Learn To Be Content

“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need” (1 Corinthians 4:7-8).

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have and what didn’t happen, you can choose to be grateful for what you do have and what has happened. This doesn’t come naturally, not even for the apostle Paul, who said, “I have learned to be content.” Being content is a learning process.

It’s hard to admit we struggle with envy because it’s such an ugly emotion. When you’re envious of others, you really want them to fail, because it makes you feel better that they don’t have more than you. That’s pretty crazy, isn’t it? If we can learn to be grateful for what we have, we can begin to get rid of these feelings of envy.

It’s important to understand that envy is not about having a desire or a dream or a goal. It’s good to have those. Envy is not about looking forward to something or hoping that something can happen in your life or even wondering if you should have some thing. Instead, envy is resenting somebody who has already obtained what you desire or who has reached a goal you have yet to attain. Envy says you can’t be happy until you get that desire or reach that goal. Envy is not being grateful for what you already have.

The Bible tells us that we already have more than we need and far more than we deserve. Every good thing in our lives is a gift from God, and it is up to him to decide when and how he blesses us. It’s up to us to choose to be grateful and make the most of what we’ve been given.

Confront In Truth, Affirm In Love

“A word of encouragement does wonders!” (Proverbs 12:25).

If someone came to you today and said, “Let’s go have some coffee; I want to point out all the areas in your life that need changing,” you probably wouldn’t be thrilled to have that conversation. You might think, “Who do you think you are?” You might become resentful, rebellious, and resistant.

Here’s a better strategy. When you have a speak-the-truth-in-love session with somebody, begin and end on a positive note, and affirm these things:

You love and care for that person.
You will pray for and help that person.
You believe that person can change.
Paul did this in 1 and 2 Corinthians by beginning and ending with affirmation. For example, Paul starts one letter by saying, “I always thank God for you,” and ends with, “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.” Between that he’s dealing with some very tough truths while also giving affirmation in the middle: “I have great confidence in you, and I have a lot of reasons to be proud of you” (2 Corinthians 7:4).

Notice that Paul used the word “and.” Never use the word “but” in a confrontation. The moment you do, whatever you say before or after will be totally ignored and invalidated: “I think you’re a great person, but . . .” “We’ve been friends a long time, but . . .” Instead, use the word “and”: “You’re a great person, and I believe you can be even better.” “We’ve got a great relationship, and I believe there are some things we need to work on.” That’s what it means to affirm someone.

To Serve Others, Open Your Eyes

“Look out for the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).

If you want to serve people through ministry, you need to slow down and observe the world. It helps you be sensitive to the needs of other people.

If you wanted to take a cross-country trip, you’d have several options. A plane would get you there fastest, but you wouldn’t experience much of the country. You could take a train or even a car, and each would give you opportunities to see even more. But if you really wanted to take in as much as possible, you’d walk.

That’s because the slower you go, the more you see.

The Bible says, “Look out for the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24). Ask God to give you spiritual radar for people around you who are hurting emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

Maybe you were born with this gift. You automatically sense when people around you are in need. It’s not that you’re more spiritual than the rest of us. You’re just wired that way.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t describe all of us. Some of us have something like spiritual ADD. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to be task-focused. It’s easy to be insensitive to what’s happening around us.

But if you care, you’ll be aware. It’s not always easy to see the needs of other people, especially when you’re too busy and have an overloaded schedule. But it’s an important part of serving others in need. God wants you to help others. Ask him to show you where you’re focusing on the wrong things so you can remove them from your to-do list.

What Jesus Prays For You

He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference; He is praying for me.”

The Bible says of Jesus, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 NKJV).

What does Jesus pray when He intercedes for us? This is important to know, because in finding the answer to that question we can discover God’s plan and purpose for us. And that is the objective of prayer: to align our wills with the will of God.

In John 17 we have the greatest prayer ever prayed, which is Jesus’ prayer for us. In verse 11 Jesus prayed, “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (NKJV).

Jesus prayed for our preservation. God wants us to be strong spiritually. God wants us to cross the finish line with flying colors. We all know people who have made a profession of faith and were growing so much spiritually that we may have even looked up to them as spiritual leaders. But then one day they crashed and burned. They simply walked away from the faith.

We think, “If someone like that could fall, then maybe I could fall, too. Am I next?”

