Be content With What You Have

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. 

Are you content with your life right now? Whether you would answer yes or no to this question, the more important question is this: When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself “Why am I (or am I not) content?”

Being “content” in society today is based on having favorable circumstances. One day we are content because our 401(k) is rising and the next week we are no longer content because our 401(k) is going down. Or we are content because business is good, but are no longer content when business is bad. In our culture, we want to be happy, and through that find contentment. God has called us to view contentment differently. 

In his letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul shares the secret to being content: “ Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:11-13)

At the time of writing the letter, Paul was living in a Roman prison. Before that, he’d been beaten within an inch of his life, betrayed, and left for dead. Despite all this, Paul expressed his joy and appreciation for the church. Paul realized that contentment is an attitude we learn and not a thing we achieve. He had learned to be content regardless of his circumstances.

Contentment is not about our circumstances. Contentment is God doing something inside of us. The good news is that we all can learn how to become fully content with who we are, what we are, and what we’re doing.  We can learn how to be content by thanking God for what we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have.  

When the author of Hebrews wanted to teach his readers about contentment, he reminded them what God had said. “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

Do not be like the world, unwilling to change because they are afraid that if their circumstances change, then so will their happiness. Be content with what you have and live the life that God has called you to live.  

Questions to Consider:

  1. What feelings or experiences do you have related to managing money?
  2. What keeps you from developing a successful budget?
  3. Who is someone you could consider asking for help? (Friend, mentor, financial person)

Budget Your Spending

“Plan carefully and you will have plenty; if you act too quickly, you will never have enough” – Proverbs 21:5 (GNT)

Budgeting lies at the foundation of every financial plan. It doesn’t matter if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or earning six-figures a year, you need to know where your money is going if you want to have a handle on your finances. Unlike what you might believe, budgeting isn’t all about restricting what you spend money on and cutting out all the fun in your life. It’s really about understanding how much money you have, where it goes and then planning how to allocate those funds best.

A budget is simply a plan for how to spend the money we have. As Christians, we recognize that everything we have is a gift from God. We are not the owners; we are simply the managers of what He has entrusted to us. Knowing this should give us a better perspective on handling money. A budget is a great way to make sure we are being faithful.

Throughout the Bible, God gives us important principles for life, including how to handle money and finances. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears and the mountain grasses are gathered in, your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will provide the price of a field. And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself, your family, and your servant girls.” (Proverbs 27:23-27)

This passage from Proverbs gives us some insight into managing family assets. It will require not only planning but self-discipline to stay within the budget. It will probably involve putting off some purchases until later or deciding against others entirely. Every budget starts with deciding which expenses are the most important and the first to be paid. Food, shelter, utilities, clothing, and transportation are the basic necessities that should be at the top of the priority list. Within a Christian budget, one must not forget to give God what belongs to Him.  

Working together as a family, you can create a budget that will provide a plan of action, a goal to look forward to. “May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” (Psalm 20:4)

Financial freedom does not come from making more. It comes from spending less. Financial freedom is not based on how much you make. It’s based on how you spend what you make. You can be financially free at any level of income.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What feelings or experiences do you have related to managing money?
  2. What keeps you from developing a successful budget?
  3. Who is someone you could consider asking for help? (Friend, mentor, financial person)

Save And Invest In The Future

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.” – Matthew 25:16-18. 

Saving and investing often are used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Saving is a way of protecting while investing is a way of growing. What should we be doing with the money and gifts God has entrusted to us? Should we be saving or investing?

In Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents, we hear of a master entrusting three servants with his property while he’s away. When the master returns and begins taking inventory, the first two servants double what they were entrusted, but the last servant brings back the same amount he was given. In verse 27, the master responds by saying, “why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”

Watchman Nee pointed out in a sermon that a person will walk differently when he has a treasure in his pocket. If you’re walking down the street and only have a quarter in your pocket, you aren’t very concerned about losing it. But if you’re given $10,000 and told to guard it in your pocket you will be a lot more careful than if you had only a quarter. There are certain things that you just won’t do, for fear of losing that treasure.

If you have deposited your life with Jesus Christ, then He has deposited the precious treasure of the gospel with you. Invest your life wisely, which means, invest wisely how you spend each day. To invest your life successfully, deposit it with Christ and guard His deposit with you.

