Contentment, is something we all long for, but not something we find easily.
Contentment is hard to find because we are a restless people; we live in a culture that purposefully creates discontent.
What is contentment?
Contentment is a condition in which our soul is at rest regardless of our circumstances. You do not base your happiness on the situation around you.
A soul at rest implies that your soul isn’t striving for something it doesn’t have. Contentment is a type of peace that exists through both pleasant and difficult situations.
The Hebrew word for “rest”, here in Psalm 62:1, means “silence” or “stillness” - not verbal silence, as some translations suggest; for v. 8 commends pouring out one’s heart in prayer as an act of trust. It rather speaks of a quietness of soul, an inner stillness that comes with yielding all fears and anxieties and insecurities to God in an act of trust - “absolute composure”.
The spirit of undismayed calm such as is manifested here – an absolute undisturbed peace, in which confidence in God is so completely unshaken, and in which assurance - is so strong that there is not even one single petition voiced throughout the Psalm.
What do we learn about contentment?
1. We will find contentment by looking to God instead of our circumstances. (vv. 1–4)
David finds that his circumstances are not to be trusted to provide contentment. David looks instead to the God who made him.
In the NT, Paul says, “We don’t look around at what we see right now, the troubles all around us. But we look forward to the joys in heaven. The troubles will soon be over but the joys that come will last forever.”
(2 Cor. 4:18)
Paul says, I don’t look around, I look up. I don’t spend my time comparing myself to other people. I keep my eyes on what is to happen.
Augustine lived in the 5th cent. after Jesus lived. He lived a promiscuous life, chasing sexual pleasures and all that an affluent life had to offer. He fathered a child outside of marriage, and he even joined a cult. But he found himself empty and with a restless, empty soul. So he started attending a church led by a famous pastor named Ambrose.
Augustine attended as a seeker, primarily because he was fascinated by what Ambrose had to say. But eventually Augustine found faith in Jesus Christ himself. He would later write in his journal, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you, O Lord.”
Only in God will our souls find true rest.
2. We will find contentment by choosing to trust in God. (vv. 5–10)
Though David says he finds rest only in God in verse 1, he commands himself to find rest in God in verse 5.
In v. 8, the Hebrew word for “trust” means to rely on God, as a baby relies on its mother.
Trusting God means establishing a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. David notes that, whether we’re rich or poor, we’re all essentially the same—each of our lives ultimately amounts to nothing. We shouldn’t put stock in our circumstances or wealth, because then we’re not trusting God.
Instead of just depending on my own effort to make it through circumstances and my own energy, I must learn to draw on Christ’s power. Paul says in Philippians 4:13 … “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
3. We will find contentment by understanding God’s character. (vv. 11–12)
David focuses on God’s strength, his unlimited power. David also calls attention to God’s love, his loyal faithfulness to his promises.
The two-fold description of the character of God provided offers the necessary basis of trust that is missing in human status and corrupt power. God can be trusted because he is at one and the same time “strong” and “loving”.
God is caring, capable and committed. It takes an understanding of both God’s power and his love to get a picture of what he’s like—otherwise God becomes either a tyrant or Santa Claus.
The more you understand God, the more content you will be.
The real reason that people are unhappy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled is because Jesus Christ is not the center of their lives. They are looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places. They run from this to that… looking for something that is going to satisfy them. From relationship to relationship, from job to job, from hobby to hobby, fads, etc. - looking for the key. But God has laid it out very clearly. You were made with a God shaped vacuum in your life and nothing will fill that void except God.
The contented life doesn’t come from having just the right circumstances - contentment comes from looking to God as our one source of serenity.
God wants you to have a happy, fulfilling, satisfying life. But the way you have that satisfaction in life is by learning contentment. If you have to have a perfect situation and a perfect relationship to be happy you’re never going to be happy. You have to learn to be happy in spite of your problems. That is contentment. How? You draw on Christ’s power. You stop depending on your own power to make it. You get Christ’s hope to cope. When you give up on your own power God can fill you, and infuse you with new power that will help you “do all things”.
