Contentment Is Learned

Scripture

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:10-11)

Observation

Paul tells the Philippians that he greatly rejoices that they were able to resume their support of him.  Not so much because he needed what they provided.  He has learned to be content no matter what.  However, he is glad for how they will benefit from it.  Paul learned contentment from being thrown into hard circumstances.  He did not just conjure up a heart of contentment.  It was built into him by the suffering he experienced.  He saw such suffering as fellowship with Jesus.  By keeping his eyes on God’s call on his life, he learned that he could trust the Lord no matter what he faced.

Application

For me, contentment will only come as I step out in obedience and respond to whatever God asks of me.  I must do that as I pursue Jesus.  In other words, my life is to stay close to Jesus and let him lead me in everything.  He will provide.  Like Peter when walking on the water, I must keep my eyes on Jesus, not the stormy waters.  Where God leads, he provides.  I will never learn contentment by being content.

Prayer

Lord, I want you.  Lead me in all I do.  I know I can trust you to care for me no matter what I face, as long as I am in your will.  Help me be bold for you.

The First Step in Bible Study

G. Campbell Morgan, the great Bible teacher and preacher, was known to have read a book of the Bible over 50 times before he would begin to teach it.  The more I read the Bible the more I am convinced of the wisdom of this approach.  I am currently starting a study of Hebrews in preparation for leading a men’s study of it at the first of the year.  My first step is to read through Hebrews in one setting numerous times.  Actually, I am listening to it using as many different translations as possible.  To do this I use the YouVersion app.  It takes about 45 minutes each time through.

So far I have listened to Hebrews 3 times.  Only 47 to go!  Each time I glean a better understanding of the message of the book and I realize how limited my understanding has been of some of my favorite verses from Hebrews.  Yesterday I counted that over the years I have memorized 26 verses from Hebrews.  By getting the bigger picture of the book through reading through it in single settings, my understanding of these individual verses is becoming much more complete.

Too often we approach Bible study by going straight to a verse, pulling it out of context, trying to figure out its meaning, and then looking for other verses that back up our conclusions.  When we do that, cross-referencing really becomes proof-texting.  The better approach to Bible study is to read the book in its entirety first, preferably numerous times.  Only after we grasp the big picture of the book are we ready to begin to dig into the specifics.

Try this approach.  Start with Philemon.  Read it 10 times.  It will take about 3 minutes each time.  See if this doesn’t transform the way you approach Bible study.

Teach Yourself

If you have ever taught something, you have discovered that the teacher usually learns more than the student.  Why? Because the teacher has to be able to communicate the subject.  In the process of communicating ideas, one quickly discovers if their comprehension of the subject is complete.  In the same way, when we write our devotional thoughts out in words, we really engage and internalize what God is revealing to us.

I believe that the greatest benefit to writing out my devotional thoughts in a SOAP journal is that everyday such journaling cause minor course corrections in the way I think, aligning my thoughts, attitudes and heart with that of the Lord.  Writing out my thoughts forces me to organize and communicate what would otherwise be floating around in my mind.

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