Multiplying will always have an element of risk involved, but the alternative of staying put doesn’t yield results. The gifts we have been given are God’s, so we should guard against underutilizing our time, money, relationships, or talents because of fear of the future. God wants us to further His kingdom. In order to do that, we must be active with our resources. The Bible says a lot about making financial investments. In fact, Proverbs 21:20 says, “The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.”

A fundamental financial principle is this: when you spend your money, it’s gone. Yet when you save your money, it works for you. The problem with most of us is that we work for our money instead of letting our money work for us. If we want God’s blessing on our finances, we must learn to save and invest for the future.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between saving and investing in your mind? 
  2. What can we do this week to invest our money, time, gifts, and resources to further the Kingdom?

Give The First 10 Percent Back

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” —Acts 20:35

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul attributed these very words to Jesus in Acts 20:35. When Jesus says something, we should pay attention. But paying attention to something we read and hear is quite different from buying into the principle and allowing it to permeate and guide our lives. What we need to truly understand is that Paul’s quoting of Jesus is, in fact, God’s perspective on giving.

God gave everything when He gave His Son to die for us. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we can have eternal life. God does not hold back when He gives. In fact, God gives freely (Romans 6:23) and fully (Luke 12:32); He expects nothing less of us. So, if God wants us to give, what does that look like?

Giving usually starts with the tithe. The tithe is the first 10 percent of our earnings and our resources. Why give the first 10 percent of our resources? Because giving the first 10 percent of what we make is a principle (the principle of firstfruits) that establishes our priorities. We are saying, “God, You are first in all my resources.” In Exodus 34:26, God told the people, “As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God…” Practically speaking, this means giving God 10 percent of every paycheck before we spend that money on anything else.

Faithfully giving our very best—the first of our earnings—opens the door of blessing over our remaining resources. We have heard testimony after testimony declaring God’s blessing on the lives and resources of people who tithe. They have discovered the truth of Malachi 3:10: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

Scripture overwhelmingly supports this principle of sowing and reaping. When we sow our resources into God’s kingdom, we receive a blessing. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.” (Proverbs 3:9–10). Proverbs 11:24 says, “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” And Luke 6:39 adds, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” 

The act of giving reminds us that God is the supplier of everything and reinforces the value in putting God first.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your biggest motivation for giving? 
  2. Has your view on giving versus receiving changed over the years? Explain.

Seek To Be Diligent In All You Do

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” — Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV).

Some people seem to have a natural ability to succeed; others seem to fall short in their endeavors. What makes the difference in reaching the goal and missing the mark? In many cases, the answer can be found in one word: diligence. If we look up “diligence” in a dictionary or thesaurus, how do we find it defined? Persevering application, exertion, intent, vigor, and care to name a few. Diligence is an attitude that drives us to accomplish a mission successfully.

But, what about you? Are you truly diligent in your projects or undertakings? Do you pursue your projects with a positive attitude? Do you work as hard as you can? Are you really determined to succeed? Do you pursue your goals with perseverance and determination, convinced that you are able to succeed?  

God wants to put food on the tables of the world, so if you are in the food industry, you are God’s partner. God wants to supply all the stuff at Walmart that you need to live, so if you manufacture or pack or truck or ship or repair or stock or sell or manage money or whatever you do, it’s serving God. God wants to clean people’s teeth and have kids learn math. He even wants us to have computers to create and communicate information. So God equipped you to help Him. Our work is partnering with God. 

As followers of Christ, it is our job to fulfill God’s intention for work so that He is glorified. We are the chosen few who really can do our work with inner motivation because we know that we are really serving Him. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24).  Paul urged the Corinthians that “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Glorifying God is not something that only happens within the walls of the church. God is just as interested in being glorified on a weekday afternoon as we try to be productive in the sleepy slump after lunch as He is during the uplifting crescendo of a worship anthem on Sunday morning.  

If I want God’s financial blessing on my life I must do my work, whatever I’m doing, as an act of worship.  No matter what you do.  You may sweep the streets – it’s more than just a job.  You’re doing it as if you’re working for the Lord, no matter what you do. And whatever you do, do it with all your heart.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does good planning and hard work lead to in Proverbs 21:5?
  2. What do diligent hands bring to us in Proverbs 10:4?
  3. What needs to change in your heart for you to cultivate the quality of being diligent?    

Recognize God As Your Source. Everything Else is a Resource Provided By God.

“Everything comes from God; everything exists by his power; and everything is intended for his glory.” –  Romans 11:36. 