The answer to that question may surprise you: it’s entirely up to you.

God wants to keep you, and God will keep you. He will keep you to the end. The question is whether you want to be kept.

Seize the Opportunity to Serve

“Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Never tell your neighbors to wait until tomorrow if you can help them now” (Proverbs 3:27-28).

Love is something you do. Love doesn’t just say, “I feel sorry for what happened to that guy. Isn’t it a shame? Isn’t that too bad?” Love seizes the moment.

For instance, in one of Jesus’ most familiar parables, the Good Samaritan did several things to seize the moment. Some translations say he even “stooped down.” In other words, he got on the man’s level. He didn’t pretend he was superior, and he didn’t talk down to him (Luke 10:34).

Second, the Good Samaritan used what he had. He dressed the man’s wounds in wine and oil. Why? That’s what he had on his donkey. The wine worked okay because it’s alcohol. It’s an antiseptic. The oil worked okay because it would be soothing to the man’s wounds.

Then the Bible says the Good Samaritan dressed the man with bandages. Where did he get the bandages? This guy wasn’t a doctor. He didn’t have a first aid kit. And the hurt man had been stripped naked, so he didn’t have any clothes. The bandages were from the Samaritan’s own clothes.

The Good Samaritan did what he could with what he had at that particular moment.

The world is full of wounded people. Do you ever wonder how many people you walk by every day who are wounded? Maybe they’re not wounded physically, but they’re wounded emotionally. They’re wounded spiritually. They’re wounded financially. And they need your love. They need your kindness.

Don’t wait for better conditions. Don’t wait until it’s more convenient. Don’t put off what you know you can do for someone today. God will be with you as you seize the moment

As You Care For Others, Trust Gods Care For You

“If you feed those who are hungry and take care of the needs of those who are troubled, then your light will shine in the darkness . . . The LORD will always lead you. He will satisfy your needs in dry lands” (Isaiah 58:10-11).

Looking out for the needs of others will always require a cost, some sacrifice of time, money, energy, reputation, or privacy. Jesus sacrificed for you, and you become more like Jesus when you sacrifice for others.

In Luke, Jesus told a parable about the Good Samaritan, who found a man beaten and abandoned by the side of the road. The Samaritan “took [the man] to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here’” (Luke 10:34-35).

He did this for a total stranger. He started by administering first aid at the scene of the crime. Then he put the man on his donkey—which, by the way, means the Good Samaritan walked. He checked the man into a motel, cared for him through the night, paid the bill in the morning, and pledged to cover any additional costs.

What did he gain from it? Nothing. He didn’t even know the guy! The Good Samaritan stepped in to help without any concern for the sacrifice it might require. His focus was on the injured man’s needs—just as Jesus is focused on your needs.

This is the way God planned it: You assume responsibility for the needs of hurting people around you while trusting God to meet your needs.

The Real Reason We Argue

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:4-5).

When you meet someone to resolve a conflict, you first have to confess your part of the problem. Then, you need to listen for the other person’s hurt and perspective.

We think we argue over ideas. But we actually argue over emotion. Anytime there’s a conflict, someone’s feelings were hurt. Somebody felt abused. Somebody felt slighted. It’s not the idea that causes the conflict. It’s the emotion behind the idea.

Hurt people hurt people. The more people are hurting, the more they lash out at everybody else. People who aren’t hurting don’t hurt others. People who are filled with love are loving toward others. People who are filled with joy are joyful to others. People who are filled with peace are at peace with everybody else. But people who are hurting inside are going to hurt others. They’re going to lash out.

If you want to connect with people, you must start with their needs, their hurts, and their interests. If you want to be a good salesperson, you don’t start with your product. You start with your customer’s need, hurts, and interests. If you want to be a good professor or pastor or anything else, you start with people’s needs, hurts, and interests.

Philippians 2:4-5 says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had”.

Are you often so busy trying to get the people you’re in conflict with to see your position that you’re not listening to theirs? You’re too busy speaking and not listening, so you move further and further away.

You need to intentionally switch your focus from your needs to their needs. Conflict resolution starts with the way you look at the situation. The word “look” in Philippians 2:4 is the Greek word scopos. It’s where we get our words “microscope” and “telescope.”

Scopos means to focus. The next verse says your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ. You are most like Jesus when you’re focusing on the hurts of somebody else rather than your own.

