I’ve thought a lot about what I want to share with you this morning. You see, lately I’ve felt very blessed. Extremely humbled and exceedingly blessed. I don’t have any more money or time. My job isn’t better and life isn’t really easier, but I truly feel as though I don’t deserve to feel as content as I have in the last several months. It’s not complacency. Complacency is the willingness to stay where you are even if you’re miserable. Contentment is the feeling of well-being, the willingness to have life stay just as it is, but the anticipation that there’s more. This peace and contentment I’ve had has caused me to appreciate even more a quote I want to share from the Apostle Paul.
You see, Paul was arrested for sharing his faith. He’d been in prison for two years when he found himself standing before King Herod Agrippa and the Governor of Caesarea, Porcious Festus. Paul told Agrippa and Festus all about how he used to persecute Christians until Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus and blinded him. He explained that he now was a follower of Christ and that he believed that Jesus had died on his behalf to give him freedom from sin and death. He shared about Jesus resurrection and told that that one day Jesus would return for those who believe in Him, and that’s when Festus interrupted him and Paul made a statement that has stuck with me for years. You’ll find it near the end of the book of Acts.
Acts 26:24-29 says:
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
“I pray . . . all may become what I am, except for these chains.” I’ve always thought Paul sounded kind of arrogant, yet right now in my life, I
understand that statement more than ever before. Because this joy, this underlying peace I have . . . when I read posts on Facebook and hear people talk, I wish there was some way I could transfer this to them. Like I said, not every moment of every day is perfect. I still face trials, there are still circumstances that cause my heart to break and make me mad, I still get tired and there’s not enough of me to go around, but underneath it all is this gyroscope of sorts keeping the undergirding of my life stable even when all around me is rocking.
But how did I get here? It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen one small change at a time. One of the things we discover at Celebrate Recovery is the definition of Insanity. When you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results, that is insanity. If we get up every day and do everything exactly the same way we did it the day before and expect our life to change, we are living in a world of insanity. It’s not going to happen.
I started on this journey when I was 14. That’s when I made my commitment to Christ. Unfortunately, that’s all the further I took it for a long time. I just drifted along as a Christian for nearly 10 years. I went to church from time to time. I didn’t read my Bible. I prayed a quick prayer every day. I lived the life of a good person, but I was constantly overwhelmed, depressed and a good bit of the time, down-right miserable.
It was about 20-25 years ago that I started to do something about my Spiritual Growth. I started by going to church at least 3 Sundays a month, and then a few years later, I began meeting with some other moms at the church every week. We studied scripture and prayed together, and that’s when I started to read the Bible for myself.
Since that time I realized that my Spiritual life parallels my physical life. In order to stay healthy, I need food that’s good for me, and if I don’t exercise on a regular basis, it won’t be very many more years till I’ll be weak. In order to make my muscles strong, I have to give them a workout. Our spiritual life is exactly like that. If we aren’t continually doing something to make ourselves spiritually stronger, we will grow weaker. We need spiritual food. But what is Spiritual Food.
In John 4:34, Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.”
Jesus knew that in order to feel fulfilled, we need to do the will of God. Anything less and we’ll feel empty, like something is missing, almost hungry. I know that sometimes it’s difficult to know God’s will for us, but there are a few places we can start. Even if you aren’t sure about the particulars of what God wants you to do, I can guarantee you there are a few things we are all called to do. One of those is worship with all of our heart. Worship is one of the first things that I changed in my life when I started to grow.
There are two verses that I used over and over again as I began to learn to really worship Christ. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” and Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” For months in the mid ‘90’s I meditated on these verses every day and spent time almost that often finding ways to truly delight myself in the Lord and know that God is God.
As I concentrated on these two verses, my attitude toward Christ and church and all the rules I’d been taught as a kid began to change. Plus because I was sure that Christ wanted me to know more about Him and the truth that was in Scripture, I devoted myself to reading the Bible daily. Yep, every day without fail I have some sort of scripture somewhere. Most days (at least 5 out of every seven), I read a part of my Bible. On the other two, I’m either here in church and Sunday School where I hear or read scripture or I read a verse or two throughout my day. I have gone through times in my life when I haven’t read as much, but in the past 25 years, I’ve probably read the whole Bible from cover to cover at least 15-20 times. I think that sometimes when we aren’t sure what God’s will is, when we can’ t really hear God speak, perhaps it’s because we haven’t really mastered some of things that we know are God’s will, something like reading the Bible, his love letter to us.
