Think on These Things
“Contentment” is not “Contention”
By Colly Caldwell
“Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
Too often we equate contentment with total satisfaction, comfort, and happiness. In some minds contentment involves taking pleasure in constant contention with others and victory in all contests and disputes. One cannot be content unless he/she wins, gets everything he wants, or feels good about every-thing in his/her environment and experience!
When Paul said to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” he set his statement in a context where one variable in being content was contention. We all need to learn that being content does not arise from being contentious. Satisfaction with fighting and winning against our enemies, spending our time being contentious, and/or seeking material gain to support our personal ambitions does not produce contentment. Read the previous verses in which Paul defines this idea saying that some were “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” Yes, we are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) but that is not done from a contentious spirit. Contention is an enemy of contentment.
We also need to understand that contentment does not come from pursuing pleasure or even from avoiding pain. Preachers who build their appeal on health, wealth, and prosperity are just wrong. Contentment is not dependent upon what we own or who we think we are. Look to those who attain one more major possession (house, automobile, etc.) and see if their contentment is enduring. What about those who receive one more pay raise, solve one more problem, or overcome one more difficulty, pain, or handicap. We say “if only I had that, I could be content the rest of my life.” Really?
Notice again the Bible says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” What is it that produces true contentment?
First, contentment comes when one has a meaningful purpose for living. Disputing, arguing over words, reviling others, and wrangling do not qualify. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:34). Jesus’ solution to living without worry was to have a grand purpose for living: to be righteous and put aside concern about material things.
The famed cellist, Don Pablo Casals, is said to have arrived at his ninetieth birthday badly stooped and suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis. His daily routine amazed those around him. He also played the piano and every morning before he had breakfast, he hobbled to the piano bench, raised his swollen and clenched fingers above the keyboard, and after slowly unlocking them reached for the keys and began to play. As he moved across the keyboard, his back straightened, he breathed more freely, and his entire body took in the music until he was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful. When he finished, he arose and walked upright to the dining room with no trace of a shuffle. He never lost the purpose of producing masterful music and for him nothing else gave as much satisfaction. Our purpose is even higher and more noble... we serve God who gave us life.
Second, contentment comes when one orients his activity toward blessing others rather than himself. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful.” Paul said we should not be “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words.” There was a time when we would all agree to this saying, “God (or Jesus) first. Others second. Yourself last.” Somehow that has become reversed in our time. The “ME” generation is all too dominant in the culture we see around us every day. A young woman said, “When I was little, I put my own needs first and everyone said I was being sselfish and inconsiderate. Now everyone says I’m supposed to put my own needs first. But how can I have any self-respect if I’m being selfish and inconsiderate?” She knew she would never be content putting self first.
Third, “contentment” comes from “commitment” to Jesus Christ. How can I rest my head on my pillow every night at peace with myself and God? How can I live without worry? I tell you, contentment can only come with the peace that Jesus brings to our hearts.
He Didn’t Look Like Messiah
By Colly Caldwell
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
Sometimes you expect a person and/or thing to look a certain way and then you are surprised when you see them. In fact, you cannot believe your eyes and you say to yourself, “This just cannot be...”
I find this particularly true of radio personalities. About three weeks ago Mark Govan passed away suddenly during a medical procedure to insert a pace maker. Lynda and I had listened to Mr. Govan almost every Sunday morning on the way to church services. He was host of a program called “Florida Gardening.” People called in to get his advice on nearly anything pertaining to their lawns and other plant maintenance. We learned what pesticides to use, what fertilizers were best, and even what plants thrive in the Florida weather and soil environment. We had listened for the longest time and, as one does, we had pictures of Mark in our minds. When I first saw a real picture of him, I was totally surprised. It wasn’t that I saw something I didn’t like. It was just not what I expected.