We all need sources in our lives that we can depend on. A source is a supplier of something that we cannot produce on our own. For example, in your house, if you want to be warm during the winter, you need a source of energy. That gas line coming into your house is one of your sources. Same with electricity. And then are financial sources, food sources, and government sources. Sources make our lives easier, enjoyable, and productive. Those sources are subject to shortages and interruptions and can be in short supply. But not so when God is our source and supply. 

The truth? God is your Source—the perfect and on-time Source for everything you could ever need or want. But, you have to receive Him as your one and only Source by faith. The Word of God will renew your mind, feed your faith, and get you where you need to be to receive the supply God has for you. If you allow it, God will be your Source for everything you need. Jeremiah states the result when one places their confidence in God as their source: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

Most people think they have to be their own source; when something happens, they’ve been taught to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on through their own efforts. That sounds fine until we get to the self-effort part. We all have human limitations, and eventually, we’ll find that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 ESV). We need to put our trust and security in something that cannot be taken from us: God. Your job shouldn’t be your security. Your job is a channel, but God is your source. Let me say it again: Your job is a channel, but God is the source of your supply. He’s our never-ending source for whatever we’re in short supply of.

If your source has stopped working God can turn on another source. If God closes a door in your life, He can open another door. And if another door closes, He can open a window, and you can crawl through it. God is not limited to your ability and capacity.  Bank accounts rise and fall. Economies go up and down. Stock markets can go bull or bear. It doesn’t matter.

By coming to Jesus every day, you draw from the source of all resources. He is the love you so need, the joy that will motivate and renew you, and the strength that will carry you through the day no matter how much supply you require.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you for God to be your source and supply? 
  2. How does putting your trust in God’s wealth affect the way you handle your finances?

The Coronavirus Is Changing The Journey, But Not The Final Destination

“In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not.” –  C. S. Lewis.

The Coronavirus is reshaping our journey, but not its end. And yes, we’re scrambling and adjusting and hurting. But we have some precious truths to hold us steady in a topsy-turvy time. God never promised that this life would be fair. We live on a broken planet. Heaven is where everything is done God’s way. Life on Earth just doesn’t work like that. But what happens on this earth isn’t all there is to life. Heaven is our ultimate destination.

When we get where we’re going, we’ll enter a future city that’ll last forever. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” And Revelation 22: 5 says, that the servants of God in the New Jerusalem “…will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1–5).

That future, final destination hasn’t been diminished in the least by the coronavirus. 1 Peter 1:4 says, “we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

You’ll spend 60, 80, or maybe even 100 years on earth. You’ll spend an eternity with God in heaven. That’s one of the most important reasons Christians should be joyful — God has given us eternal life. And eternity will be amazing.

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” There is much to grieve over in this life. We experience loss — of possessions, of loved ones, of health. But in Heaven, there will be no more job pressures, layoffs, bitterness, broken bones, broken homes, cancer, funerals, crime, disappointments, high blood pressure, or toothaches to name a few. 

Heaven is an extraordinary place of astounding wonder. Greater than we can fully understand or imagine. It is the home of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings; the home He delights in sharing with us.

To spend eternity in any other place than Heaven is the one goal we should keep in front of us in every decision and every situation life should bring our way, big or small. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How do you picture Heaven? 
  2. How does the idea of Heaven affect how we deal with the Coronavirus?

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

“ I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.” – 2 Corinthians 2:4. 

If you have small children or grandchildren, then you will probably remember the book written by Judith Viorst about poor Alexander who has gum stuck in his hair to start the day and things get worse from there. One calamity follows another, but when Alexander tells his family about his misadventures, he finds little sympathy. Alexander begins to wonder if bad things happen only to him. Do you feel that way?

It brings to mind Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul was saddened to see the many challenges the people of Corinth were facing. Many of these challenges were associated with their faith. His goal was to encourage them. Though the circumstances are very different, millions of Christian families are currently experiencing various trials from the COVID-19 pandemic. We find ourselves in some degree of quarantine, living with fear and uncertainty, as we all do our best to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading. And we pray. 

We pray especially for those infected with COVID, and those whose incomes and livelihoods are threatened. For those already isolated, lonely, and scared. God is peace and we need His peace today. The kind of peace that gives us the power to remain calm even in the middle of a storm.

