to remove from him the thorn that kept piercing his flesh in the previous verses. He asked and prayed for the Lord to remove him from the struggle he was in. He didn’t like what was happening to him and he wanted the Lord to fix it. Look at Jesus’ reply to Paul. This my friend, is the secret of contentment and this is where I think Paul learned it. Jesus says that His ‘grace is sufficient’ for him. God’s favor; God’s desire for Paul’s very best is all that Paul needs. It is all that we need. His grace is His best for us. Jeremiah 29:11 refers to this kind of grace, God’s plan for our lives. God says to us in Jeremiah that His will for our lives is to give us a future and a hope. He desires and has planned only the very best for us. J.C. Ryle put it best when he wrote, “If Christ, by His providence has placed us in it, let us not be in a hurry to leave it. Let us stay there with God. The great thing is to have no will of our own, and to be where Jesus would have us be.”
              Contentment is trusting that no matter what thorns are piercing us through, Christ Jesus has allowed them to be there and they are working in us a glory which will be revealed. Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that now he understands why these things are happening to him and he will no longer ask the Lord to be freed from them, but instead he will rejoice in them and boast in them because no matter what comes upon him, he is content in knowing that Christ is with him. He is weak, yet he is strong.
              The Yorktown is not moored and unmoved because it is anchored deep into the depths of the Cooper River. The ship itself is not moored by its own strength. It’s not holding onto the anchor; the anchor is holding onto it. We cannot know nor live a life of contentment until we fully surrender to the knowledge that God’s everlasting, all power, all knowing hands are griping us and holding it all together. He is our anchor and that is where the secret to a life of contentment lies. It is in the depths of His unfailing river of grace.
              I do not completely understand the life of contentment nor how to live it out yet. But I do know and trust the one who holds me steady amid every circumstance. I do not know what storms may come against me, nor the struggles I might face. But like Paul, I hope that I can say that I too have learned in whatever situation I may face, I am to be content.

              May God give me the strength to face the coming year with a heart anchored in contentment, fully trusting and relying on Him. In Jesus Name, Amen.