Earlier this week my wife Lynn and I were traveling and I had a specific destination in mind. That’s not always the case with me, sometimes I just wander for the sake of wandering. On this particular day however, I knew where I wanted to go. When I do wander, and everyone who wanders is not lost, I don’t mind taking in the sights, making stops along the way, whatever strikes me as a good idea at the time. The art of wandering is perfected by being open to letting the byways entice you. When there is a destination in mind though, one must stay on track, miles covered and the hours spent doing it matter.
As I was reading in Psalm 17 this morning in the Remedy, a paraphrase I really like, verses 14 & 15 made me think about driving and how important a destination sometimes is. Those verses read as follows
O Lord, by your power deliver me from the spiritually-incurable, from those who are terminal in selfishness — who live only for this world. May their lives be filled with what their hearts desire. They are satisfied by having their children and leaving their wealth to their descendants. As for me, I will be reborn; in sinless perfection I will see your face: when I awake, I will be satisfied to be just like you!
When it comes to allowing for the transformation of our lives by the Holy Spirit helping us to become more Christlike, we need to have a destination in mind. These verses speak directly to the fact that if we are not intentional, that transformation can become waylaid by the cares of this world. It notes that our families, and wealth building can become the focus. These and other things, not even necessarily bad things can distract us from the goal. They can entice us away from the originally intended destination. We can easily become absorbed with the events happening in our country these days, the coronavirus, the stock market and our 401k, etc. The problem with such things is not that they are all evil, but that they can keep us from being focused on what is truly important. The Psalmist goes on to say though that would not be the case for Him. He would remain true to the goal, he wouldn’t allow the destination to change. He wrote that He would keep first things first, He would not let good be the enemy of excellent, and he would press further toward the goal of being reborn, being perfected, and finding ultimate satisfaction in being Christlike.
When I was a young boy of about 12 years of age, my grandfather would let me drive the car on farm lanes. One frequented lane went past a mill pond with a water fall and then the stream ran under the roadway. As I was driving down that scenic lane one day the waterfall got my attention and the car began to veer toward that side of the road. Grandpa grabbed the wheel and told me to stop. I applied the brake put the car in park and at his request looked him in the eye while he gave me the following piece of advice. He said, “Ken if you don’t watch where you’re going, you’ll end up going where you are watching”. I have never forgotten that advice, in fact when I recall it even now I hear it in his voice, and I am 12 years old again looking at him as he recounts it for me. It was real good advice then and it still is today.
If we are to become Christlike, we must make that the destination of our lives. We will never wander into being good representations of who Christ is, we have to be intentional about it. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we make ourselves Christlike, that is certainly the work of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. We do however, have to be diligent and not allow the distractions of life to keep us from being open to that all important transformation. As the Psalmist tells us we mustn’t allow the cares of this world to have us so occupied that we aren’t living our lives with an eternal mindset. If Christlikeness is the destination, we must pay great attention to what gets us there and less attention to the things that don’t. After all, If we don’t watch where we’re going, we will end up going where we are watching.
Last week in an incredibly inspiring message Luis Chavez gave his testimony of how God used a terrible car accident to do some amazing things in his life. Though I’m not sure if he said it specifically, he at the very least eluded to learning to live in a state of contentedness. This is of the utmost importance! Paul wrote of it in Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT) “ …for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”.
Learning to live in this state of contentedness is possible for us all. I loved Luis’ story because it is such a pointed example of that truth. Almost everyone can see how they should be able to be content in their own story in contrast to his. However, that is not why we should learn to be content, nor how we learn to do so. Verse 13 of the scripture above gives us those answers. It is through Christ who strengthens us that we can be content. No matter what we have to go through, and everyone’s personal struggles are big ones to them, the strength of the one who has overcome the world, living in us makes us more than conquerors. With that inner strength (when relied upon) we can be content because we know we have all we need.
One of the scriptures Luis also referenced was Psalm 118:24 which says This is the day the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it. This scripture is key to living in contentedness in all situations. An important thing to recognize about this verse is that it is more of a decisive statement than anything else. What do I mean by that? Let me say it this way. This verse is about us deciding what kind of mindset we WILL have about our day and why. It is about us telling ourselves what to think about the day we are having or are about to have. The enemy would like us to see all of the reasons (and they will be plausible arguments) for why we should be hurt, angry, disgruntled, frustrated, unhappy, etc. about the events (some realized…some projected) of any given day. He knows that if he can get us distracted from the truth and thinking in that direction we will begin to grumble and the state of contentedness will be afar off…too far to travel…an insurmountable distance, a place only people with perfectly easy lives get to reside.