That seems to most certainly have been the case when the Jews saw the Messiah. He did not appear as they expected and as a result they rejected him. Rejection is a common experience. Sooner or later almost all of us find ourselves rejected. It may be in a school election. It may be in a relationship we anticipate could bring us happiness. It may be for a job that could bring us rewards we will never otherwise attain. I read recently that Sylvester Stallone was rejected more than a hundred times seeking backing for his script for “Rocky.” Imagine you had rejected “Rocky” (and all its subsequent sequels) and woke up one morning to realize that you had turned away hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now imagine waking up on resurrection morning having rejected Jesus and coming to realize you had given up heaven for all eternity. What a tremendous loss...much more than the loss experienced by those movie producers who rejected “Rocky.”
So why did Jesus’ own people reject Him? No doubt there were many reasons. We cannot get into the minds of every ancient person two-thousand years after the fact. Some of the reasons must have been similar to the reasons so many reject Him today: family influences, lifestyle desires, doubts, ignorance, etc., etc. But many apparently rejected Jesus because He simply was not what they expected and they could not get their minds around the fact that this One who was so different truly was the Messiah of prophecy.
He did not look like the Messiah they expected. Isaiah put it this way: “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2). I’m sure many
expected Jesus to appear surrounded by pomp and splendor, the outward appearances of a King of kings looking like a grand demonstration of manly physique. He did not. They who were impressed by outward appearances must have been terribly disappointed and could not see this One as the Messiah. Frankly, if God’s focus had been upon Jesus’ physical appear-ance, I wonder if we would tire of hearing His story.
He did not talk like the Messiah they expected. Unlike others, Jesus spoke with authority. On one occasion when “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more,” Jesus asked if the apostles would reject Him too. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68). Many rejected Jesus because of what He said. His message concerning the kingdom of God presented a totally different picture of “kingdom” than they were expecting nor seemingly could receive.
He did not act like the Messiah they expected. We want our leaders to project an image of strength and toughness. Jesus’ Messiahship exhibited humility and service to those He would lead. And, after all, wouldn’t it have been a tragedy if He came like the Roman emperors or the Herodian kings who truly sought to project the image of force and power.
He did not die like the Messiah they expected. It was an enormous obstacle to first century Jews to believe that the Messiah who was to deliver Israel from her enemies would die like a common criminal by execution on a Roman cross. But the apostle Paul spoke of it as the “foolishness of God” (1 Cor. 1:20-25). He did not look, talk, act , or die as expected, but He brings everlasting joy to our souls.
Increase Our Faith
By Colly Caldwell
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:5).
We can only imagine that the disciples were almost overwhelmed with Jesus’ teaching at this point in His ministry. By now they had seen powerful miracles and heard Him speak with authority saying things no other would ever dare to declare. And His commands were never presented as optional, however demanding they were upon the hearts and minds of His hearers.
On this occasion, the apostles listened to Jesus teach and what He said moved them to unanimously speak as a group in beseeching Jesus to “Increase our faith.” We all need to be asking God to assist us in the building of our faith. Personal faith-building is a constant, life-long learning and growing experience. Strong faith in Christ increases from study and constant effort. Each of us should want to be stronger in our commitment and in our ability to overcome temptation and draw closer to God. The apostles’ request was admirable and indicated a desire to serve better and an eagerness to receive help from the Lord.
Just what was it that immediately motivated these disciples to make this unusual request? You may be surprised. As indicated, Jesus seems to have over-whelmed them with his words.
First, He said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (vss. 1-2). In other words, Jesus is telling them not to ever cause someone else to sin. Now that might seem easy enough to avoid. But it was obviously important enough to Jesus that he would go on to say that if one does that, he will suffer extreme punishment. When you think of it, that is going to involve being good all the time. We must not lead another astray either with our teaching, our words, or our actions. Otherwise, we may cause them to sin. The disciples appear to have gotten the seriousness of that. It is going to require a lot of faith, a lot of humility, and a lot of character to keep from causing offenses (scandals) against God. When we think we can just go out with impunity with whomever we want, to wherever we want, do what-ever we want, dress however we want, and say what we want, we forget that we will not go unpunished if such causes another to offend God. Such is “scandal-ous.” So they appealed to Jesus, “Increase our faith” so we won’t be guilty of that in our teaching or actions.
