I was supposed to write on Faithfulness, but I’m skipping it because of a focus word that I’ve been dwelling on for the month of October. I’ll get back to Faithfulness shortly but I hope that this gives you some encouragement this month.
I have been meeting once a month with some ladies from my church to discuss “Disciplines of a Godly Woman” by Barbara Hughes. What is so great about meeting with them is because we have a mixture of ages, married and single. We start with prayer time using God’s Word as our guide in how we pray and what we pray for and we discuss the chapter chosen. For October, I was asked to discuss one of two chapters—Discipline of the Mind and Discipline of Contentment. I chose the Contentment chapter but after reading the Mind chapter, I realized how important both chapters were and how they related to each other so perfectly. The day before I was asked to lead the discussion I had asked my BSF leader to pray for me for contentment in my situation (job, life)…then when chosen to lead the discussion, I realized that Contentment was going to be my focus word for the month of October.
Here’s what I learned from the two chapters.
Our mind is an amazing thing. It’s mysterious, it captures things we want to remember and …things we don’t. Our mind was created, says Barbara Hughes, for one purpose…to have a mind like Christ. As Christians we are to “…not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” Romans 12:2. (Barbara Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Wheaton, 2001, 67,) My version (NLT) says it this way—“Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” I think the NLT version gives us a lead in for learning about and understanding the discipline of Contentment.
As I read the chapter about the mind I began to think about what I think about, what I spend my time on. Barbara Hughes points out that we need to program our mind wisely and “never leaving it unguarded, unthinking, and undisciplined.” (Ibid, 68.) How many times have you left your mind unguarded, unthinking and undisciplined? And what were the results? She also notes that God’s program guide for our mind is positive…positive things, edifying things and uplifting things. (Ibid, 68) Consider Philippians 4:8 which says “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Those things are what we need to be focusing on…but how often is that true for all of us…
I am going to be very honest and transparent with you. Sometimes, what I think on are not always what is prescribed in Philippians 4:8. I watch movies/dvds with dirty jokes, bad language, questionable and ungodly relationships. I’ve read things that exposed me to topics and issues I shouldn’t concern myself with. And, I must confess I really enjoyed the Twilight books and movie (and the new one is coming out very soon)—it’s all about vampires, but in a good way because it’s a love story…okay back to the point.
As you can tell, our minds are often influenced by what we put in it. And I’m convinced that what goes into my head, eventually finds its way out through my actions and choices.
Take a look at Psalm 101:2-5 (NLT), it says “I will be careful to live a blameless life…I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all crooked dealings; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.” Therefore a disciplined mind is one that: Lives a blameless life, one that is of integrity, one that refuses to look at anything vile and vulgar, and one that hates crooked dealings. Is this easy to do? Not on our own, but with the power of the Holy Spirit I believe we can have this kind of mind. We need to remember it starts in our own home, and also in “our” home—our hearts.
Now look at Psalm 119:97, 98, 100b, (NLT) it says “Oh, how I love your law! I think about it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for your commands are my constant guide…I have kept your commandments.” This shows what we should be doing if we have a disciplined mind: Think about God’s law/word all day long, using his commands as our guide, always dwelling/thinking, kept his commands. Kind of hard to do in today’s world right? Or is it? I think this goes back to the above. We have to make up or mind to do this…and we have to draw upon the Holy Spirit to give us the power to do this.
According to Paul, what we really should be focusing on should be things that are praiseworthy, admirable, excellent, true, noble, pure, lovely, right…God’s Word, things that build up not tear down (things that we read, things we hear and things we see, our conversations with each other). And, hopefully what comes out of what we think on should be centered around God…setting proper priorities, trust, loving others, serving Him, people—seeing others through Jesus’ eyes…I think ultimately it allows us to be content in what we have and gives us the opportunity to allow him to work in our lives, allowing our ears and eyes and wills to be open to his calling. Being content allows us to reap everything that God wants for us.
Take a look at Psalm 37:3-9—this passage is one of my most favorites. Read it yourself…I won’t quote it here because this is a passage that you need to underline in your Bible, one that should be memorized and should be one that you go to often. Basically it calls you to trust in the Lord and do good…take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires, commit everything you do to Him, be still in his presence and wait patiently for Him to act, don’t worry, stop your anger, don’t envy. This passage refers to what goes in your mind, and your actions because of your thoughts, and your contentment in Him.
