Tagged ‘Contentment‘

The only gift that satisfies

Last night I was thinking about all that God has done for me this past year. I was reflecting on his kindness to me. He has blessed my life so abundantly, and I am humbled when I consider his goodness to me. To be honest, I am a bit uncomfortable with how he has blessed my life. I live in a home far nicer than I need. I drive a car far better than I need. I have more clothes than I need. He has blessed me far beyond my needs. I consider my brothers and sisters around the world who love God as much as or more than I do and yet suffer such loss for the cause of Christ, and it makes me feel uneasy when I realize how well I live. When I look at my life and how God has blessed me, sometimes it seems unfair.

But as I was talking with God and considering all of this, I was reminded of a simple truth. Only Jesus satisfies me. Of all of the material blessings I have been given, none of them satisfies me. Only God does that for me. I love him. He satisfies my soul like nothing else. I believe I have come to the place in my life where I can honestly say that he is all I want. Not only is he all I need, he is also all I want. A nice house is great, but it doesn’t satisfy the soul. A nice car is great, but at the end of the day it still doesn’t satisfy. Nicer furniture doesn’t satisfy. Nicer clothes don’t satisfy. Nicer shoes don’t satisfy. A bigger TV with higher resolution doesn’t satisfy. A better cell phone or tablet doesn’t satisfy. Fill in the blank. Nothing outside my relationship with God will ever satisfy.

Think about this for a moment. Can you remember the Christmas gifts you received last year? How about the year before that? How quickly our attention moves on. What seemed so important last year is now gathering dust in a closet. The challenge is to remember this when we consider the Christmas season before us. We are bombarded with messages in the media that seek to stir up discontent. The underlying message is that you will be happier if you just had __________. Sadly, many well-meaning Christians fall into this trap.

Last year I went to one of the large retailers for the day after Thanksgiving sales. I was shocked. An armed police officer stood in the center of the main aisle to help keep order. The place was packed. I could hardly navigate the perimeter of the store. It left me with a sick feeling in my gut. If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, why did everyone seem so consumed with greed, pushing, shoving, running to get the must have item of the year? I love a bargain as well as the next guy, but this was out of control.

The message of the Bible is that only God satisfies. The message from our enemy is that everything but God satisfies. Which message are you living by?

This Christmas, remember that the only gift that satisfies is the gift God gave us two thousand years ago. There in a manger, in the town of Bethlehem, a baby was born. But that tiny baby was the very Son of God, born in the flesh, given to you and me for the forgiveness of our sins.

Consider these verses:

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11, NASB).

I love the way this passage is written in this version when it says “there has been born for you a Savior.” He was born for you. He was given for you. It was all for you, this amazing gift from God. Imagine that! This baby was given to you so that you could have a relationship with God. God gave you the gift of the forgiveness of your sins wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV, emphasis added).

It is the gift of God! And this, my friends, is the only gift that satisfies.

Maybe you are reading this and you know the feeling of being unsatisfied. You know that something is missing from your life. You also know in your heart of hearts that more stuff is not going to fill that void in your life, but you don’t know where to turn. If that is you, today God reaches out to you with the gift of all gifts. It is as if God stands before you holding a baby in his arms. As you stand before him, he extends his arms to you, giving this baby to you. Will you receive him? Will you accept this gift for you? In this baby is everything you could ever want or need. This baby is Jesus, the very son of God, given to you for the forgiveness of your sins so that you can have a relationship with God. This relationship satisfies the deepest longing of your life more than anything this world could possibly give. Will you receive this gift today?

It is also possible that as you are reading this today, you have already accepted this gift at some point in your life. But for some reason you’ve set aside your relationship with God and are striving to fill that void in your life with more stuff. You’ve forgotten the gift you’ve been given. You’ve set it on a shelf in the far reaches of a closet out of sight and out of mind. How sad to be given a gift so valuable and to set it aside. Now you find yourself empty, unsatisfied, and wondering where you went wrong. If that is you, turn back to your gift today.

My friend, where are you at in your relationship with God? Is he enough? Are you satisfied with him alone? Or have you fallen victim to the lie that something else can make you happy? God gave us an incredible gift in his son. This Christmas, find your satisfaction in Christ alone.

