Posted by: Pastor | June 12, 2009

HOW I MADE IT–SO FAR

HOW I MADE IT–SO FAR

Philippians 4:11 I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Pastor Terry K. Hagedorn, Calvary Baptist Church, Reedsville, WV

The first five years of my ministry were really rough. After that, things got worse until I learned what Paul learned–“to be content.” (Gk. autarkes, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “satisfied, sufficient for one’s self, strong enough… contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest.”).

True contentment cannot be counterfeited or copied. It is not carelessness, coldness, or complacency. Rather, it is a satisfaction, serenity and a sanctified self-confidence produced by growth in the grace and knowledge of God.

Contentment is neither automatic nor absorbed; rather, it is acquired. Paul said, “I have learned…”–i.e. I have gained knowledge by use and practice.

Many ministers have not learned contentment. This fact is obvious to even the casual observer. In fact, has there ever been a time when there was more seeming discontent? (I know that God moves men–sometimes every few years; however, I am convinced that You-Haul is moving more than Yahweh!)

It is always too soon to leave. Moreover, you do not go from trouble–you go to trouble! It is the same everywhere. People are people. You can change places–you cannot change people. If you don’t pass the test where you are, God will just give you the same test where ever you go–until you do pass it.

Also, remember that the green grass tempting you to move could mean one of three things: 1) It could be greener. Yet, that means there will only be more to mow. And, if you are having trouble mowing what you have now…? 2) It could be astro-turf–artificial to the core. Or, 3) it could be greener because it is growing over the septic field. You do not want to know why.

Green grass is green grass. Green-up the green grass where you are. Water it with the ministry of the Word and feed it with prayer. Learn to be content where ever you are; because, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Learn what Paul learned::

LET OTHERS HELP Phil 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ

In seven of the fourteen Pauline epistles, the Apostles mentions his co-laborers in the first few sentences of his greeting. Obviously, Paul had learned the Old Testament wisdom of letting others help.

“Two are better than one; …For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up…And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclessiastes 4:9-12

If Paul had been like many other ministers, he would have tried to “do everything myself.” Which is the auto-epitaph of many otherwise good preachers.

When asked about letting others help, some preachers respond, “No one helps me! No one! I don’t need help. I am the pastor!” (This is the jealous dictator response.) Or, “Well, someone has to do it.” (Martyr’s complex.) Or, “I don’t have any one to help!” (Winner of the Whiner Award.) Or, “I’d rather just do it myself; than bother–or burden–someone else with the problem.” (Winner of the pseudo-Barnabas award.) Or, “At least, if I do it myself, I know it will be done right!” (Humorous response.) Or, “I’d rather just do it than have to put up with someone else complaining about having to do it.” (Easy-way-out response.)

In the Old Testament (please read Exodus 18:3-27) we learn that Moses was hindering the work of God, hurting his family (a concerned father, Jethro–probably prompted by a daughter’s lonely tears–spoke to his son-in-law); and, Moses was harming his own health. Moses was about to “wear away”–burn out. He was trying to administrate or “judge” the affairs of 2.5 million people (more than the population of my home state, West Virginia!)–all by himself. Moreover, he would have continued trying to do it until he dropped dead, if his father-in-law had not said something. If Moses had not been meek–the meekest man, he would have reacted to the criticism like many preachers do: resentment or rejection of the criticism. (Not all criticism is wrong. You are not always right. Your critics are not always wrong. In fact, every criticism has at least a kernel of truth. Or else, they would not be so bold to openly criticize you.)

It was not true that there were no others to help Moses. In fact, the remedy involved judges over a thousand, over a hundred, over fifty, and even over ten. Literally, tens of thousands of ready, willing and able ministers were being kept from a ministry by the naively monopolistic actions and attitudes of Moses.

Moses learned to be content. Paul learned to be content. So can you. Please let others help.

LOWLINESS Phil 2:2 In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Some, like Diotrophes in III John, have a high and haughty opinion of themselves. Just ask them. No. After second thought, it is not necessary to ask them.

Notwithstanding their greatness, many are discontented because they feel that they deserve a better position, better pay, better people and a better prospect for the future than they have received. Instead of being broken because of their sinful pride, they are looking for that illusive “big break.”

Young preachers think they are it–i.e. the perfect pastor, many middle-aged ones are looking for it–i.e. the perfect church, and many older preachers are bitter because they lament, “How did I, the perfect pastor, ever leave it–the perfect church?”

This misguided ministerial malaise will lead to a pernicious bout of discontent. Do you really want what you deserve? Really? Brother, be thankful that you have not gotten what you deserve–Hell. The ministry that you have now is better–far better–than you will ever deserve.

You do not deserve your calling, either–it is by grace. In fact, it is a grace (a gift). Do you realize how privileged you are to be a minister of the Gospel? We are the servants of the Lord!

Rather than seeking self aggrandizement, seek that the Savior might increase and that you might decrease. Remember that pride has “i” at the center. Jesus should be at the center. Jesus must be at the center, if you would be blessed. “God resisteth the proud” is not an idle threat. And, it is a threat.

What is the treatment or therapy for this discontent? The answer is in Christlikeness. Lowliness of mind means to have a humble opinion of one’s self or a deep sense of one’s unworthiness. True humility is not thinking less of one oneself; rather, it is not thinking of oneself at all.

How many preachers have preached J-O-Y (Jesus FIRST, Others SECOND, Yourself LAST )? Yet, how many have practiced it?

