Part 1 here and part 2 here!
Okay ... this is the last post on this topic. For now. :)
So, throughout the course of the retreat women gave their testimonies. I love seeing God at work in the lives of His people. I love hearing God's story through the story of others. One of the women who shared made this statement: God is so good. He takes care of us even when we choose sin. We are still His. I love that - His mercy is always available to us.
Contentment is choosing JOY. Joy not because everything is always rainbows and unicorns, but because no matter the circumstance (both good & bad) I know that God is at work, there is purpose and it is for good and His glory. There is JOY in that truth, a comfort, a resting.
Our speaker that weekend, Amy, shared three JOY stealers.
- Greed (the never enough syndrome)
- Un-focus (The Waiting Place)
- Worry & Anxiety
To combat this we need to acknowledge that All things come from God and from His own hand do we give to Him (paraphrase of I Chronicles 29:14b). If we don't have it, we don't need it. God gives us all that we need. What we do need is a heart shift - stop focusing on what God gives, and focus on God the Giver. (Psalm 62:10, Mathew 6:19, 24) We need to use our possessions, not love them (Luke 12:15). A.W. Tozer has said that 'things' have taken the place of God in our lives.
2. Un-focus or Incorrect focus or The Waiting Place wastes your life. It leaves you completely ineffective in the moment because you are waiting for the next thing, something better, or something bad to stop. You have stopped being of use because you're so focused on 'some' day. I have struggled with this in the past, in the present and I'm praying not in the future. I realized a while back that how I live my life is measured by the sum of my days. My life is summed up by what I do day to day, not by what I hope to do someday.
God has planted each of us exactly where He wants us, for specific purposes, to do His will NOW. His will is that we would glorify Him in each moment, in each little task. He did not plant me in Seattle, in this community, with these friends so that I could ignore what He's doing here and now while I look ahead with longing and hope of greater things to come. I've learned too, that wherever, whatever God has for me in this moment is but a stepping stone to the next thing. I love that adventure.
3. And lastly, worry and anxiety is something we choose to do. We choose to believe that we can control this or that and at its root is either pride or a lack of trust. I talked a lot about this in the last post, but I include it again here because I want to talk about choice. We seem to think that by worrying and obsessing we can control the outcome. That's a lie straight from the pit of hell. I know - such drama. But truly - Satan works through worry and anxiety by giving us the illusion that We can fix whatever it is we think needs fixing - that we don't need God. Satan wants us to do what Peter did in Matthew 14:30 - take our eyes off Jesus, doubt, give in to fear. Sink. Take your eyes off Jesus and you begin to see your circumstance as bigger than Jesus. The What If's and If Only's begin to play through our mind and we try to hold onto things that are not ours to control.
Sadly, these 'things' I'm trying to keep under control in my own life are my ideas of what's right/wrong, best, good - not God's. My worries and anxieties are born from pride - thinking I know best, my way is best. I can't tell you how many times I've been blessed by God's way, yet I still struggle with giving up the control. Our speaker Amy, shared with us that the Saxon word for worry means 'to choke'. Worry strangles the worrier. Chokes off my faith. Leaves me JOYless. Not to mention it's exhausting and does absolutely NOTHING but hurt me and often those around me, as I lash out trying to 'fix' things! We can choose to trust God, to give Him our anxieties.
So how do we keep from being joyless, useless, control freak, worriers? Glad you asked. :)
We can remain content through every season of life, in every storm, (gotta love the Christianese cliche's) only through prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can form a Holy Habit of Contentment by committing to do a few things:
1. Confess the sin of anxiety (be honest with other people & hold each other accountable for not giving in to anxiety).
2. Have a heart of gratitude (thanking him for being the Blessed Controller). Live out of His love for you.
3. Choose to cast your cares on the Lord (I Peter 5:7). Tell Him your worries/fears, leave them at His feet.
4. Choose to trust Him. Put off anxiety and receive your cup with gratitude and trust. In Matthew 6: 25-34 Jesus says five times "Do Not Be Anxious".
I just want to make a side-statement here about prayer. This past Sunday we heard a sermon on Acts 1:12-26 and the pastor spoke to the importance of prayer. Without prayer, we can do nothing. Prayer is not direct access to God's ATM machine, it is not telling God how He can move/work/act to make our plans, dreams happen. It is not to change God's mind or to fill Him in on things He may not have noticed. Prayer is waiting on God, hearing from God and having God change our desires to His. Prayer doesn't change God's will, it changes our hearts. Prayer is getting to know God and having the humility to let Him change us. I confess that often times I don't stop and really pray because I'm so busy 'doing'. I just don't have 'time'. Totally convicted here. :)
I pray that you'll join with me this year and form your own Holy Habit of Contentment. I pray you won't get stuck in greed or anxiety or in The Waiting Place. I pray you'll make prayer a priority. And please share your own thoughts here. Ideas? Advice? Triumphs? Failures?
And ... remember: God is so good. He takes care of us even when we choose sin. We are still His. His mercy is always available to us.