This leads us to contentment…the discipline of Contentment.
Are you content with where you are in life and in your circumstances? If you are you are somewhat on your own, because I believe most of us are either working on being content or feeling very discontent and searching for something that will take this feeling of discontentment away. Honestly, who hasn’t felt discontentment about their situation in life, we’ve all been there. According to Barbara Hughes, the discontentment we experience is a longing and desiring of something that God has not chosen to give to you – if we seek this, it often comes with a cost. (Ibid, 79) Sure we have longings, the godly ones and the ungodly ones. It is our decision which ones we focus on…and how we address the longings we have.
In Philippians 4:11, Paul states that “I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little.” (NLT) I like the fact that Paul said he had ‘learned’ to be content no matter the circumstances in his life. Barbara Hughes points out, if Paul learned, then there’s certainly hope for us to learn it too. (Ibid, 78.) Barbara Hughes states that when we are discontent, we need “to stop and make a calculated evaluation of the longing. Is it godly, or ungodly? Will you yield to temptation in an attempt to satisfy your heart’s desire, or will you turn to God and His Word for help?” (Ibid, 83) When I read this I was totally convicted and I realized that my discontentment is due to my attempt to satisfy or find a way to satisfy my longings, my heart’s desire, rather than me allowing God to provide what he wants for me. Sure I’ve prayed and prayed –because I’ve been told to pray continuously, but perhaps I’ve prayed the wrong prayer or looking for the answer or result that I wanted. Have I really turned to God and asked him to take care of my longings? Have I forgotten to trust him?
The source of our contentment is to know God; to know his word, to know what he desires specifically for us. And, what he wants most from us is our whole heart, our whole lives…everything. And if we want the contentment that only God can give us, it requires us to trust him.
Because Contentment is my focus word for October, I did some further study and found these truths from God’s Word (All NLT):
Psalm 131:1-2: “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me. But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.” This verse helps me to see that when my mind and thoughts are noisy and I’m discontent, I am certainly not focused and listening to God or drawing peace and strength from Him. Instead I need to be quiet and still, like a child in his mother’s arms, letting God take matters in His own hand.
Psalm 4:7: “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine.” Why do we look at others to see what they have and compare it with what we have or don’t? Human nature I suppose, but this reminded me that God has given me greater joy…He has given me a greater joy than those who take joy in being prosperous. I can be content in what I have and where I am because of the joy He’s given me…eternal life with Him.
Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ.” Giving our worries and needs to God allows us to experience His peace which is far more wonderful than we can understand…far surpasses our understanding…I’ve found such a feeling of strength and contentment in giving my worries to Him.
Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” I like the fact that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him. He causes…we need to trust Him.
Isaiah 55:8: “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” We are often putting God in a box, expecting Him to act a certain way … a way we think He should act and how He should answer our prayers. We can’t put God in a box and we shouldn’t do that. I would like to experience all that He has planned and I can’t do that if I expect Him to work within the boundaries I have laid out for Him.
How do we respond to this? What should we be doing?
Acts 2:25, 26, 28 (Or Psalm 16:7, 8, 11): “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is filled with joy, and my mouth shouts his praises! My body rests in hope…You have shown me the way of life, and you will give me wonderful joy in your presence.” This speaks for itself…trust, joy, confidence, contentment, hope.
Psalm 112:1: “Happy are those who fear the Lord. Yes, happy are those who delight in doing what he commands.” Delight in doing what he commands…obedience, trust…contentment.
My personal take…From reading this chapter, I have decided that I have been in error lately. And I have asked the Lord for forgiveness. I have asked the Lord to make me into the woman He wants me to be. I long to know His Word more deeply, not surface level but to a level of understanding that I’ve never known before, for my eyes to be open to the deeper meaning of His Word, and to be used by Him to fulfil His desires for me…His… desires… for… me. My longing is to be content no matter the circumstances and where he has placed me.
Next time: Faithfulness (I promise)