Last Sunday, as we continued in our series entitled “Managing Our Emotions”, I dealt with Uncertainty - or what do we do when we’re unsure of our next move?
The famous preacher and founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley, once said, “When I was young I was sure of everything. But after a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half as sure of most things as I was before. And at present, I am hardly sure of anything except what God has revealed to me”.
Uncertainty is a problem faced by people in all walks of life and it can be debilitating. But we looked at Psalm 19 and saw one of the many places in Scripture where God offers us guidance on how to make right and wise decisions when the path ahead is unclear.
Just like Wesley said in the above quote - “… I am hardly sure of anything except what God has revealed to me …”, the key we find in Psalm 19 is that God speaks to us - through His creation, through His Word, and through His conviction by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to our hearts and minds. God is in the business of revealing His will to us!
And even after taking into account these means of God’s will being revealed to us, a good and safe rule of thumb is - when uncertain, pursue the path that’s most honoring to God. I’m convinced that for most people who are sincerely following God, making choices between what’s good and what’s bad is not where they have the most difficulty. Those who are committed in and to their relationship with Christ often find it difficult in choosing between “what’s good” and “what’s better”; between “what’s better” and “what’s best”. You see, I firmly believe that some paths honor God more than others. The “higher way” may not always be the easiest, clearest or most popular path to follow.
All of us deal with uncertainty at times. Psalm 19 invites us to listen for God’s voice - particularly look for His direction in the Scriptures, ask for His convicting work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. And then, choose the path that most honors Him.
I’ve found that God’s plan for our lives is not always a straight line - rather, it is a series of twists and turns. But nonetheless, we can be confident that He is loving enough to want us to succeed and powerful enough to help us get back on the right track if - uhr, I mean, WHEN we make a wrong decision.
Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).
I think it is significant that this word on prayer from the lips of Jesus comes right on the heels of Luke’s account of his second coming, the parallel passage to the Olivet Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew. The Lord moves immediately from his word concerning his coming to this word concerning prayer, indicating the direct correlation between watchfulness and prayer.
Jesus uses three deliberate contrasts: first, a contrast of principles; then a contrast of persons; and, finally, a contrast of practices.
Jesus boldly confronts us with an inescapable choice of what life-guiding principle we will follow: We must either pray or faint, one or the other. Either we learn to cry out to an unseen Father, who is ever present with us, or else we must lose heart, to faint.
Then, Jesus contrasts the widow and the judge.
Nothing she could do would move this man to intercede in her case. Nevertheless, Jesus said, she found a way. She proceeded to make life utterly miserable for him; giving him no rest day and night. She was continually hounding, harassing, plaguing him until finally the judge was forced to act. He granted her request and she got what she needed! I think the whole point of the story is right here – Jesus is simply indicating that this widow found the secret of handling reluctant judges! She discovered, in other words, the key to power. She found the one principle on which even a reluctant judge would act, despite his formidable defenses.
But remember, this is a parable. And a parable is “an extended metaphor”. And Jesus is using the convention of “contrast” throughout the parable. So, Jesus is saying, “prayer is the countering principle which is the key to the Father-heart of God. Persistent pressure was the key to this unrighteous judge, perpetual prayer is the key to the activity of God.”
When, like the widow, life appears to us to be hopeless and useless, when we are victims of forces which are greater than we can manage, when no openings appear in the wall of pressure, when there is no answer to the inescapable problems before us and there is no end in sight but certain failure of loss, Jesus says there is one way out. There is a way to the place of power, there is a way to a certain solution of our problems, there is an answer to the unbearable pressure. It is the answer of prayer; of simply crying out to a God we cannot see but whom we may rest upon, a Father with a father’s heart and a father’s tender compassion and a father’s willingness to act. Prayer, he says, always stirs the heart of God, always moves God to act.
Jesus ends his story with a sudden word that comes as a third contrast, the contrast of practice.
