Sunday, April 13, 2008

PRISON WALLS...April 13, 2008 weekly devotion

overcoming unfulfilled expectations
Thank you for joining me for this week's devotion. It is my prayer that your heart will be challenged and changed today as we meditate upon God's Word!

Have you ever looked around at what was happening in your life and said, "How did I get here? This is not where I wanted to be. This is not what I had planned?"

This place of unfulfilled expectations is much like putting coins in a vending machine for a snickers bar but you get a bag of pork rinds instead! YUCK! some of us feel like that. You have worked have been have prayed...but yet, you keep thinking to yourself "this has gotta change, it has to get better!"

Maybe you are reading this today and find yourself struggling with unfulfilled expectations. The current situation you are in, you are finding it hard to find contentment.

Apostle Paul is a worthy mentor for us on the subject of contentment. He had hoped to go to Rome as a preacher but instead found himself as a prisoner. We can learn much from his reacton to this difficult situation he found himself in. ASK YOURSELF: WHAT IS CONTENTMENT?
-What I have vs what I should have
we are comfortable with the moment we are in. We live well for how we imagine things ought to be but not so well with how things actually are.

-What I have now vs. what I once had
Paul had known wealth, status and comfort as a Pharisee. He did not whine about his present situation or compare it to the life of ease prior to the ministry he had.

-What I have vs what others have
Contentment is undermined by comparisons. You can always find people who are more attractive, wealthier, more successful and who seem to enjoy more freedoms than you. They have bigger houses, newer cars, they have dream jobs, take incredible vacations and have fewer health problems.

There is a hidden belief that we cannot be happy "until"....

-I refuse to be happy until we can move into a bigger house!
-I cannot be happy until I am married!
-I cannot find happiness until I have children!
-I cannot be happy until I find a better job!
-I will be much happier when the kids are healthy, well behaved and making good grades, and not until then!

Philippians 4:11 "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."

If Paul had been writing about this contentment from a comfy office in Phillipi, we might easily say,..."yea, sure Paul-try walking in my shoes and see how content you would be!" Our sarcasm would quickly be silenced when we realize that Paul is speaking of this contentment from inside prison walls!
Some of us feel trapped in our circumstances and we often times feel imprisoned by our surroundings. Think about this for a moment: Paul was chained to Roman Soldiers 24 hours a day and yet was not held captive by discontent. He did not feel tortured by his circumstances either!
In last weeks, YOUR OPINION MATTERS POLL, I polled readers to vote on what they think their attitude would be if imprisoned like Apostle Paul. The top three responses were:

1. 43% polled said they would say "with God's help I will survive one day a time"
2.18% voted they would say "the jail stinks, the food stinks, the guard stinks!"
3.18% of those polled said they would "suffer through it".

I don't know what my attitude would be if I were there in prison like Paul, but I pray I could have a perspective like he did. The writings of Paul reveals to us two things about contentment:

A. Contentment is the fruit of perspective
Paul shares with us in the book of Philippians where his extraordinary perspective came from:

-God's glory is more important than any other comfort or sucess (1:20;2:16-17)
-His citizenship is not here (3:20)
-This world cannot fulfill my highest ambition (3:7-8)
-What other people think of me is not of the highest importance (1:15-18)

B. Contentment is a process
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
- Apostle Paul

Learning is a stair step lessons build on previous understandings. Contentment is like climbing a set of stairs, each step takes you closer to your destination. Pauls learning to be content did not happen the day following his Damascus Road conversion. The learning steps of contentment are as follows:

step #1: learn to trust God's goodness
step# 2: find meaning in the midst of your difficulty
step# 3: find reasons to celebrate
When you find yourself in a place of experiencing unfulfilled expectations...whether a person has let you down or circumstances have brought you to a place you don't want to to explore the season you are in and strive to not focus on what is wrong or missing in your life. There are unique places, wonderful things, precious moments and unlimited opportunities just waiting for us to explore.

I pray that you will be able to break free of those prison walls that imprison you with discontentment this week.

Have a wonderful week!

Blessings, Laurie

Please take time to vote in this weeks poll, "In what area of your life are you facing a decision right now?" Your opinion really does matter!!


Cheri said...

Some days I am content and others I'm not. It's a trust issue for me-though I have NO reason not to trust God completely.

Thanks for these things to ponder!

Laura said...

Thank you for your constant encouragement. Praying for you!