Choosing contentment

This weekend, my mom and I went to Orlando to hear the word of God taught by Priscilla Shirer of Going Beyond Ministries. You might know her from the incredible Deeper Still conferences and resources in which Priscilla partners with Beth Moore and Kay Arthur, or from her father Dr. Tony Evans  (one of my favorite radio preachers) or from her brother, singer Anthony Evans (whom I've heard in concert now three times). It's a bit of an understatement to say that I'm a huge fan of the entire Evans family. :-)

Priscilla is a wife and mom to three young kids, so she isn't dedicating her life to touring the country and speaking in this season of her life. That means that every opportunity I have to learn from her is even more precious! Priscilla blogs regularly, is very active on Twitter, and a few times a year, she heads out to bless women with her powerful, engaging, and very real teaching style. I took copious notes throughout Friday evening and Saturday morning, and absolute HAVE to share them with you in some posts. This was life-changing stuff for me.

Priscilla opened with this verse: "Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."(Hosea 6:3) We came expectantly before God, and boy did He show up BIG TIME!

Our focus on Friday night was contentment. Priscilla defines this as an inner sense of sufficiency that comes from peace in God. It is the balancing act between what you'd like to get in the future and appreciating what you have today. And it's a unique state of being--to find a woman (or man) in this day and age who is satisfied is rare. Many of us feel like we are in over our heads. If that's the case, God may be trying to show you what is on the inside of you. He wants you to know that you can handle more than you think, with His help.

Priscilla preached the familiar passage of scripture in Luke 9 about the loaves and the fish. You know the story: there are 5,000 men (plus women and children) who are gathered to hear Jesus speak, and the disciples only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus conducts a miracle and everyone is fed. Okay, check. Now, let's go beyond that--wait until you read what Priscilla drew out of the text.

In Luke 9:12, it says the day was wearing away when it was time for them to feed the people. The disciples were wearing away, too--they were tired and hungry. Nothing is harder than when you feel like you have 5 loaves and 2 fish worth of energy or patience or finances and you don't have anything else to give. When we're in that situation, we want to get the need away from us or get ourselves away from the need. The disciples felt this way, too--they asked Jesus to send the people away. That was their natural reaction and it would be ours, too.

But every time they do this, Jesus doesn't allow it. For example, in Matthew 19, the disciples rebuked parents who were swarming around Jesus with their kids. The very "problem" the disciples wanted to send away, Jesus was welcoming to Himself. He said, "Let the little children come unto me." Jesus had purposefully created the context of the multitude so the disciples could learn the lesson of contentment.

The problem in your life is what God is using to cause you tap into the resources you didn't know are there. Are you dismissing the very thing God is inviting? If God is allowing it, He is using it for your good. That doesn't mean everything in your life is good, it means He's putting it together for good. Just like when you bake a cake, you don't want to eat butter and flour and salt on their own. But when you mix them up together, they become something good. When God mixes up everything in your life together, it will be good. Don't send away what he is welcoming. See the value of the 5 loaves and 2 fish you have. 

Whew. Deep stuff, right?

Priscilla continues by telling us Paul says he learned contentment. It wasn't a gift. That is good news for us: it means contentment can be developed. And usually, it's developed within the context of life's challenges when the multitude is pressing in. The 5 loaves and 2 fish were just food, but it was the multitude that showed the disciples what they have is enough.

So when the people were hungry, Jesus told the disciples to give them something to eat. The implication is that the disciples have enough even though the math doesn't make sense. God doesn't command what He doesn't equip us to do. But the disciples don't understand that. They were looking only at their lack.

In verse 13, they suggest going into the town to buy food. In other words, the answer is somewhere else. Sometimes God is telling us, would you be still and know that I am God? The people don't need their tummies filled, they need to know God, and the town can't give that. So when you think that if you had more you could overcome your circumstances, know that what others have is not what the circumstance is calling for. It's what YOU have in your hands. YOU have been equipped for whatever God is calling YOU to do.

We discount and downplay our personalities and gifts, thinking they are not enough. The disciples were not excited about what they had to offer the multitude. They were discouraged about what they had and hadn't even looked to see what God had available to offer. If the enemy can get you to speak those words that your 5 loaves and 2 fish aren't enough, he can heap discouragement on you. So seal God's word over yourself and circumstances. Even if it seems impossible, you speak the truth anyway. Your feelings are not the truth. We can't talk about what we're feeling, we have to speak what God says over ourselves. We have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Speak that word over yourself! We don't need to give the enemy of our souls anything extra to work with.