He truly is the only gift that satisfies.

This article was originally published in the December 2013 Newsletter.

When God Chooses Not to Heal

This article was originally published in the May 2013 Newsletter.

In the big scheme of things, it is a relatively small thing. It is not terminal. And while important to address, in the end there are many things of greater consequence. It is high blood pressure, and about a quarter of the population struggles with it. But right now that statistic is of little comfort to me. I am frustrated that my blood pressure is high even though I have been exercising and eating well for the past 30 days. In fact, at times the pressure has gone up in spite of my diet and daily bike rides. I’ve even prayed that God would heal me in this area, believing that he could heal me if he chooses to. He answered that prayer by revealing underlying stress that I didn’t even know I had. And, as he has shown an area that needed to be addressed, I have surrendered it to him. I feel at peace and restful, confident in his control. I am content in his love and kindness. But I still have high blood pressure. At this time, he has chosen not to heal. I also know that sometimes God heals through the use of medicine and medical care, but it is a path I would rather not go down. I would rather God would just choose to heal me.

What do we do when God chooses not to heal? What do we do when the scan shows the cancer has spread? What do we do when the wayward child refuses to come home? What do we do when the search for a job goes unnoticed or the divorce becomes final? What do we do when the answer to our prayer is “no” or “not yet”?

Thankfully we have an example in Scripture of someone who prayed earnestly for God to heal and yet never received the healing he had hoped for. His name is Paul. He is one of the key figures in church history. He planted churches across the Mediterranean region, and his letters to those churches make up the bulk of the New Testament Scriptures we have today. But in spite of all of that, he still received a “no” when he prayed for physical healing in his own life. He had some issue in his life for which he prayed multiple times for healing. But instead of healing him, God said to him, “My grace is enough, it is sufficient for you. I know you want to be healed. But I want you to find that I am more than enough for you, even when I choose not to heal.”

When God chooses not to heal, I can either focus on what I lack, or I can focus on what I have. And what I have is the presence of God living within me, filling me, overwhelming me with kindness, love, and faithfulness. When I focus on that, it is certainly enough. In fact, it is more than enough. I am humbled by his kindness. I am awed by his faithfulness. I barely have words to describe the love he has poured into my life. It is these things I chose to focus on, to rest upon when other parts of my life do not make sense.

This morning I rose early, long before the sun crested the hills, and found myself contemplating the kindness of God. He has blessed my life so abundantly. I shake my head in wonder when I consider all that he has done for me. I don’t deserve such kindness and yet he pours it into my life over and over again. It is this kindness that I chose to focus on, even as I sit here with my blood pressure much higher than it should be. It is not that I am unaware of the issues affecting my life. I just chose to embrace the love and kindness of God instead of worrying about the things I cannot change.

Consider these verses:

“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).

“Be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV).

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, ESV).

Once again, how we deal with the challenges of life comes down to where we are in our relationship with God. Is he enough? Is his love and grace sufficient? Can you say with Paul, that even if he chooses not to heal, his grace is enough? Is he really enough?

So often we want Jesus and a nice house, or Jesus and a nice car, or Jesus and a healthy body, or Jesus and a stable family. But God wants me to learn to be content with just Jesus. If all of those things were stripped away – the house, the car, health, and home – would I be content with just Jesus? I pray that I would.

Friend, do you know the ache of unanswered prayer? Have you cried out to God only to sense that he is saying “not yet” or “not now”? Where are you in relationship with him? Can you trust him even when you cannot feel him near? Is your relationship with Jesus enough, even when he chooses not to heal?

As you are reading these words, you may be dealing with issues in life far more severe than just high blood pressure. I genuinely hurt for you. I am not trying to be trite or to minimize the pain and agony you may be feeling at this moment. I am not suggesting that you are supposed to disregard the reality of your circumstances. I am, however, asking that you bring Christ into the midst of your circumstance. He longs to cover you like a tent spread out over you. He covers us with his grace to comfort and protect. And in that moment, in spite of our trials, we find that he is, in fact, enough.

Even when he chooses not to heal.