Notice, Jesus does not say, “When the Son of man comes, he will not find faith on earth,” nor does he say, “When the Son of man comes, he will find faith on earth.” He leaves it as a question hanging in the air, uncertain, unanswered. But there is no doubt about one thing in this account, and that is the faithfulness of the Son of man. All the doubt is in the latter part of the sentence. He does not say, “If the Son of man comes,” but “When,” for this is one thing that is absolutely certain. It does not rest upon man, his faithfulness or his faithlessness; it rests only upon the sovereign choice of God. God is utterly faithful. It is man who raises the doubts.
He does not say, “When the Son of man comes, will he find men praying?” No, it is “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith?” for prayer is faith expressed. True prayer is not pleading or cajoling a reluctant God, never! That is never prayer! Prayer is believing, prayer is faith, prayer is thanking instead of complaining, trusting instead of trying. Rejoicing, accepting, appropriating, receiving — that is prayer.
I’m getting ready to preach a series on the Lord’s Prayer, so last Sunday, I preached my favorite “counseling outline” regarding the mystery of ”unanswered” prayer. It’s a frequent occurrence. The conversation goes something like this: “Pastor, didn’t Jesus say, ‘Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be open?’ Didn’t he say that?”
Someone says, “I’ve been praying for my husband to stop drinking, and he hasn’t stopped.” “I’ve been praying for a job, but I can’t find one.” “I’ve been praying for my wife’s depression. Nothing has changed.” “I’ve been praying for guidance, but no guidance has come.” On and on the lamentations go.
The memorable little outline that I use from time to time in my counseling sessions with individuals is not original with me. And admittedly at first the outline sounds trite. But let me develop it before you dismiss its value. If you’ve been praying and nothing seems to be happening, think on these statements with reference to unanswered prayer.
If the request is wrong, God will say “No” to your request.
If the timing is wrong, God might choose to say “Slow,” go slow; wait.
If you are wrong—a distinct possibility for some of us—if something is amiss in your life, maybe God will choose, instead of granting your request, to say, “You need to grow.”
But if the request is right and the timing is right and you are right, chances are God will say, “Let’s go,” and grant the request.
If the request is wrong, God will say, “No.” There are such things as wrong or inappropriate prayer requests. You are aware of that, aren’t you? Three famous disciples during the time of Jesus—Peter, James and John—accompanied Jesus to the top of a high mountain, and there, all of a sudden, God’s full glory descended upon Jesus.
The three disciples stood back in awe. They beheld the splendor of God just a few feet away. And they were so taken with Jesus’ transfiguration that they say, “Jesus, allow us to build shelters up here, and we’ll just live up here the rest of our lives, and we’ll bask in your glory.”
What was Jesus’ response, in a word, to their request? “No.” “No. I’m not going to grant that one, fellows. We’ve got work to do down in the plains, down where people live. We’re not just going to stay up here and bask in my glory. No. Wrong request.”
Are you and I capable of making wrong requests to God? SURE! And our God loves us too much to say ‘yes’ to wrong requests. If the request is wrong, God will answer the prayer, but his answer will be “No.” And you wouldn’t want God to do anything less. Even Garth Brooks is smart enough to “one of God’s greatest gifts is Unanswered Prayer”!
If the timing is wrong, God will say, “Slow.” Parents, have you noticed in your childrearing challenges that second only to the word “No,” the words “Not yet” rank as the most awful words in the English language to little children?
You’re leaving on a 500-mile trip in the car. You are 15 miles from home and you slow for a toll booth. And the kids say, “Are we there yet?” And you say, “Not yet.” And they groan and complain, “Oh, no. Come on, Dad, hurry it up!” You think, It’s going to be a long trip.
And let it be known that God is no more intimidated by our childish fixation on instant gratification than our wise parents were. He simply chooses from time to time to shake his head at our immaturity and say, “Kick and scream all you want, but not yet.” Like Bill Hybels says, “it’s essential for you to understand that God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials.” You need to understand that often God isn’t saying no, he is merely saying, “Not quite yet. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. I have my reasons. My ways are higher than your ways (Isaiah 55:9).”