Jesus did. Paul did. If you do, you will learn contentment.

LEAVE YOUR BURDENS WITH THE LORD Phil 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Phil 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

There are three places to leave your burdens. On your back, on another’s back, or on the Lord’s back. We are commanded to bear our own burden. We are commanded to help bear another’s burden. However, we should cast all our “care upon Him, because He careth for” us.

When placing burdens on others, limit the burdens that you share with your wife. You are very foolish to take problems home. Leave them at church, on an intercessor’s back, on THE intercessor’s back; BUT, never take all the burdens home! She is your helpmeet; however, she is not your co-pastor. You are her pastor–poor woman.

Pray. If you are not praying, then you are playing. Pray. Pray because: His Command–we are commanded to pray, Christ prayed. If he needed to pray, how much more do we? Christians pray. The Church has prayed from the beginning (Acts 2); and, prayer is God’s Chosen method for saving the sinner (Romans 10:9,10), sanctifying the saint (Jude 20), sending forth laborers (Matthew 9:38), satisfying your needs (Matthew 6:11), seeking God’s wisdom (James 1:5), showing His will (Jeremiah 33:3, Proverbs 3:5,6); and, serenity (Philippians 4:7).

Serenity is at the root of contentment. (Isaiah 26:3) Christ prayed. Do you?

LOVE CHRIST SUPREMELY Phil 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…

“To know” is to know in the most intimate, personal way. It speaks of love. It can speak of the physical relationship of love between a husband and wife. I.e. “Adam knew his wife…and she conceived.” On a higher plane–a spiritual plane–it speaks of the relationship of a saved person and his or her Lord. It is a spiritual, intimate and personal knowledge–a love. This is eternal life–to know God. (John 17:3) Everyone, whether lost or saved, will be somewhere forever. Everyone will live forever. Eternal life for the Christian is not a quantity; rather, it is a quality. It is love–for God and from God.

Love for people, praying, preaching, pastoring, programs, plans, or personal soul winning will not sustain you. Only, a love for Christ will sustain you.

Why should we love Him? For two reasons: 1) because we are commanded. (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) 2) Because we are constrained. His love for us constrains us–”no one ever cared for me like Jesus.”

The mother of a young teen was horribly scarred by a fire. Her face was terribly distorted by the burns. A school mate of the teen said, “If she was my mother, I would be so shamed to be seen in public with her.”

The teen tearfully retorted, “I love her. She received those scars a long time ago when she saved me from a fire. She covered me in a blanket and carried me to safety. So, I love her because of her scarred face. How can I be ashamed of her?”

We should Love Jesus because He saved us from far worse than a house fire. He saved us from Hell fire.

“Lovest thou me…”, He asks. If you love me, serve me (feed my sheep). Love must precede service. Love must prompt service. Without love–no service matters. (I Corinthians 13:1-3) Without love, no service succeeds.

Does anything create such contentment as love? Jacob worked an additional seven years–without complaint–for the right to marry Rachel. Genesis 29:20, “20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”

Love for Christ produces such contentment. Do you love Him?

LEARN TO REJOICE–ANYHOW! Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

You cannot always rejoice in people, things and circumstances; however, you can always rejoice in the Lord: Who He is, What He has done; and, what He has promised.

Not only can we rejoice in every thing, we are commanded to give thanks–to rejoice–in everything. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

There are two ways to interpret I Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1) Give thanks for everything because whatever happens is the Will of God. 2) Give thanks. Because, it is God’s will that we be thankful. Not scornful! Not bitter.

In all that Job suffered, he did not complain or become bitter; rather, he recognized that he should be thankful for the good and the bad –since both come from the hand of God.

How many preachers have preached that “we should be thermostats–not thermometers.” A thermometer is influenced by the environment. A thermostat affects the environment. A thermometer-type Christian is influenced by people, things and circumstances. A thermostat-type Christian controls the effect that people, things or circumstances have in his or her life.

Faith that believes that everything that happens happens in God’s Will and purpose is a contented faith. Paul states in Philippians 1:12 “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” What contentment! Paul had this contentment–so can you.

LIMIT NEGATIVE INPUT–LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE Phil 4:8,9 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

As a man thinketh–so is he. In West Virginia we say, “What is in the bucket comes out the spout.” Put good things in; and, good things will come out.

So many preachers are so negative! So cynical. So bitter! It is sin. It reveals a major defect in their spiritual development.

You cannot keep the birds of bitterness and negativity from flying over your head–BUT, you can keep them from building a nest–a three story condominium–in your hair!

Have you ever considered that everything in the above verse that we are to “think on” describes the character and nature of Christ? Christ is true–yea, He is Truth, Christ is honest, Christ is just, Christ is pure, Christ is lovely–yea, He is the altogether lovely One,” Christ is of a good report–the Gospel!, Christ is virtuous and praiseworthy.

Want contentment? Peace? Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Meditate on the Word of God–both the Living Word and the written Word; and, you will find contentment unto your souls.

Paul did. For him to live “was Christ.”

LET GOD BE GOD! Phil 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

There is no problem that you and God cannot handle. No problem! You take care of the little things–with His help. Refer the bigger ones entirely to the Lord. And, you will do all right.

Learn to be content. Learn that “satisfaction, serenity and a sanctified self-confidence produced by growth in the grace and knowledge of God.” Learn what Paul learned–before it is too late. Learn to: Let others help, Lowliness, Leave your burdens where they belong, Love the Lord supremely, Learn to rejoice, Limit negative input, and Let God be God.

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