Second, He said, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (vss. 3-4). Now believe it or not, for most this is even harder to do than otherwise being a good influence on others. Too many Christians who seem capable of nearly ever other virtue, cannot seem to forgive those who have hurt or offended them in some way.
You may remember the television series “Monk.” Adrian Monk was a bumbling but effective detective. In one episode, he went to New York in search of his beloved wife’s killer. At the end of that show, he met the man who had placed a bomb under Trudy’s car. The man was near death, lying in a hospital bed hooked up to a morphine drip. As Monk finishes his questioning, the man begs “Forgive me.” Seriously, Monk goes to the IV bag, turns it off, and says, “This is me turning off your morphine.” That, of course, would cause unbearable pain for his wife’s murderer. But a few moments later he says, “This is Trudy turning it back on,” which is what he does. He couldn’t forgive, but he knew Trudy would. Difficult? It takes faith, lots of faith sometimes to forgive. So the disciples begged, “Increase our faith.”
It is interesting to note Jesus’ response. “So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (vs. 6). A mustard seed was the tiniest thing they could imagine. Could it be that Jesus is saying that the faith we have will be sufficient if we will constantly watch ourselves so we don’t cause offenses and if we forgive those who sin against us. While we may all need more faith, perhaps our real need is to put the faith we have into the work of serving God. Is Jesus responding that only a little faith is enough to accomplish seemingly impossible things in God’s service if we are obedient to Christ’s will in our lives? It certainly seems so!
Why Do We Call the Samaritan “Good”
By Colly Caldwell
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him,, and departed, leaving him half dead.... A certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:33-34).
We have all heard the story of “The Good Samaritan” many times but did you realize that nowhere in the parable is the word “good” used to define this man’s character. Perhaps Jesus did not want to use that term to describe him as a person because as He says in another place, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God” (Luke 18:19). Nonetheless, I think we can rightly say that there was “good” in the noble actions of this Samaritan; such “good” in fact that Jesus uses him as exemplary for His followers for all time. So what is there in Jesus’ message that causes us to call him the “good” Samaritan?
For one thing, it was “good” that he did not turn his back on someone in distress. Too often we see another person hurting and we look away. That’s what the priest and Levite did. They ignored a person who was no less than themselves and who was in need of help. We can only speculate why they ignored him but whatever the reasons they turned their backs on him and refused to grant him even basic human kindness.
There is a statement often attributed to Mark Twain which was probably said by Christian Nestell Boyee in his “Thoughts, Feelings, & Fancies (1857): “Kindness is a language the dumb can speak and the deaf can hear and understand.” Everyone can understand the language of kindness. It can be spoken in any dialect and comprehended by persons of any nationality. The rich and poor, the old and young, male or female, all appreciate what kindness says to both the head and the heart. The Samaritan was considered a foreigner, but he reached out to someone in need and he speaks volumes to us today.
Another “good” thing about this man’s actions in Jesus’ story is his willingness to disrupt his schedule to help another. Time is precious and the Samaritan had some place to go but he stopped. A study a few years ago found that the average American spends 8 months of his life opening junk mail; 2 years trying to return phone calls; and 5 years standing in line. How much of our lives do we give to others in need?
The story goes that Clara Barton, a nurse during the American Civil War and founder of the Red Cross, was treating injured soldiers at Bull Run when it appeared her station would be overrun. She was frantically bandaging a soldier when an officer rode up holding the reins of an unsaddled horse. He asked if she could ride bareback. She nodded that she could and he yelled, “Then you can risk another hour!” The Samaritan risked another hour. He was willing to get involved. He was willing to sacrifice his time. He was willing to walk and let the wounded ride. He was willing to pay the bill.
So often situations jump out at us unexpectedly. We need to be prepared for when we least expect a need. Inconvenience should not be our first thought. Unwill-ingness should not be our first reaction. Whatever the motive for the selfishness of the priest and Levite, we should cast it aside in ourselves.
And it was “good” that this man took compassion on the wounded traveler. Suffering is a universal human condition. Heartache and sorrow was experi-enced this past week by those at the bedside of a young dying boy. It is painful to empathize with others but if Jesus had not felt our human condition and borne our grief, where would we be?
