I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13 NASB)
I have recently come to the revelation that I am not as content in my life as I think I am. When it all boils down, the wrong thinking essentially comes down to a basic belief that I am able to provide for my needs and I am ultimately responsible. This is a lie and very dangerous thinking. I want to share with you today how God over the past few weeks has been transforming my thinking about this.
DISCONTENTMENT GONE VERY WRONG
A few weeks back I was having one of those days where I was fretting over the financial state of my life. My wife is a stay at home mom (a choice we made because we had a sense from God that this what He wanted us to do) and home schools our daughter and of course looks after our 7 month old son. For years I worked in IT and did very well in that field. In the last 6 years God put me back in school and changed my vocation completely. I went from a very welling paying (but truly unsatisfying job) to a not so well paying (but a much more fulfilling) job as a chaplain at a homeless shelter. None of this is really the problem though. None of this is the source of discontentment in my life. The problem is that I am not content with God being in control. I am not happy to wait on His timing for provision or relying on Him to supply for needs. This is of course a serious problem. So there I was a few weeks back angry at God about not being able to have enough capital to be at $0 in the bank let alone purchase some those things that I simply "wanted". I was so angry with Him that I used some choice words with God basically telling Him where to go. Totally and completely sinful. I have of course made myself look entirely foolish. God (as usual) has brought great glory to Himself (which I will share momentarily) and brought some transformation to my life in the process. BTW, I deserved to look foolish and in the end I am glad for the foolishness because I have learned a great lesson in it. So about week after spending some time with God and confessing my ungodliness and receiving His forgiveness and deciding to trust Him with all of the financial stuff, the next test came. It was a Tuesday morning and I took my car in for a routine oil change. I had noticed over the course of a few weeks that there had been a rattle coming from the car so I had the mechanic take a look. One of the most fearful words used by mechanics came from His mouth after looking at it: transmission. Now if you have ever owned a car, you know why the word transmission strikes fear into the minds of men; transmission problems so often translate into dollar problems. He told me straight up that there were some bearing in the transmission that had worn out and that they needed to be replaced. In addition the clutch had over 200, 000 kms on it (not bad for a clutch) and should likely be changed. His damage estimate: 1400 to replace the clutch and replace the bearings. My heart sank and my initial reaction was "God... really?" The mechanic told me that I could probably leave it for a little while but not to long as the bearings would give out and that could cause me some more grief (towing, possibility of additional damage etc). As I left the garage I began to pray "Lord I choose to trust you. Please provide me with the funds needed to have this fixed" and then I left it. However because I don't really trust Him still, there was no contentment even after that prayer.
Now there is some more back story to this that you need to understand. On Dec. 31st 2013 I was out hunting with my friend using a crossbow for the first time (which I had borrowed). After hunting most of the day with it I thought that I would like to get one. I made a decision to start saving for one; a little bit here, a little bit there. In addition I made the decision to sell my compound bow to a friend to free up a little more capital so I could get the crossbow sooner. By the time of the transmission problem I had managed to scrounge up almost 500 towards my new crossbow including the sale of my compound bow. Now, with the transmission problem I was faced with having to give up my 500 for the car repair. You can ask my wife, I was holding tight to that money insisting that I couldn't use it to fix the car. The whole time there was this incredible temptation to just lose it on God again and put the blame on Him for not taking care of me. But I chose to trust and kept saying "God you are in control and I trust you" (still no contentment)
THE UNDESERVED BLESSINGS OF GOD
This is where the miraculous begins. The same day that I found out about the car repair, my female Brittany Spaniel went into heat. My wife Katy, called me at work and told me this and suggested we call the breeder that we purchased her from and see if she would like to get another litter of puppies from her (something we had done a couple of times before). I called the breeder and left a message. She called back 15 minutes later and said she would gladly do that. Just like that out of the blue our dog Ember went into heat and the breeder said yes I will use her for another litter of puppies. This translates into a sizable financial boon for us. If she has a big enough litter we could potentially see a large portion of that car repair paid for. God provides, and in ways that I can't predict or logically reason out. That money is 2 months down the road as far as being in our hands, but it was God trying remind me