Unfinished

I have been facing a new challenge these days. Over the last few months there have been hints of its presence but this past week it reared its ugly head. There was no more denying it. My reaction was typical: “Why me?” I went through the usual emotions – anger, grief, depression, desperation. And then it occurred to me that clearly I was not getting anywhere on my own. I headed to my room and bowed my head. I laid it all before the Lord and cried. I prayed that God would help me to accept what was happening. Almost immediately I was surrounded with an immense sense of peace and was assured that this was not happening TO me, as if I were being punished. Instead, it was simply happening. And God was going to use it to make my life better. He said that even though it seems bad, He is in it. He has a greater purpose. It was weird to go from crying about something to joy, but I did. God loves me enough to keep making my life better! He isn’t done with me yet! I am so grateful for His hand!

He encouraged me with His words:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Phil 1:6
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
and sealed it with a song,
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Contentment

I own a 2007 Nissan Altima. I have had it a couple of years because we needed a second car to get us to the places we need to go. My primary car is a 2005 Toyota Corolla. I bought it new in 2005 and have never had an issue with it. Occasionally, we look at the website for a new car thinking that soon we will likely need to replace the old one, but have always postponed the decision. Recently the Altima has started to act up. It has automatic windows (one of which has never worked) and one night two of the windows spontaneously put themselves down (including the broken one). We had an awful time trying to get the broken one back up as it doesn’t work. But thank God for duct tape! We started to wonder if now is the time to look for a new car. We looked over the new Corollas online and even planned to go see some in person. But we didn’t. The issue is that because of our current financial priorities, we can’t afford a car payment right now. And I knew that if we went, we would buy. Instead, we presented the situation to the Lord and have asked Him to keep these cars working until our commitments are completed.

God reminded me of Paul’s statements about contentment in Phil chapter 4:

“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. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (11-13 NKJV)

“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 all this through him who gives me strength.” (11-13 NIV)

I looked this up in both versions to understand verse 13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I have often used that verse for strength in difficult circumstances, but never really connected it to contentment. Here Paul tell us that I can be content because Christ gives me strength. Usually I am begging God to change my circumstances and fighting against them. I pray for strength to endure. I don’t generally pray for strength to be content in it.

God most certainly has the power to change my circumstances. But perhaps He delays for a reason. How would my perspective change if I asked Him for the strength to be content? How then could He use me in this present situation? The money that I am saving from not having a car payment I plan to use to God’s glory. But what about everyday things? What if I were content at my job? What if when that guy pulls out in front of me on Salisbury Road and then proceeds to drive 48km/hr, I take this extra time that I have to pray for him instead of curse him? Maybe God put him there for a reason.

Where do I need strength today to be content? This is the place and the day that God has given to me. There is a reason. God is always at work. If perhaps I could get my mind off of all the ways I am unsatisfied, God might be able to start to use me. God promises to supply all my needs. I don’t need to be anxious about anything. So today I ask for strength to be content exactly where I am. I will rejoice in the Lord, my heart will be thankful and I will be willing to be used for His glory. Let His will be done!

Retainers

My daughter got her braces off yesterday. The dentist showed her before and after pictures of her teeth. She was amazed by the difference. The rest of the day she went around with a big grin. She was so happy to be free of the braces and the pain associated and she knew that she looked good. Such a beautiful smile! The dentist gave her a retainer to wear at night. It is important to wear it everyday to keep the teeth where they are. I have known many adults who have had braces in the past and many of them eventually stopped using their retainer. As a result, their teeth slowly began to shift back to their original places. Now they didn’t go back entirely, but the difference was far less dramatic. And all of them regret it.

The same can be said of us. We come to salvation and the Lord does a mighty work in our lives. We are filled with joy and praise for God is always on our lips. In order to retain our lives in strength, joy, and victory, we must be diligent to use the tools the Lord has given to us: prayer and Bible reading. We start out well, but over time, we get distracted and eventually we begin to believe that this new life is our norm and we really don’t need to keep using our “retainers.” Slowly our lives start to shift back, old habits start to creep in, and our light dims. When we are faced with difficult situations, we don’t have the strength to fight, we can’t find our joy and victories turn to defeat.

We are taught in Colossians and 2 Peter, that there is work to do after salvation:

“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”. (Col 2:6-7)

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (2 Peter 1:5-9)

Sometimes, we need to dig out the “before” and “after” pictures of our lives and remember what God has done for us. Then, we will recognize that we need the “retainers.”  My life was fraught with fear, depression, chaos and desperation. Now I have peace, joy, and contentment. Do I want to slide back or do I want to continue in victory? God has given me the tools that I need to be victorious everyday. He has no desire to see me fail, but will meet me as soon as I dust them off. I am so grateful for His faithfulness! What has God done for you?