There’s an old Proverb that says, “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” When you’re focused on the other person’s needs and not your own, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of the situation and move forward with resolving your conflict.

To Resolve Conflict, Start with What’s Your Fault

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:3, 5).

One of the most important life skills that you have to learn is conflict resolution. If you don’t, you’re going to spend a lot of your life miserable, because we’re imperfect people and we have conflict almost every day of our lives.

If you want to resolve conflict, you’re going to have to make the first move. That means you’re going to have to ask for God’s help because it takes courage to approach someone you are in conflict with and tell that person you want to sit down and work it out.

Then, you don’t start with what the other person has done wrong. You don’t start with a bunch of accusations or ways that you’ve been hurt. You start with what’s your fault.

The conflict might be 99.99 percent the other person’s fault. But you can always find something to confess! Maybe it was your poor response, even if it came out of defensiveness. Maybe it was your attitude. Maybe it was the way you walked away.

You have weaknesses in your life that others see clearly but you’ve never seen. Those are your blind spots. You have weaknesses you’re clueless about. That’s why you need to come to conflict resolution with a humble heart and begin with your own faults.

Jesus said, “Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:3, 5).

He’s saying you need to confess your part of the conflict first. What’s the piece of wood in your eye that is keeping you from seeing the situation clearly? Don’t start with the other person and all the ways they’ve hurt you until you’ve confessed your part of the conflict first.

Did you cause conflict by being insensitive? Or were you overly sensitive? Did you not show compassion for the person who was hurting? Were you being overly demanding? What are your blind spots? Once you figure them out and confess them, you’ll be ready for the next step in conflict resolution.

Singing through the Darkness

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25)

The world watches with great interest when a Christian faces adversity. Every one of us faces hardship. Every one of us loses loved ones. Every one of us faces sickness. Every one of us encounters difficulties and hardships in life. But when it happens to Christians, nonbelievers watch to see if our faith is genuine. That is the time to show them what Christ can do, even in hard times.

Acts 16 tells the story of Paul and Silas, who were thrown into prison for preaching the gospel. Their backs had been ripped open with a whip, and at midnight, in the most unsanitary of conditions, in a filthy environment, with their legs stretched apart in shackles causing excruciating pain, Paul and Silas held a worship service. The Bible tells us that “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (verse 25 nkjv). Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison, their shackles fell off, the walls came down, and they were free to go.

The Philippian jailer, assuming they were free, knew he would be tortured and then put to death. He took out his own sword and was ready to kill himself. But Paul said, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here” (verse 28 NKJV).

Then the jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30 NKJV). Paul and Silas made impact on him.

In the same way, there are people watching you right now. They’re developing an opinion about God on the basis of your life. It has been said that a Christian is an epistle, written by God and read by man. You are the only Bible that some people ever will read. They will be looking at you, and that may determine the course their lives will take.

How to Take the First Step to Integrity

If you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, he will surely rise up and restore your happy home. And though you started with little, you will end with much” (Job 8:5-7).

It may be tough for you to read a message about integrity because you’re replaying in your mind all the times you’ve fallen short, all the opportunities you had to show integrity but didn’t, all the moral failures in your life. We could all make a similar list of failures.

St. Augustine said that the confession of bad works is the beginning of good works.

If you are serious about becoming a person of integrity, the first step is to admit that you haven’t had integrity. You just admit that you don’t always keep your promises. You often gossip, and you like it. Sometimes you slack off at work. You pretend to be someone you’re not. Just admit it all to God!

A lot of people segment their lives and think they can live with integrity when they are harboring sin in one area of life, as long as it doesn’t affect the other areas. I call this the Titanic myth. The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable because it was the first ship to segment and compartmentalize the hull. Theoretically, if the boat took on water in a certain area, you could batten down the hatch, and it wouldn’t sink the whole ship.

But folks, when it comes to your life, a hole in the boat is a hole in the boat, and eventually, it’s going to sink you. That little area you thought you had under control will eventually take you down. And it will affect the people around you because while sin is personal, it is never private.

None of us are perfect, but God doesn’t expect you to be perfect! He does, however, expect you to have integrity, and the starting point is to own up to your sins—no matter how long the list is.

God is more interested in your heart than your sins. You’re never going to be perfect. You’re never going to be sinless. But you can sin less.

That is the choice of integrity.

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