Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…What’s your favorite state?
I am not the most well-traveled of those among us, but I have been to a lot of different places. I have traveled a good bit of this country, have lived in several different places here as well as a six month stay in the interior of the northern part of the country of Panama near the Costa Rican border. As I was saying I have traveled a fair amount and have been fortunate enough to visit Puerto Rico and 33 of our 50 states so far. I enjoy the taglines states choose for themselves. New York, where I was born is “The Empire State”. My current home, Delaware, is known as “The First State”. We all know that Florida is “The Sunshine State”. My wife and I honeymooned in Virginia because of course, “Virginia is for Lovers”. Texas is “The Lonestar State” and Vermont is known as “The Maple State”. I like reading these taglines, often found on the license plates of cars from those places, they sometimes tell us something about the state, or at least elicit some desire within us to go see those far-away places as they are designed to do.
I have actually lived in or owned property in five of our fifty states, but the best state I have ever resided in was also a homeplace of the Apostle Paul. I love living in the state of content more than any other state I have ever been in. When you live there all is well. If I’m not mistaken their license plate says “Problems are Simply Opportunities” The air there is full of promise. Make no mistake, it’s no Shangri La, it’s better! If they ever have a bad day in Shangri La it throws the whole place into upheaval. No one knows what to do. In the state of content there is trouble sometimes but it is accepted as expected when living in a fallen world. There are rich people and poor people in the state of content. There are those who have more than enough to eat and those who are hungry, but they are all equally capable of possessing a place in the state of content. There, not everyone has the job they want, some are even unemployed but they have all learned to be grateful for what they have and maybe more importantly, not be envious of what others have. It’s a wonderful place to live. There aren’t a lot of laws in the state of content, just ten actually, but if you follow them you get to live there as long as you want to. The most important of these laws is to love. Love God first and foremost. Learn to put Him first in everything and to be grateful to Him for whatever He has given you…and even what He has chosen not to give to you. Second, and equally important, one must learn to love others as much as they love themselves. They have to be ready to treat everyone exactly as they want to be treated in each and every situation. These two laws are so important that the King of the state of content once said if everyone followed these two laws they wouldn’t need to worry because the other laws were all structured around those two. There is a much larger state nearby. It is known as the state of discontent, I think their license plate has a scowling face in the center and says something like “Land of the Ingrates” on it, many more people live there but few are willing to admit it. One of the beauties of the state of content is that it is always open to new and returning inhabitants. There are no aliens in the state of content…all are welcome.
So how do you get there? Paul gave us some clear directions while he was a resident. Several times he published the roadmap that allows any of us to find the way to contentment easily. I Corinthians 7:17 in the English Standard Version says Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. There is little doubt that the context of this verse makes the point that married people who then come to Christ should not divorce their spouses just because they have not made the same decision. However, the greater implication here is that the way to live in the state of content is not to try to exchange the things we have in our lives for other things. Rather we should accept that what we possess has been given to us by God even before our relationship with Him began, and that the way to being content is to be grateful for all that we possess…even an unbelieving spouse!
1 Timothy 6:6-12 in the New International Version reads as follows: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Paul makes the point here that living in the state of content requires that we take our focus away from the things the world around us is constantly trying to get us to focus on but rather to put our focus on the one who created the world. Seeking godliness in our lives and giving that the most of our attention not only allows for us to live as we ought and to look more like Jesus as a true Christ follower should, it has the added benefit of getting to live in a state of content. It allows us to truly accept that what a good God gives is good, therefore what we have is good. Trying to seek after the riches of this world, allowing that to gain too much of our attention brings only discontent.
Finally, I offer the clearest map Paul shared with us directing the way. Philippians 4:11-13 from the New Living Translation says; …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. Paul had found the secret map to the hidden and elusive state of content, and he shared it with the world. Learning to live in the state of content is all about knowing that whatever we have or don’t have, wherever we live or don’t live, weather it seems we have all we think we need or deserve or not…we can live happily, with gratefulness…we can live content…through the power of Christ who strengthens us to do so.
So now, walking in that power and choosing to live in a state of content…Go be awesome!