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“The Lord Has Done Great Things . . . “

 

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad!
Psalm 126:1-3

 

Greetings in the Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I’m sure you know people who are constantly complaining and  finding fault with everything.  Always looking on the dark side  of situations, they are continually finding their cup half empty  instead of half full. Never able to find the good in a situation they turn to criticism and condemnation. Their philosophy of  life is: “If I always expect the worst possible outcome, then I will never be disappointed!” Do you know someone like this? If you are honest with yourself, the answer has to be a resounding “Yes!” And guess what!  This is not a past time reserved only for the world.

Some Christians (maybe even more than we would like to admit) are inclined to dwell incessantly upon what they have gone through and the difficulties of what they are experiencing now rather than upon what God has graciously done for them in the past. When you ask for their Christian journey, they are likely to describe their continual conflicts, their awful afflictions, their sad sufferings, their disillusionment an devastating disappointments. And they do all this with hardly any reference at all to God’s overwhelming mercy, love, grace and peace that has led them along the way.

The Psalm referenced above is one of the “Songs of Ascents” in which the community of believers reflects with thanksgiving about God’s beneficent acts in  the  past  while  praying for his continued goodness in the present and future. Israel and Judah had suffered much at the hand of their foreign oppressors. Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, the City of Peace, had been destroyed. His people had been deported to foreign lands. And now some had returned. Did they dwell upon the dark side of their captivity? Did they complain about what God had not done for them? Did they complain about how the city had not been rebuilt? Did they find their cup half empty rather than
half full?

As the Apostle Paul is fond of saying, “May it never be!” Rather their mouths were filled with laughter and their tongues with songs of joy as they proclaimed, “The Lord has done great things for us.” Their cup overflowed with God’s goodness and mercy.

It is true that we endure trials, but it is just as true that in God’s appointed time we are delivered out of them. It is true that we are sinful and corrupt, but it is also true that we have an all-sufficient Savior, who overcomes these corruptions and delivers us from the bondage of sin as we come to Him in faith and repentance.

How would you describe your Christian journey? In looking back, it would be wrong to deny that we have been as Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress finding ourselves in the Slough of Despond. We’ve all been there. It would be wrong to deny that we have crept along the Valley of Humiliation. We’ve been there too! It would be equally wrong to forget that we have been through them safely and securely. We have not remained in them, thanks to our Almighty Helper and Leader, who has faithfully brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey.

The deeper your troubles, the louder your thanks to God ought to be. He has led you through all situations. He has protected you through them. He will preserve you now and tomorrow. He promises that He will go ahead of you; He will be with you; He will not fail you; He will not forsake you. So, do not fear or be dismayed (Deut. 31 :8).

It only takes one voice singing out of tune to disrupt the entire choir. Our disappointments and griefs too often become discordant themes in our song of life disrupting the melody of our praise. Let’s rather allow them to be harmonious chords in the bass part of our life’s song as we continually sing in harmony with one another,

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!”

Blessings and Peace to You all,

Pastor Mark

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Christian Contentment

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
 1 Tim. 6:6

 

A story has been told of a little Swiss watch. It had been made with the smallest of parts and the greatest of skill. Yet it was dissatisfied with its restricted sphere of influence on a gentleman’s wrist. It envied the position of the great tower clock on the city hall.  One day as it passed with its owner by the city hall,  the tiny watch exclaimed, “I wish I could go way up there! I could then serve many instead of just one.”

Now it so happened that its owner was in a position with the city that gave him access to the tower clock, so he said, “You shall have your opportunity, little watch!” The next day, a slender thread was let down from the tower  and the little watch was tied to it. Slowly and carefully, the watch was pulled up the side of the tower, rising  higher and higher each moment. Of course, when it reached the top, it was completely lost to view. The watch had learned that its elevation had adversely affected the purpose for which it had been designed. It was no longer useful to anyone.

Have you ever found yourself grumbling and complaining, finding fault with where you are? Dissatisfied with the size of your house, the amount of money you make (or don’t make), you mumble and murmur about your circumstances.  Do you believe you could be more influential or happier somewhere else?

In his little book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) writes of the grace of contentment that ought to be the hallmark of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. He defines contentment as “the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition.”

We would certainly all agree that contentment is of great gain. But as Burroughs says it’s not the knowing, but the practice that is of utmost importance.

 “For this art of contentment is not a speculative thing, only for contemplation, but it is an art of divinity and therefore practical.  You are now to labour to work upon your hearts that this grace may be in you, that you may honour God and honour your profession with this grace of contentment for there are none who more honour God, and honour their profession than those who have this grace of contentment.”

Here’s  the  problem.  It  seems each of has within us “a murmuring, a vexing, and a fretting heart…

” Burroughs reflects, “Every little cross has put me out of temper and out of frame. Oh, the boisterousness of my spirit! What evil God sees in the vexing and fretting of my heart, and murmuring and repining of my spirit! Oh that God would make you see it!” 

“That we may come to grips with the practice, it is necessary that we should be humbled in our hearts because of our lack of contentment in the past.” Burroughs reflects upon several things “in this use of humbling of the soul for the want of this grace of contentment.”

“This murmuring and discontentedness of yours reveals much corruption in the soul. As contentment argues much grace, and strong grace, and beautiful grace, so murmuring argues much corruption, and strong corruption, and very vile corruptions in your heart”

 He likens this to a wound in a man’s body, “the evil of the wound is not so much in the largeness of it, and the abundance of blood that comes out of it, but in the inflammation that there is in it, or in a fretting and corrupting humour that is in the wound…so it is with the souls of men…it may be that there is some affliction upon them, which I compare to the wound; now they think that the greatness of the affliction is what makes their condition most miserable. Oh no, there is a fretting humour, an inflammation in the heart, a murmuring spirit that is within you, and that is the misery of your condition, and it must be purged out of you before you can be healed. Let God do with you what he will, till he purges out that fretting humour your wound will not be healed.  A murmuring heart is a very sinful heart; so when you are troubled for this affliction you had need to turn your thoughts rather to be troubled for the murmuring of your heart, for that is the greatest trouble.”

 The affliction that you are faced with may be difficult. The situation that you find yourself in may be burdensome. The problems that surround you may seem overwhelming. You may think you have little or no influence where God has placed you. But a murmuring heart in the midst of your circumstances is more grievous than any difficulty. Why? Because ultimately those   complaints and dissatisfactions you think are directed toward the circumstances are in fact pointed at a sovereign source – a righteous God who decrees and creates all things in the counsel of His most perfect will for our own good.  You’re going to have to take it up with Him!

I’m sure by now you’re wondering what “The Parable of the Watch” has to do with contentment.  Each one of us has been created with great care. Our God has designed each of us for a particular purpose. He has made each of us for a particular time and place.  We  each  have  a  special  function  in  His  kingdom.  No  matter  how  small  and insignificant you may think you are, in the scheme of God’s eternal purpose, your influence is nonetheless important.

Do you find yourself, grumbling, and mumbling, and  murmuring  and complaining?    Are you constantly ‘praying’   for something bigger and better?  You may get what you are asking for only to realize that the ‘elevation has adversely affected the purpose for which you have been designed.’ But as Burroughs says, this may be what it takes for you to come to grips with your grumbling, “that you should be humbled in your heart because of your lack of contentment in the past.”

Why not instead prayerfully consider your usefulness where God has you now?

Whether you are a “little Swiss watch” or a “great tower clock”  learn to be content!

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Pastor Mark