Learning Contentment

I can’t believe we’re closing out on the book of Hebrews this week. Wow. I pray God has stirred your heart as you studied this half-marathon book. You found out—just like I did—how these 13 chapters required a whole new level of spiritual effort. God wanted you right here in this book during this season you’re living. This season has purpose and you are more beautiful for it. Let’s listen to what God speaks to us this week, and then on Sunday we’ll begin a Christmas Quiet study. This study is a bit different in that it has a short, daily reading to encourage stillness, and includes a moment for conversation with children you might have in your home or church.

1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

-          Keep on keepin’ on! This prompting encourages us to stay the course of love. I was reading a devotional from Greg Laurie the other day and it was about how love is about doing not feeling. Love is an action and we are called to act in love and not just expect to feel love.

-          In a world of hitchhikers and questionable strangers, caution must accompany verse 2. I don’t believe an angel is going to be dressed in a trench coat and ask for directions from young children. Think back to when the three strangers visited Abraham near the great trees of Mamre in Genesis 18. There was a divine presence about these men that Abraham quickly recognized, and we can use that same divine marking as we assess any encounters we might experience. We know from Hebrews 1 that angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation…” and so we can look for those characteristics, also.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”

-          How does marriage, money, contentment, and God’s help tie together in context? Here’s what God revealed to me:

o   Contentment is “a state of happiness and satisfaction” (thanks, Google). The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4 that he’s learned to be “content whatever the circumstances.” Contentment is the key to these verses, I believe. God wants us to learn how to be in a condition of thankfulness and satisfaction—even when our circumstances would tell us otherwise. He wants us to be in a constant state of contentment, and He promises that He will help us, and we don’t need to be afraid. So, how does this tie into marriage and money? First, for those of you who are married, be content with your spouse. It doesn’t take long for the new to wear off in marriage and recognize that those head-over-heels butterflies aren’t always fluttering. This is where we mustn’t let our minds (or Satan) get the better of our thinking. We can become easily entangled into creatively dreaming of a better, easier life. A more _________ husband, better behaved children, an increasingly prestigious career, additional wealth…you get the drift. The author of Hebrews is telling us here that we must learn contentment in our marriage. No human will ever satisfy the comfort you desire, friend. Oftentimes, we’ll spend our mental energy on the “what ifs” instead of appreciating what God has placed right in front of us. I do it, and I know you do it, too. We can fall into the same trap with money (because it’s never enough).

o   This world has countless numbing agents. Relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, the Netflix binge, fantasizing of another life, and so forth. What we must learn is to place a vocabulary around our emotions and take them to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I’m learning this discipline, too. It’s hard to lay bare how you’re feeling and learn to process those feelings through the Holy Spirit’s filter. We all must learn contentment; therefore, we must learn to take our burdens to a loving Father who knows just what we need.  

o   Father, teach me to process my emotions through the lens of your Word. Help me not to run away from You; instead, I want to leap into your lap and allow my heart to be healed by You. Thank You that I am always safe in Your presence.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

-          This last week our at-home ladies’ Bible study wrapped up 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders. One of our final chapters was on the Church, and specifically what constitutes true leadership. 1 Timothy 3:2-6 tells us an overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. Other characteristics are listed and those are the qualities we are to imitate. When these qualifications are deeply established in a male leader, we are less likely to be carried away by “strange teachings.” And friends, there are many strange teachings these days. I’m thankful for Open Door Fellowship where I know the Word of God is taught, verse-by-verse, in context, and with the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. To find a fellowship such as this is a rare gift from God.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

-          I love family traditions. As I grow older and my boys become more participatory it seems to churn new meaning. Sunday night dinners, summer vacations, Thursday camp night, Christmas tree farms, and cuddle nights. There’s a special connection we pen in these moments because the worldly noise becomes muted and we can focus as Team Haynes.  However, if there’s no meaning derived from moments, they are pointless. The same was true of the Jewish people—they had eating and drinking rituals, but they were void of true meaning. There is nothing wrong with traditions or godly practices as long as they point you to Christ and not heartless motions.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

-          Again, the author encourages us to remember our leaders and submit to them. Even when we have difficulty respecting the person in the role, we must respect the role itself. I often hear at work things like, “I could never work for him/her.” Yes, you could. You can work for the spawn of Satan and still be “okay.” It’s difficult to grasp (and live) this truth, but it will free you. You serve Christ and if He has called you to this ministry, then keep your eyes fixed on Him. As we were reminded in verses 5 and 6 above, He’s not going to leave you and you don’t need to fear. What can man do to you? He may be able to kill your body, but He cannot steal your happiness unless you willingly hand it over.

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 -          I love these final words. I bolded them because you should read it over your brothers and sisters in Christ—I have read them over you.

22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.

23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.

24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.

25 Grace be with you all.

-          Grace be with you all, precious disciples. Amen.