Again, I can’t tell you how many times I thought my prayers were going unanswered only to find out later that God was saying, “Not yet,” so that he could carefully orchestrate a greater miracle than I had the faith to pray for in the beginning.
If you are wrong, God will say, “Grow.” This is a rather sobering statement, isn’t it?
If you are wrong. What does that mean? I mean, isn’t it a lot easier to point the finger at God for not answering prayer than it is to look in the mirror and to say, “Maybe I’m the problem.” As I told you, over the years I have counseled several people on the mystery and the agony of unanswered prayer. Only a handful have come to me and said honestly, “Greg, might it be me who is the obstacle to the miracle that I’m praying for?”
It’s almost always, “You explain to me why God isn’t moving my mountain.” It’s just human nature. I’m not trying to lay a trip on you. It’s just easier to point the finger of accusation at God than it is to look in the mirror and take a spiritual inventory and say, “Maybe it’s me.”
Psalm 66:18 says if I regard sin in my heart, in other words, if I’m leading a life of disobedience to God, the Lord will not hear my prayers. Pretty well says it, doesn’t it? Jesus warns us in the Sermon on the Mount that if there is relational discord, if there are private wars going on between people, if there are broken friendships, it cuts us off from close fellowship with God. He continues in that passage by saying, “Drop everything and attempt to reconcile those relationships. Then go back to the altar and worship and pray (Mt. 5:23f).” If those passages aren’t sobering enough, listen to this passage from 1 Peter 3: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way. Grant them honor so that your prayers won’t be hindered.”
If the truth were known, often the only obstacle standing in the way of you receiving your desperately needed miracle is us. It’s you. It’s me. The requests aren’t always wrong. Most of them are probably right. The timing isn’t necessarily the biggest problem. I think God is rather easy-going about some timing matters. He has a heart inclined to meet our requests. But when we’re wrong, God says, “Come on, grow. Put that sin away. It’s the only thing standing in the way. Change your attitude on this or that. Stop that practice. End that pattern. Get off that merry-go-round. Reconcile that relationship. Soften up in your spirit. Repent; receive forgiveness. Come on, grow. It’s the only thing standing in the way!” And God says, “When you grow, I’ll open up the floodgates of power and blessing and pour myself out to you, but you’ve got to grow.” We’re not talking “absolute perfection” here - I’m talking about doing and being what we know we need to do and be - both in our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
There is power in prayer. When the request is right, when the timing is right, and when you are right, “Let’s go!” He says, “Just let me release my power in your life; let me be great in you and through you; free me to address and meet your needs. Free me to do that. But you have got to grow.”
When the request, the timing is right - when YOU are right, God will say, “Let’s go!” I doubt any of us know how badly God wants to change that impossible circumstance in your life. You’ll be amazed at how often God will say, “Let’s go,” because you matter to him and it’s in his heart to meet your needs and grant your requests. It’s really more a matter of you letting him, you freeing him to do it.
So, the answer to the question in the title of this post, “Does God ALWAYS Answer Prayer?” is “YES”! It’s just that sometimes His answer is “No”, if the request is wrong; sometimes His answer is “Slow down - not yet”, if the timing isn’t right; sometimes He answers “Grow” if YOU and I are not quite in the place we should be in our relationship with Him and with others.
I was reminded again this week, as I was reading through some articles for personal enjoyment and enrichment, that “nobody succeeds big without first succeeding small”. I don’t know who said it first, but I think that it is definitely one of Jesus’ teaching points in His parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
It’s a new year full of new hopes and new goals, new plans to achieve them, and even new fears of the new ways we might fail.
One of my “resolutions”, if you will, for the New Year is to “re-kindle” my journaling. I love to journal – write down my reflections; but if I don’t write the beginnings of a “masterpiece” at least every other entry, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much. I also want to blog more – but again, unless I write something that is worthy of Discipleship Journal, Moody Monthly, Christianity Today … you get the picture.
