“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” II Corinthians 9:8
Mark 2:5 – “When Jesus SAW their faith . . . .”
I Jn 3:16 – “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
In a recent sermon, I was challenged by Mark 2:5. The faith of four men completely changed the life of a helpless man. However, it wasn’t that God, in His omniscience, knew of their faith or that these men spoke often of their own faith, that moved Christ to heal their friend. Mark tells us that Christ SAW their faith. He saw four men who were not deterred by a crowd, but who simply knew that they had to get this man to Christ. I began to reflect on how Christ might “see” my faith. After all, Matthew records Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:20, which says, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Upon further reflection, I was reminded by John in his first epistle that God’s love to us wasn’t just talked about or reflected upon; rather, it has been very clearly shown. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16) So is the manifestation of our faith being deterred by people, finances, careers, etc.? Or are we willing to manifest our faith in a way that Christ can observe—by laying out our lives for Him, even as He laid His out for us?
Recently, the words to the third verse of the hymn “Trust and Obey” have been a challenge to my heart.
But we never can prove
the delights of His love
until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
for the joy He bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey.
It’s really the first three lines that have been speaking the loudest to me and that bring to mind Isaiah 26:3-4.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he
trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is
Obtaining full rest in the peace He provides involves total trust, exactly as our being willing to lay all of ourselves on the altar proves His love for us. We can’t do that until we trust Him, which makes me ask myself, “What am I allowing or disallowing the Lord to do in my life that will bring me to the place of total trust in Him and allow Him to prove His love for me?”
The Object of Contentment
For decades, there has been a growing trend of personalizing and objectivizing Christianity. When I am not careful, I find myself doing the same thing. What we have succeeded in doing, however, is to trivialize our Christianity and misplace it away from the one Person that Christianity is about—the person of Christ.
This is what I mean. As believers in Christ’s work on the cross for our redemption, we immediately begin to look for things we can do. “I can put on the whole armor of God.” “I can abound and suffer need as Paul did.” “I can serve all of the Master’s people with or without someone else’s help.” All of these things we either strive to do because it fits our personality to be doers, or we guilt ourselves over not doing because they are a struggle for us. Thus we enter the life of the frustrated believer who depended on Christ for eternal salvation and is now depending on self to wrap things up.
One area we see this magnified is in the area of contentment. How many times have we all been guilty of telling children the simple answer that contentment is being happy with what you have—or don’t have? We have promoted the idea that contentment is being happy in any situation. Frankly, I am learning that many times when we answer children’s questions, we hand them “cop-out” answers. Perhaps this is why many young people live such frustrated lives after deciding to trust Christ for their salvation.
Truthfully, I will never be happy with things. I will always want more things. I will always want different things. I will always wonder “what if,” when it comes to life’s situations. In fact, I will reflect on and pout about and complain about all of these things if I am trying to be happy with them. What in Scripture ever taught us to be happy with all things? Paul said in Philippians 4:12 that he had learned the secret to both abounding and suffering need. He had been instructed to do both. What was the secret He learned? The often-quoted-out-of-context Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Christ is the only One that will provide lasting contentment. I cannot ever be happy with or without things—but I can be happy and at peace with Christ. He is the only person or object around which a successful Christian life finds fulfillment.
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
18. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19. to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who know no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
II Corinthians 5:18-21
Change of Heart
I believe that most Christians who study the Scriptures regularly realize that when Psalm 37:4 says to “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart,” those desires promised are in fulfillment of total submission to our Lord, meaning that I delight in Him by a total and worry-free abandonment to His cause. He will then give me what my heart desires. I am truly grateful that He has been merciful enough to allow me this experience in the past year. I never thought I would be happier than when I was teaching. It’s what I love to do . . . still. I was content with where I was, and yet I was still restless. Slowly, the Lord began working on me to surrender to a foreign mission field full-time. This I did, not knowing how I was going to NOT teach. Teaching was what I loved, but He changed my desires. Now what I love is Liechtenstein plus every important and even menial task that will get me there!
But recently, the Lord has used the book of Philippians to challenge me to go even deeper. In Philippians 1, Paul shares with us that his desires are to present Christ with all boldness, even if it places his life at risk, and to depart and to be with Christ. Are we ready to make two such goals our lives’ desires? These desires led him to remind the Philippians in chapter 1 and verse 29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Could one actually desire suffering? Paul indicates in chapter 1 that, through “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (1:19), we indeed can. He bore suffering in His own body while reminding us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Then he said it again… “and again I say rejoice.” (4:4) Could I be stripped of my things, my dignity, my health, and my freedom like Paul was and still say, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”? That depends on if I have delighted in the Lord or not. What a high calling and a challenge for our hearts.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death….