Sunday, July 4, 2010

Empty Hands

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Philippians 4:11 NKJV

Have you ever found yourself at a place in your life where you could truly say the words; “I am content”? I know when I first began to look at this passage many years ago, one of the first things I realized is what most people have in common is the desire to have something they don't. Now many might say this is just human nature, and it's not necessarily a bad thing while pointing out all the good things that have resulted from a desire to have more. Yet the question remains; is it a good thing to want more?

When I looked closely at this verse from Paul I noticed that he says something very interesting; “I have learned...”. Did you realize contentment is learned? It's not natural. Try telling someone that they need to learn to say “no” to something they want and see how far you get with that. I'm sure you have heard the old saying, “whoever dies with the most toys wins!” Call me crazy, but when I look at Satan tempting Eve in the garden, would it be fair to say that the “original sin” was a result of the desire to have something more, and not be content with what you had?

Satan's tactic was to convince Eve that it was unfair of God to say no to something she rightly deserved. Have you ever experienced anger, or frustration, or impatience with God when you want something and never get it? Have you ever really considered the possibility that there is a reason the all knowing God of the universe told you no? Unfortunately, the normal response by the majority of people is to simply pursue obtaining whatever it is they want, and ignoring the possibility that it really is not something they need.

With that thought in mind, notice what Paul goes on to say;

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV

I have no doubt most of you are familiar with this verse, but I want to challenge you with a question. Do you claim this promise, and like Paul, have no needs? You see, Paul had learned that he could and should be content with what he had because he had a promise from God that his needs would always be taken care of. So in reality, Paul was saying contentment comes from the knowledge that God promises to give us whatever we need, when we need it. Yet the vast majority of us go on our merry way pursuing what we think our “needs” are, and not waiting to see what God will do. Is that because we think God is incapable of fulfilling His promise to us, or that He is not in the position to know what our needs really are? Let me share a question I heard recently in a sermon that I think applies well to this subject. “How can God give you anything if your hands are full?”

You see, if we spend all our time pursuing our “dream” and stay busy acquiring “things”, we take away from God the chance to give. Let me share two stories from personal experience that may help illustrate what we are talking about. The first begins with me buying a larger truck to use in my business. Of course, I then had no available cash for a tool box that would fit in the bed and carry all my tools, so I just complained a little and carried on while trying to save enough to get one. Finally I had saved enough, so I went to the store and ordered one. I came home that day and cheerfully informed my wife that I had ordered one and immediately saw thunderclouds forming in the kitchen. Why? It seems she wanted to do something nice for me so she had gone out and ordered one too. Oops. You see, that fell under the category of frustrating someones ability and desire to do something nice for me. Have you ever considered the possibility we do that to God by not waiting for Him to give in His own good time?

One of my favorite memories about my oldest daughter occurred when she was just learning to ride a bicycle. All the other girls had the famous and highly desirable “Barbie” bike, while she did not. She was old enough to know they were expensive, and in all reality probably thought she would never own one. At Christmas, however, your's truly went out and bought one and hid it in the hall closet on Christmas Eve. (Yes, I know, I spoiled my daughters.) On Christmas morning we opened all our gifts as usual, then sat around looking at what we all got. After a bit, I told my daughter that she should look in the closet for something to put all the wrapping in. At first, I thought I had really messed up because her reaction was to start crying, but I soon realized she was overwhelmed because she never expected to get one.

Have you ever received something from God that you did not expect? What was your reaction? The most overlooked part of verse nineteen is that we are promised to receive “according to His riches”. Ever think God can afford a little more than you can? His riches are infinite. I think Paul is attempting to teach us the wisdom of waiting on God and seeing what He provides rather than trying to get it ourselves.

Are your hands full? Learn contentment by emptying them, then practice contentment by telling yourself no to the things you think you need. If you wait on God to provide what you truly need, the surprise at the abundance of His provision will stay with you the rest of your life.

Keep watching.