The Bible tells us the power of life and death is in the tongue (Prov 18:21). The tongue is the smallest organ and determines the course of the entire ship. Sometimes we look at our lives and wonder how we got to the point we are at. Could it be the words we spoke out of our own mouths? Ephesians 4:29 commands us not to speak one unwholesome word. Not one! Only the words that are good to edify in the need of the moment. Only the words that give grace to those who hear. People should walk away from us dripping with the grace of God.

What the disciples were saying was not even true. All they could see was the loaves and fish. But that was not all they had. You have more at your disposal than what is in your hands. We are not confined to our strength and our level of endurance and what we see about ourselves. There is more. The disciples forgot about that.

Look back a few verse earlier. In verse 1 of Luke 9, we see that Jesus has sent the disciples out with power! He knew a huge multitude was coming and told them specifically NOT to bring food for them. The disciples didn't need bread, they needed power and authority. So that's what He gave them. They had loaves and fish and the power of God backing up what little bit they had. The power of God is not out there somewhere, it's on the inside of you and you have the authority to act on it! Tap into the power of God to tap into that authority.

This is what fruit of the spirit is all about. We run out of patience and gentleness and then we tap into God's. The power of God is FOR us to access it! Never forget the power on the inside of you as a result of Jesus' blood on the cross.

Here is what contentment looks like in Luke 9: Take what you have that is not enough and bless it. Give thanks for it. And then: break it. This will not be your fleshly reaction when you don't have enough. You won't want to break it into smaller pieces and give it away. Discontented people hoard. They never have the resources to contribute, they hold onto what they have. But people who live in a mentality of God's abundance share their resources in faith.

As Jesus breaks the bread, it continues to be multiplied. Each time He breaks and shares it, there is enough to go around. The multiplication was in the dividing. If you want your resources multiplied, you have to be willing to divide them, believing that God will generously provide what you lack.

What happens in verse 17 stuns all of the disciples. Everyone in the multitude was satisfied with 12 baskets of food left over. Don't let the irony slip past you: there were TWELVE baskets: one for each disciple. They came to the circumstance having to split 5 loaves and 2 fish between them. They left with a heaping basket of overflow. Those 12 disciples were probably more stunned by this than anyone else in the crowd.

When you choose contentment, you set yourself up to go home with more than what you came with. If you think what you have is not enough, God is saying, "You do the dividing and I will do the multiplying."

As she closed, Priscilla shared that she had recently felt a discontentment with what she has to offer in terms of teaching the Bible. She has sometimes compared herself to others and felt that she was not good enough. I have to confess I have felt the same way. Sometimes I wonder, who am I to be writing a devotional book for teachers? I haven't been to seminary. I haven't been walking with God long enough. I don't spend 4 hours a day studying the Bible. How am I equipped to do this? Someone else could do it much better than I could.  

Now I know the analogy I need to use with myself: I have 5 loaves and 2 fish. If I bless and break them and divide them up, God will multiply them. I have more than what I appear to have, because I have the power of God working in me.

Whatever you are facing right now, know that God has empowered you to handle it. Pray His blessings over your situation. Thank God for bringing you the multitude, the need, the context for you to realize the power and authority He has already granted. Then divide up what you have in faith. Don't be afraid to give it away. God will do the multiplying for you. He will make sure your limited resources accomplish everything He meant for them to accomplish. Choose contentment when what you want and think you need seems just out of reach. The Lord will show you that everything you really wanted and needed was there all along, in Him. 


Anonymous said...

WOW!!! Angela, Thanks so much for this. I really needed to hear this right now. You are such a blessing! I found you several years ago~not by accident. :-)

I have since retired, but still look forward to your e-mails and posts. Since retiring, I have really had to work on "contentment".

Please keep " breaking the bread" for us. Blessings!


Amanda said...

Thanks for sharing, Angela. It sounds like you had a great weekend!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this! Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you for letting Godd use you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for giving us a new lighting on this text. Althought english is not my mother tongue, I'll be checking your websites regularly. I've purchased the webinar today, it's loading right now. Thank you for all your work.

Sheryl said...

You wrote this in 2012 and I am reading this in 2014. Did you write this just for me???!! We were part of God starting a small Christian school 9 years ago at our church and it has grown(tripled) through these years. My sister (in Christ) and I are the Principal (she) and Administrator (me). She also teaches the high schoolers and I handle the office and teach art. Lately our families needs have been so demanding that we are beginning to feel like we're going under. We know this is the attack of satan but our flesh flounders from time to time. She, especially, has been overwhelmed. We have a staff devotion and prayer time each morning and I plan to use your thoughts, along with some of mine, as encouragement. Thank you for your blog! It is wonderful to find sisters and brothers in Christ from around the world!! Our God is awesome!!!