Contentment

by Eric S. Love
podcast available 8.14.2011

“…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

If we can do all things through Christ, then how do we learn to be content regardless of the circumstance we are in? By knowing God’s heart.

Knowledge verses Understanding
2 Corinthinans 10:4-5 destroying speculations (strongholds) brought against the knowledge of God (Greek: knowing,  or knowing God)
How do you take thoughts captive? It’s like manually choosing the truth you know over the reality you feel. And the struggle is to protect us knowing Gods heart for ourselves. No amount of scripture or fellowship is going to be a proper surrogate for God’s heart if we always believe a false or temporary truth over the truth of His heart for us.
Philippians 4:6-8 God’s peace surpasses our comprehension (Greek: intellect, understanding in thought, feeling, or will – SOUL)
The first verse and the last verse talk about choosing what we focus on. Again, this is manually choosing truth you know over the reality you feel. It is difficult to accept a truth we do not understand. That’s why God equips us with a peace that overrides that need to understand. His peace turns our hearts and minds into strongholds of Jesus - the exact opposite of the strongholds we are trying to tear down in 2 Corinthians. Knowing Jesus is the only way to know God.
The issue is one of knowledge (knowing God) verses understanding (understanding God), an issue of SPIRIT (2 Cor 10 & John 4:24 “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”) verses SOUL
Isaiah 55:8-9 (my ways are not your ways, my thoughts not your thoughts, they are higher than you like the heavens are high above the earth) provides us with a crystal clear revelation: we will never understand God. We may understand His motives (love). We may understand aspects of what He does. But we can never understand Him fully, and if that is what we seek, we will experience the ultimate disappointment.
Knowing God (in spirit) is not the same as understanding God (the desire of our soul - the desire of our intellect; understanding something gives us the illusion of having control). We must CHOOSE between TRUST and REASON.
You know a plane can stay in the air though you may not understand how it does. You know that if you flip a light switch on  the light comes on though you may not fully understand the flow of electricity.
A common mistake among believers is to reduce God to something we can understand: so He can fit inside our brains. But in doing that we snip Him, making Him impotent to actually do things God would do. We don’t do it intentionally, but that’s the result of making God “understandable.” We make Him virtually powerless.

On the other hand, if we can satisfy ourselves with knowing God even when - and sometimes in spite of the fact that - we don’t understand Him, we allow Him to fully be Himself. He can maneuver around what we don’t or can’t understand so long as we let Him be Himself.

The Nature of This War
CIVIL WAR: spirit verses soul (Who will we believe?)
During the U.S. Civil War, Lincoln refused to concede that the South was an independent/separate nation. He insisted the South remained part of the United States and that they were insubordinate to their nation.
the war was fought mostly in the South and in geographical parts of the nation that had not chosen a side (border states)
The war in us takes place in our soul and in the places we have not surrendered completely to Jesus’ Lordship, those places that have not yet taken the side of the Spirit (primarily our mind).
In this war, we must CHOOSE the side of God’s peace (even though we are engaged in warfare)

Our Need For Peace
We wage war with God’s peace: the strongholds of 2 Corinthians 10 being replaced with the stronghold of peace in Philippians 4
Galatians 6 – our feet sod with the preparation for the gospel of peace, part of our spiritual armor
Romans 16:20 – our God of peace crushes Satan under our feet
John 14:27 – Jesus said He left us His peace that we may not be troubled or afraid
Where does this peace come from? This peace comes from having complete trust in the Father. Trust comes from knowing (not understanding) the Father. Knowing comes from being in relationship with God. Being in relationship with the Father involves growing more and more aware of His immediate presence and involvement in our lives.
God’s peace is the answer to our involvement in spiritual warfare. Peace is the result of growing trust.
The marriage of PEACE and TRUST
Bonhoefer: on his way to his execution he broke free from the guards and raced toward the gallows, shouting “o death, you are the supreme festival on the road to Christian freedom” (HE WAS IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP IN NAZI, GERMANY… TALK ABOUT CONTENTMENT)