God’s love letter to us . . . Do you really realize how much Jesus loves you? Let’s look at this for a minute, Jesus lived in heaven, a perfect place with no sin, no cold, no bad weather. He lived in a place with His Father where there is no darkness, no deceit, only pure genuine and unselfish love. Why would anyone leave such a place? He left for a couple of reasons. His walk on earth showed us God in the flesh. Because He came to earth, we have the New Testament which gives us a glorious picture of what God expects. He came to show us God’s nature, and finally He came because from the very first sin there had to be a blood sacrifice in order to make up for it. Even before God set up the sacrificial system in Leviticus, people made animal sacrifices. Even the pagans knew that in order for God to be happy blood must be shed. The pagans, of course were worshipping false and numerous Gods, but it didn’t matter, somewhere inside of them, they were created to know that sin must be atoned for and blood is the only thing worthy of that atonement.
God had told the Israelites that the life of any creature was in its blood. Jesus was the same. His life was in His blood, and when He allowed His blood to run down the cross of Calvary, He did it for you. Do you take that personally? Do you believe that if you were the only one alive, Christ would still have come to make that sacrifice for you? We’re in the midst of Lent right now and I’ve asked you every week to consider the cost. What did Good Friday and Easter cost Jesus? What part of that event was your cost? How much did you personally make Him suffer?
And today I want to ask you, what have you done recently to show Jesus that you appreciate the sacrifice?
We want the life of contentment and joy. We want that peace the Bible promises. People all over are handing out Bible Promise Books and people are holding on to the promise of scripture. They aren’t wrong! Every promise in the Book is true, but why do we expect the promises of a Christ who died for us to be ours if we won’t live for Him?
Are you living your faith? Maybe you’re wondering what that means. I want to know, is your faith an inseparable part of your life? Is it completely impossible to do anything in your day without that thing be effected by or having some effect on your relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you have a relationship with the man who died for you? I mean a real relationship, a personal commitment and a desire to know Jesus more each day. What are you doing different in your life than you were one year ago?
If you can’t answer positively to all of those questions, yes, every single one, then you aren’t living in the faith. You may have faith, but unless your faith is living, changing you from the inside out, you’re missing out on the best part of being a Christian.
Why do you think it’s so hard to get people to come to church, to find Christ? It’s because Christians who aren’t living their faith are boring and hold very little appeal for the non-Christian. I lived that life for a long time. I was a great person. I followed all of the rules, did everything I was supposed to. It was hard, it was boring. I was depressed and miserable a good part of the time.
And one final verse I want to leave with you. If you really want to know the fullness of life that Jesus has to offer, if you want Him to pour out blessings on you, learn this verse and make it a major thread in the fabric of your life. This is like the thread in a sweater that when it’s pulled it causes the entire sweater to come unraveled. Without this thread, my life would fall apart.
Matthew 19:29 says: “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
If I’m not willing to give up everything for Christ, Christ can’t give His everything to me. I’ll either take it for granted or misuse it. When things in this life concern me more than my relationship with Him, Jesus knows I’ll abuse and neglect the good things, the peace and joy He wants to pour out.
About what in your life are you thinking, “I can’t give that up for the sake of Jesus Christ?” Maybe it’s your family, your job, your children. Perhaps it’s something fun you do or your friends. What in your life do you ever think, “I’d die without that?” Maybe it’s something else like sports or money, food or that glass of wine once a day. It might be something that is totally harmless; it could be something that you don’t want anyone else to know about. Whatever it is, that thing or things is keeping you from enjoying the joy and contentment that God wants to pour out on you today.
There is more to life than just living day to day. There is excitement and adventure, there’s the mystery of the unknown. There is joy and blessing and an underlying peace that is completely unexplainable until you experience it. There is contentment. Remember, it’s not complacency, it’s contentment, and the more I feel this contentment, the more I’m convinced deep within me that there are even more ways that Christ wants to bless me when he knows I’m ready for it.
And just like God won’t give us more trials than we can handle, He’ll never give us more blessings than we can live with either. If He blesses us too much, prematurely, we’ll become arrogant, conceited and use it for things that aren’t God’s will.
But the more we do our part to live our faith, to worship Him, study His Word, learn His will and give up everything for Him, the more He will bless, the more contentment we’ll find. We may not be rich, we will not be trouble free, but we will be left with the feeling we are loved and blessed more than anyone can possibly imagine.