Well, also this week, I’ve been introduced to, and joined up with the massive online community of Facebook. And the articles that I have read and the adventure upon which I’ve embarked, is working nicely together to assist me in fulfilling my goal and resolutions.
You see, just a few sentences a day – that’s all it takes. The British comedy team Flanders and Swan sing a wonderful song about a sloth who imagines all he could be if he were a different creature. He could “win a war then write a book about it” or “compose an oratorio that was sublime.” His problem, he laments, is “I just don’t have the time.” One doesn’t have to be a sloth to feel the press, and the tyranny of the urgent. It seems like we’re working longer hours and taking fewer vacations. What’s more, each year our workload increases, and the time for personal reflection and creative endeavors outside the workplace diminishes.
But if you’ll just start out small. I’ve been able to connect with old friends these past few days that I haven’t seen, nor talked to in years. And as a result, as the memories start flooding back, reflective thoughts about the present also spring to life. I don’t know if it’s something we’ll do every day. But sometimes, those notes and thoughts throughout the day remind us of the community online that is seeking to serve God in all of life—whether at home, at church, at work, in email, in meetings, on blogs, or even on Facebook.
Most of us have heard of Billy Graham. Since the 1950s, Dr. Graham has conducted hundreds of evangelistic crusades throughout the world. Most of us have seen him preach on TV; we’ve seen how thousands walk the aisle in that moment of decision. I was privileged to work alongside hundreds of pastors and believers in Kansas City when Dr. Graham and his ministry team was there a short time ago.
But what few people realize is the amount of preparation that goes in to bringing Billy Graham to a city. Only after extensive research is a crusade placed on the calendar, and that’s most often done years in advance. And then Graham representatives come to the city and begin to work in the community months in advance. They put in countless hours promoting the crusade. Thousands of counselors are trained. Hundreds of prayer meetings are held. All this takes place because they believe that, without preparation, the event itself will fail. It’s no different with Christmas. In order for the event of Christmas to be successful, there has to be some preparation.
That’s why we talk about this strange thing called Advent starting four weeks prior to Christmas. Advent is all about preparation. Sometimes we forget that, before God sent his Son into the world, he saw to it that the way was prepared. Jesus arrived on the scene only after 400 years of silence from God—preparation. He arrived only after numerous people were visited by an angel named Gabriel—preparation. God even saw fit to prepare the way for his Son by sending a man named John to call people to repentance. God is into preparation.
What about you … are you prepared for Christmas? I don’t mean do you have your tree up, or have you done your shopping - I haven’t even started mine (I mean, come on, it’s not the 24th yet!). But are you really prepared? Are you prepared for the arrival of God’s Son? In the midst of all your other Christmas preparations this year, take some time to prepare your heart to receive the wonderful gift of God’s presence and blessing in your life.
Yesterday, I gave us some guidelines as we go to the polls tomorrow. I realize that some of you may have already voted; but if you haven’t, remember … you have both the right and the responsibility to cast your vote and there are several reasons to vote this time. And, no, the economy is not the main issue - righteousness is the always the main issue with Christian voters!
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov. 14:34).
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan (Prov. 29:2).
The one key ingredient we must all search for in a leader is integrity - that is a sign of righteousness. When it comes to picking a president, I think Gandhi had it right: “the obligation of accepting a position of power is to be, above all else, a good human being.” Virtue is a requirement for leadership. Character matters. Decisions to be made when in the “heat of the moment” flow out of character - not competence.
So when you vote tomorrow, vote for righteousness, morals, family and principals - not just the economy.
Hey, Everybody - our website is back in operation and blogging capabilities are restored! Keep an eye out here, every couple of days or so for a little something from me.
Don’t forget to set your clocks back this weekend - yes, that’s right … Daylight Savings Time ends this Sunday morning. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to enjoy the extra hour of rest.