Instead of that, what if we follow the instruction of this scripture? We can choose to recognize that our God and King has had a mighty hand in the day we are experiencing, He in fact has made it. I’m not saying God caused the trouble of the day…He didn’t cause Luis to be in an auto accident…but He does intend to use the trouble of our day to make us better and to show Himself powerful! Additionally, this scripture gives us an instruction that is invaluable in attaining contentedness. “…We WILL rejoice and be glad in it!”. The word WILL implies that a decision is being made, and the fact that no caveats are noted indicates that decision should not be affected by the circumstances. We WILL rejoice and be glad in the good days and the rotten ones. Good, bad, ugly or otherwise…we WILL rejoice and be glad in it. Why? Because this is the day the Lord has made…and that means it is under His control, anything that happens during this day (or any day) can and will be turned for our ultimate good. James speaks to this in the first chapter of his letter, and is why he suggests we can take joy in our trials.
Wouldn’t you like to live in the state of contentedness? God wants you to live there. It’s not just for people with perfectly easy lives…those people don’t exist anywhere! The road to contentedness isn’t hard to find, you only have to determine…you WILL…be glad and rejoice in it!
This past week I was speaking with someone and they made the following statement; “Pastor, I know God won’t ever give me anything I can’t handle”. I have heard that statement spoken by many over the years, and I’m not sure there is a larger misunderstanding of scripture out there. Of course God will give you more than you can handle! It is recorded for us in John chapter 15 that Jesus Himself said that we can do nothing without Him. You and I? We can’t handle anything. Our hearts don’t beat, our lungs don’t draw in breath without His input. There is so much that we think we are doing autonomously that we are sorely mistaken about. Sometimes I think that if we had a better understanding of the fact we can’t handle anything without God, we wouldn’t have so much trouble when those issues and circumstances come along that really get our attention because they don’t go as expected.
Let me say it again…God will absolutely let things into your life that you have no ability to handle on your own. Why? To reiterate the all-important lesson that we need Him. God needs to straighten out the misconception that we are capable. Wrong…we need Him all day, every day, 24-7-365. So if God has to help us handle everything…and in fact He does…why do things go wrong for His people? Why doesn’t He just make sure we are always ok? Because that wouldn’t foster faith. I am convinced that God isn’t all that concerned with my comfort…but He is consumed with my conformity to His Son. Many of the ‘difficulties’ I experience are what teach me to be different than my nature would desire. Romans 8:28 and 29 speak directly to the fact that what I would deem ‘problems’ He uses for my good which is to make me more Christ like.
Additionally, it is exactly those times when I don’t know the outcome of a particularly difficult situation when trust in Him is being built. I have a saying that I use fairly often; “If trust was easy, we would be doing it wrong”. What do I mean by that? The Bible tells us we are to walk by faith and not by sight. In other words, we are to act as if we believe God is in control, regardless of what worldly wisdom would dictate in light of the circumstances. Frankly, that’s not easy. It is hard to distrust what experience may have taught us and instead place our trust in God, that He will use all things (especially the uncomfortable ones) to increase us. But we don’t get to have that understanding unless we prove it out through trust. Will it become more natural the more we do prove it out…of course…but in the moment trust is never easy or we aren’t doing it right.
I had a brother quote a well-known scripture today. Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) As a parent, the first part of that scripture brings forth a mental picture of a parent trying to get their wriggling, wiggling child to sit still for something that is for their good, though maybe not preferable to the child. As a child of the most-high God it makes me realize that sometimes I am that wriggling, wiggling child and I need to understand it’s not all about me…in fact very, very, little of it is about me. It’s all about Him. It’s all about who He is…and how reflective of Him I am. It’s all about trusting Him in all things and for all things, at all times.
This old world has offered much trouble lately that could tempt us to wriggle and wiggle a bit. What things have you been finding it easy to complain about, but difficult to trust for? If God is as I said consumed with your conformity to His Son, are you being pliable? Are you seeing the difficult circumstances as problems or opportunities to be more like Christ? We are encouraged by Christ Himself that though we can count on trouble in this world…we should take heart…because He has overcome the world! Let’s learn to be still and know that He is God…after all…it’s for our own good!