I was working on my Sunday school lesson and thought it would be a good thing to communicate to more than my ladies’ Sunday school class. We’ve been talking about contentment, the type of contentment that God gives to those who completely trust Him. Below is part of my lesson for tomorrow.
1. To be gracious is to decide in our heart that we are satisfied with God’s dealings in our life both in judgment and understanding.
If one desires to have a peaceful life, there is no room for bitterness, envy or selfishness. Those who fight for their rights are not content. Those who accuse others, live for paybacks or have a desire to control others cannot be content. If we must live in the past and drag others there because we have unresolved bitterness or resentment, we have closed the door on ever having a gracious spirit, the gracious spirit that God can use to bring us the satisfaction of living in Him. Walking in the Spirit maintaining a gracious spirit toward others is the only way to have the peace we all crave. (James 3:16)
2. We need to recognize God’s hand and make a conscious decision to trust and let God rule our own emotions and thoughts—give Him rule.
If I had a nickel for every time I was told, “That’s just the way I am, ” or “I can’t help it,” I’d be out of the financial stress I’m in right now. Being 50 years old in body and more than 40 in spirit, I’ve been around enough to know that we are as we choose to be. If we live defeated Christian lives, it’s not because God is not able – it is because we enjoy the sins that trip us up enough to revisit them over and over. Granted, some of us have better foundations that enable us to reach toward heaven more successfully than others, but it is our choice as to whether our arms are extended in that direction. Neither God nor man will fault a Christian who grows slowly because they fall easily and often – if they are falling in the direction of the Savior so when they do get up, it’s to walk toward Him. It is he or she who turns toward their sins with a yearning that we ought to identify as unfruitful. Our eyes must be on the Savior to gain His favor, whether it’s while we’re walking toward Him, down on our knees or on our face. (James 1:23-26)
3. We need to look for contentment—it’s not necessarily a state of mind but a conscious pursuance of God’s grace.
Don’t fool yourself. Those who live a contented, spirit filled life don’t come by it naturally, as if they were born with a silver spoon of spirituality or were anointed from birth as having a supernatural ability to trust God. To trust God is a conscious decision brought on by many a trial and heartache where God has been seen as the Savior and King of all situations. Following God and entrusting your very being in His hands is something to strive for, to prove over and over through the difficult moments of life. Those who strive for peace and contentment brought to them by His hand only are handsomely rewarded with peace in their hearts that cannot be stolen by the craftiest thief. Those who do not strive for His Spirit to control them will always feel alone and defeated. (Galatians 5:16, 17)
4. The spiritual condition of our hearts will rule our actions—we need to guard our hearts.
We all have had hardships in our lives. Where one may have lost a loved one, another has lived in poverty or battled a serious illness. We all have our share of pain and heartache, it just comes with different names. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Those who think they deserve better are in for a big disappointment. It’s not about living a cush, easy life free of pain and suffering. It’s about living our lives with God alongside, bringing Him the glory as we travel the road of hardship. To say you love God and then turn around and demonstrate bitter envying in your behavior presents a conundrum that cannot be explained other than one of deceit. You may be able to fool some, but those who truly know what the love of God is can see through the facade. It’s not worth holding onto. In the end, those who fake the abiding life will be brought out into the light. (James 1:2-8)
5. True contentment comes from within by God’s working—not a temporary fix by circumstances turning in our favor.
The condition of our hearts are revealed by our actions. Too many times I’ve been told that someone loves God or is trying to live a life for Him, and yet their actions speak a different language. They claim innocence as they place a blade in the hearts of others. We all know people who are kind and gracious when things are going their way and then turn into bitter, spiteful monsters when the light isn’t shining on them just the right way. These are the ones who lie to themselves as they are lying to others. A quiet reliance on God is the only way toward genuine contentment, in good or bad circumstances. The true believer who’s walking in the Spirit will have a gracious spirit even when their heart has been ripped in two by another. They have discovered that true peace and contentment comes in looking to Christ for their healing not by anything they do or say or how others treat them or perceive their value. We can judge our own level of God-given contentment by our first reaction, thoughts during, and actions throughout a situation that has caused us to be hurt or disappointed. (Proverbs 22:10)