In fact, you may have seen the famous picture of a storm raging on the sea with the winds blowing and the waves crashing on a big rock that stands alone in the middle of the ocean. And when you look closer, you see a little bird nestled safely in that rock. That is peace. The kind of peace Paul writes about in Philippians 4:4-6.  This kind of peace is not an absence of challenges or storms, but it is God’s preserving presence in the midst of the storm. That’s why Paul said this peace passes all human understanding.

I don’t think we could ever adequately describe God’s peace. You can sense it, you can own it, but it’s almost impossible to do it justice with words. But it is what God gives us just when we need it most. Just when you need a verse, He brings it to mind. Just when you need a friend; He brings one into your life.  God will flood your heart with peace if you let Him.

“If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.” – Thomas Watson

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it so difficult to find peace in our lives?
  2. What can we do to find peace during the pandemic? 

God Calling

“Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.” – 1 Corinthians 7:17. 

“I’ve been called to…”  It is easy to envy somebody who starts a sentence with that statement because it has a kind of divine aura around it and besides, it is nice to have your calling figured out; It is not that easy for most people. Many well-meaning Christians have spent much of their time and energy trying to figure out what God has for their future. They wait for God to give them a feeling, to reveal some sort of sign, or to ordain a “we can’t-miss this sign” circumstance. The desire to walk in line with God’s will is certainly admirable, but how do we know our calling for our lives?

Sometimes it helps to know what your calling is not: your calling is not for you. You are called and gifted individually, but it is not for your benefit or gratification. Your calling is for the benefit of others. “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:4–5)  We should be asking “How, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to others.” 

Our calling is not our choice. We are called by God: we don’t call ourselves. This might sound pretty obvious, but how many people believe they have to grab hold of their calling lest it slip away because they were not decisive enough. Yes, there is a human element in everything we do, but fortunately, we’re under God’s guidance and grace. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” So, practically, one simple way to discover your calling is to figure out how you can best serve others with the gifts and abilities the Lord has given you.  

Many people view calling as a future event. In reality, your calling is whatever your life consists of right now. God has placed you in Panama City, or Panama City Beach, or Lynn Haven or Callaway for a reason. Rather than worry about tomorrow, God wants us to bloom where we’re planted, to work toward the Kingdom today. There’s nothing wrong with planning and working for the future, but the overriding goal should be to serve the Lord where He’s placed you until He calls you to something else.  

It’s a possibility that God may open doors or give you a feeling of peace to help you make decisions. But it’s an absolute certainty that God’s word provides everything you need to know to be equipped to live the life God has called you to live.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you trust God with your future? Why or why not? 
  2. Have you taken the time to think about what vocation God may be calling you to? How can you continue to discern where God is calling you?

Recognize The Gifts God Has Given You

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” — 1 Peter 4:10 

If you have ever been entrusted with something valuable, you know it is an awesome responsibility. Not only do we feel a sense of responsibility, but we feel honored that someone trusts us with something they value. We take the responsibility seriously because we want to be worthy of that trust. 

Peter tells us that God expects us to use the gifts He gave us. Discover your gift(s), and then focus on your gift(s). Focus on what God has wired you to do. Once you know what you are good at spend time becoming better at that with the ultimate goal to help others. That’s what he means when he says we are to “Use them well to serve one another.” 

In other words, God didn’t give you your gift to promote self-satisfaction and spiritual pride; He gave you a gift to build up the body of Christ. That requires us to ask: How am I using my gift(s) to build up the body? Who in particular is benefitting from my gift(s)?  Steward your gifts for the sake of others. Don’t waste valuable time grumbling about gifts you don’t have or resenting others for the gifts they do have.  You must ask: Am I being a faithful steward of the gift(s) God has entrusted to me and do they “bring glory to God through Jesus Christ?”

And think about cloning yourself. This can sound scary and counterintuitive, but it is so valuable. One of the best ways to become better at the gifts God has given you is to train others to do what you do. If leading a small group is your gift, raise up other small group leaders by showing them what you do, working on it with them, letting them do it on their own, and coaching them along the way. Helping someone else lead a small group is a great way to use your gift to help others and strengthen the small group ministry at the same time.  

We are simply stewards who are using the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given us; and we do so in the strength that He provides. When we serve, let’s purpose to use God’s gifts for God’s purposes and give God the glory He so rightly deserves.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is or has been your attitude toward spiritual gifts? Are certain gifts better than others? 
  2. Do you see the connection between how God has gifted you and how you can influence your world?