What Faith Does For Trust
TRUST: to be convinced, to rely with inward certainty, have confidence, yield
FAITH: conviction of truth, belief and trust and the actions that follow
Faith is the ACT of trusting God (or, if you will, choosing the side of God’s peace).
Faith is not the result of knowing God (we are saved by grace through faith according to Ephesians 2:8 which happens before we know God but leads to us getting to know Him). Faith is exercising trust, even before we are “convinced.”
What takes more faith? Putting on a parachute or jumping out of a plane? If you put on a parachute out of commitment to jump, then it should take just as much faith to put it on as it does to jump: it all depends on our level of commitment. If we are committed, then putting on the parachute and jumping out of the plane are essentially the same thing, at least in our determination.
Here’s the thing: we say we believe something but often we’ve given ourselves an out long before we get to the point where walking that belief out happens. It’s easy to put on a parachute - whose only purpose is for jumping - if we think when it comes time to jump we can change our mind. Faith is like that. It’s easy to say we believe something. It’s hard to walk it out when everything around us tries to prove us wrong.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) because faith happens without proof (Hebrews 11:1). It is choosing to TRUST God, sometimes even without logic or reason (except, of course, that we know Him and TRUST Him… even if we don’t UNDERSTAND Him or what’s going on - but knowing and trusting Him becomes our resason).
Whoever comes to God must BELIEVE (commit to TRUST) that God is. Think by faith: not reason or fear. God responds to faith, not reason or fear.
OBEDIENCE is the result of us committing to our faith (having the mindset that putting on a parachute means we have, in effect, already jumped out of the plane). We destroy speculations against the knowledge of God by bringing our thoughts captive into the obedience of Jesus. This is accomplished by placing our thoughts on the good, honorable things (Philippians 4). Act as if we believe. Choose to believe God’s truth. Choose God’s peace.

Being At Rest In God’s Peace: Hebrews 4:9-12
TODAY is the day for us to enter God’s rest; a place to live, not just visit. (Disobedience kept Israel from entering this rest. It will do the same for us.)
Those who enter this rest have ALREADY “ceased from the weariness and pain of human labor” just as God rested from His labors.
We are to “be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest.” We must work hard, even fight, to LIVE in God’s rest: it’s a civil war, remember?
Part of this zealous exertion is believing God’s Word; it is (in vs. 12) sharper than a two edged sword and can separate between soul and spirit. This brings clarity to our civil war and reveals which side we must stand on.

NOTE: Notice how much of this, living in God’s PEACE, involves us CHOOSING to live there.

The Power of Perception
There is a man in a mental hospital in Alabama, strapped to a small cot in a white room. In his mind, he is the King of Planet Goron in the Zerepta Galaxy. His Queen is a Lama and his steward is an overly fastidious armchair named Zelda. Which is the greater reality to him? What he perceives is what he believes.
Truth is truth, but we live in a culture that more and more believes truth is relative. Here’s the thing; REAL TRUTH MAY ALWAYS REMAIN THE SAME, BUT WE DETERMINE OUR OWN TRUTHS - FALSE THOUGH THEY MAY BE - when we choose to believe things that aren’t true.
Perception determines our reality. Therefore, we have to learn to have the perception of Jesus. Philippians 4:8 (following the verse about the fortification of peace) “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
In every circumstance there IS something that is excellent and worthy of praise that we can focus on, though it may seem impossible to see (again, it deals with our perception). Still, choosing to focus on it is often the most challenging part. Our perception says we cannot find good. Therefore, we have to look beyond the “reality” we believe and see the Truth from God’s point of view.
Here’s another truth: sometimes things aren’t good. Bad things do happen. The challenge is finding good in that. Sometimes the only good is God Himself.
The Gratitude Principle: if in our perception we are more aware of the dire and negative circumstances surrounding us, we will know only disappointment. The only force that can counteract the power of disappointment is gratefulness. As we train ourselves to exercise gratitude, we slowly become grateful. Our perception changes and therefore our reality.
Key word here is slowly. This kind of thing takes time, practice and discipline.
We must realize that God’s PEACE is our home. We live in God’s peace while being in our natural world: this peace is not away some where… it is HERE, superimposed over the world in which we live.
Our striving is not against our enemy as much as it is to dwell in God’s peace, at rest. Choosing means fighting for it. This fighting and winning is accomplished by God’s peace, trusting God because we know Him. Trust grows out of faith. Faith and trust become explosive in our lives the more aware we are of God’s presence in our lives. We become more and more aware of His presence the more we change our perception through gratitude and choosing to focus on who God is, what His heart for us is, and what we know He is doing.

Eric Love, 8/28/2011