Theology Matters

Faith Virtue Knowledge


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Asleep in the Storm

ImageI thought I might take a break from my grace series. This is a classic painting by Rembrandt of the account in the Matthew 8 (Mark 4) where Jesus calms the storm. As an introduction to my thoughts below, note where Jesus (our example) is in this picture and what he’s doing.

Following is an original poem  (my first!) which I hope will encourage you in any ‘storms’ you may be facing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asleep in the Storm

Clayton Coombs (February 26 2014)

“O you of little faith!” the sharp rebuke came.
I am the one who heals the blind and the lame.
Nothing at all is too difficult for me.
So what made you think you would drown in this sea?

“Let’s go to the other side.” Isn’t that what I said?
So what made you think this would end with you dead?
The Father has a plan for what we must do there.
And I want you with me, the experience to share.

My Father has not ordained that today I should die,
Though that day is coming, I feel it inside.
But today is the day for the King to confront legion
For a man to be freed; a seed sown in the region.
That is the reason for which we have come.
And we’re safe in His will ‘til His will has been done.

And so before I deal with the storm and the swell,
The storm within you is the one I must quell.

 Peace! Be still!

Suddenly all was completely becalmed.
How faithless we had been to think we’d be harmed.
For nothing, no nothing can resist God’s intention,
When its declared the circumstances don’t warrant a mention.

May I walk as Your son by faith not by sight,
In God’s spoken word not by power or might.
May my ear be attentive, and true to Christ’s form
May I sleep still and peaceful, whatever the storm.

(Feel free to share if this has encouraged you. For audio of a sermon I preached last year on this passage click here)


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Contentment: Shhhh! Its a secret!

Content or discontent? You choose.

Php 4:11b–13 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Discontent is a powerful temptation common to us all. A person who succumbs to it is characterized by restlessness (in the true sense of the word). Such a person lives their life in constant anticipation of elusive ‘if onlys’, which, even if they eventuate, never seem to satisfy the relentless longing for ‘just a little bit more.’  This restless discontent is an enemy of the soul. It shackles a person meant for eternity to the temporal, and yet it robs us of the beauty of the now. Here’s the alarming truth.

 So what’s the secret?

Have you ever wondered exactly what ‘the secret’ is that Paul refers to in Php 4:12? Actually the phrase “I have learned the secret” is a single Greek word that has the sense of being initiated into a secret, or into a secret society. You might not think that “the contentment society” is actually very secret. After all, can’t anybody tell who is content and who is not? Well no, actually. That’s just the genius of a secret society. Membership is obvious, but only to the initiated. Most people assume that you are happy because you have more than they do. So here’s the big secret. Contentment is an attitude you choose. Actually, so is discontentment. And both of them operate independently of our circumstances. It does not necessarily follow that a person the world judges to be ‘poor’ will also be discontent, any more than being rich guarantees contentment. That is because true inner prosperity is measured not by the gap between what I have and what others have—by such a measure I will always find a way of judging myself poor—but by the difference between what I actually need and what I have.[1] By this measure we Christians are rich beyond measure, because the one thing that we really need—friendship with God—is the one thing that nobody can take away from us (Rom 8:38–39).

The secret ways of the contentment society

So that’s the big secret. But how do you do it? How is it possible for Paul to claim contentment in any and every situation (well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in lack)? Here are the secret ways of this society:

1. Trust

True contentment begins with unconditional surrender to God and to his purposes in our lives. And this cannot happen without absolute trust in God’s goodness and love. It is that kind of prevailing trust that causes Paul to see past his circumstances, even in prison, and to rejoice (which as I said in my last post, is a key theme in Philippians). God is good. God loves us. God is in control. These are liberating truths.

2. Perspective

A contented person understands that they are on God’s team, not he on theirs. In 1Tim 6:5 Paul talks about a certain type of Christian that imagines that “godliness is a means of gain.” Paul’s answer (1 Tim 6:6): “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” In other words, God is not primarily concerned with you getting ahead, but rather with the advance of his kingdom in the earth. If by surrender (and surrender is the only way) we join him in this endeavor, we can be certain that all that we (actually) need in order to accomplish all he desires will be amply supplied. But we should also beware that God will at times use apparent lack in order to build our trust in Him, because God is more interested in the measure of our faith than he is in the measure of our possessions.

3. Gratitude

A contented person spends more time thanking God for the blessings that they do have, than they do petitioning him for the things that they do not.

4. Prayer

A contented person chooses prayer over anxiety. Php 4: 6–7 tells us that we need not be anxious (restless) about anything, because in every situation we can bring our requests to God in prayer with thankfulness. If we do this we can truly be at rest in the promise of His peace. This is a “peace that passes understanding.” It defies logic. And it is the legal right only of members of the contentment society.

So what is the secret of contentment? It is the deep conviction that God has supplied and will supply all that I need for all that he has called me to be and to do. This is a place of true rest, true peace, and great gain.


[1] For this insight I am indebted to the great 4th century preacher John Chrysostom of Constantinople. It is found in his second sermon in the series on the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31). I am not sure of the copyright implications of reproducing the entire sermon (which is wonderful), but you can read the main points here. You can read much of it (see pp. 39–55) here.