again that He is my contentment and strength. The story is not over yet. A few days after this a couple of my buddies and their wives (people who my wife and I are walking in close relationship with) who know my struggle with trusting God in this respect felt a leading from the Lord to bless me. They asked me the one day to help them with something. I followed them to one their cars and they opened the trunk. The first thing I saw was a 8.5/11 piece of white paper with words written in what looked like a blue sharpie. It said "Matrix 330" (a type of Excalibur Crossbow) followed by "To: Jeremy" and then the word "From:" and their names followed by Jesus. Behind the piece of paper was a brand new crossbow. I broke down and wept and threw my arms around these guys necks thanking them for this incredible gift. The words that were spoken next by them I will never forget "Jeremy we just wanted to say that we appreciate everything that you do." It was a wonderful compliment and affirmation from them, but in that moment it was also being spoken from the throne room of heaven. Even now I am beginning to tear up as I remember that moment. I was so wrecked. How could I ever doubt God would take care of me? Why should I ever be discontent? He is with me in all things. A week or two after I treated my God with contempt and so little reverence He was once again coming through in a far better way then I could ever conceive of. Not only was I able to easily give up the money that I was setting aside for a crossbow (which wasn't really a need to begin with) but I received the gift of a crossbow that was far better than the one I was saving for. In addition more of that car repair was being covered.
A week later I decided to take the car in to be fixed even though I didn't have all the money for it. Here was God at work again in 2 ways. Firstly the clutch and the bearings were far closer to begin completely worn out than mechanic or I thought. When they replaced bearings there were a number of the individual bearings that were gone and big metal burrs on the remaining ones (Hence the rattle in the transmission). The clutch itself was worn down to the rivets and was very much on its last legs. I had brought the car in at exactly the right time. The same day it was in being repaired God put it on another person's mind to give me $500 towards the repair. To say the least I was completely blown away by God again. He had come through again. I don't know if this story will impact you nearly as much as it did me, but I saw His provision, His love, and His grace when I deserved nothing.
This brings me to the passage that I quoted earlier. During this whole period where I was angry at God, questioning God, doubting God and even weakly putting my trust in God; my wife (the incredibly Godly lady that she is) suggested that I spend some time meditating on Phil 4:11,12. Not the one that I quoted earlier, but 2 verses before it. It says this:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil 4:11,12 NASB)
My wife knew that I needed to see my situations as Paul saw his. His were by far more harsh than mine will likely ever be. I did desire to view things the way that Paul did. I so desired to be content in my life, I just didn't understand how. Paul had figured out the secret. He makes mention of being content in all things. For Paul it didn't matter whether he was humble circumstance or in a place of prosperity. It didn't matter whether his stomach was full or whether he was going hungry. Nor did it matter if he had abundance or was in need. He had learned the secret and I think I am finally beginning to as well. As I meditated on vs. 11 and 12 and looked at it contextually to ensure I was not off track, my eyes came to rest upon vs 13. Up until this point, I had not been able to get my head around how Paul was able to do this. What was the secret? What was the mystery? What was it I was missing that would put me in that place of true contentment. The answer is deep and complicated (or at least the circumstances that we walk through often are) and it is so simple at the same time: I can do all things when Christ is my strength. So often I try to go it alone and be the source of my own contentment and provision and supply. I can't be... ever. When I think that I can and then fail at, I blame God for not providing. This is actually incredibly ridiculous if you think about it. If I am doing it my way and trusting myself to provide and supply why do I blame God when it doesn't seem to happen? (Ever notice that when we do accomplish something we rarely give Him credit) Haven't I essentially asked Him to be a gentlemen and step aside while I figure things out? Ultimately this is not about capital for car repairs or about a financial return from breeding a dog. It's also not about the person that gave 500 dollars as gift because God told them too. As much as I love the crossbow, it's not about that either. These things (nice though they are) are ultimately fleeting and they are just stuff; but they are the stuff that God has used to impact my life and walk with Him (a big thanks to all of you for listening to God and blessing me and family in the ways that you have). If I want to put on true contentment and walk in the same manner that Paul did, I need to put on Christ and allow Him to be my strength in the good and the bad, in the prosperity and in the lack and know that in everything He will provide. What about you?