Leading up to this parable, the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” We are all neighbors for we all share the same human needs. Money, power, social status or prestige do not make us immune. One poig-nant picture of Ronald Reagan was viewed by the nation as he went into Bethesda Naval Hospital carry-ing a plant for his wife who had undergone a serious surgery. At that moment he did not think about being the President. He was only concerned for Nancy. We need to feel ourselves in others, whoever they are, because they are God’s children and God loves them.
By Colly Caldwell
“Go your way; behold I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, sack, nor sandals...” (Luke 10:3-4).
Lynda and I always enjoy the opportunity to travel to Europe. The other day we received another invitation to visit Arrigo and Patrizia Corazza in Italy. Since we support both Arrigo in Piza and his brother Stephano in Rome, we may try to take them up on their offer next year if the Lord wills.
One thing we learned from Ferrell and Elizabeth Jenkins when we went to the Bible lands with them was to travel light. Carrying too much baggage only weighs one down and makes all the necessary walking more tedious. Besides, it is not needed. When going from city to city, you do not need to be so fashionable and/or have a different outfit for every day of the trip; unless, of course, you are trying to impress the others in the tour group who came to see the sites and could care less what you are wearing. We took a trip once in the States and our traveling partners mailed home their dirty clothes so they could buy more souvenirs.
Jesus once chose seventy disciples and sent them out on a mission that would prepare people to listen to Him when he arrived in their cities. It was not inter-national travel but they apparently were assigned specific locations and given a limited time frame before getting back to Him. They were to travel light so as to be unburdened by “stuff.” One of the sacri-fices that those who preach for extended times in foreign countries make is to discard or to store almost all of their possessions before leaving home.
I am told that typically a Jew in ancient Palestine had five articles of clothing: two tunics (one an inner gar-ment and the other an outer one used as a coat by day and blanket by night), a girdle or waistband (used to tie the tunics in place), a head covering, and sandals. When away from home, one would take a wallet or traveler’s bag in which he carried his money and food (no McDonalds or 7Eleven). But Jesus told the seventy disciples to leave behind the money bag and clothing other than what they had on. Too much “stuff” would only delay or hinder their mission.
I wonder sometimes if there is not a message in this for us today. Perhaps we find ourselves so bogged down with material things, burdens, activities, and concerns of this life that we can barely get out of our own way to do the important things of life. We drag around so much baggage that we become preoccu-pied with this world and fail to focus on the things Jesus has called upon us to do...serve Him, do for others, set good examples, etc. So many people and so many families have complicated lives trying to keep track of all the conflicting schedules while running in different directions with no time to communicate because they are trying to carry around life’s baggage.
Jesus warned that Christians can fall among “thorns.” Those are the ones who, “when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). When cautioning those who forget there will be judg-ment, he said, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).
Such warnings Jesus frames in an analogy picturing his disciples as sheep. They were being sent out with good motives and nothing in their spirits which would cause them to do harm. They were innocent of wrong but they would be vulnerable and there would be aggressive opposition. We need to understand that it will not always be easy going and traveling light (with-out all the world’s baggage) makes it easier. And traveling light knowing that the Lord will provide what we need makes it possible.
Someone has noted that sheep are sometimes like us in terms of carrying heavy burdens. If left too long without sheering, sheep’s fleece can become heavy. It can become matted with mud and burrs and other debris so that the sheep are weighed down with their own wool. They become helpless and useless. That is an interesting analogy to our situations in life.
Sheep do not enjoy being sheared, but it must be done and when it is over, there is great relief. There is no longer a threat to well-being and there is pleasure in being set free from the hot, heavy coat. You and I are like sheep. But we have a Good Shepherd. Travel light and enjoy the blessings of His oversight and direction without the burdens of this world.
By Colly Caldwell
“And the angel of the Lord came back the second time and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God” (1 Kgs 19:7-8).
Elijah prophesied during the reign of wicked king Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel (874-53 B.C.). Like Moses and others whom God gave great missions, he felt inadequate to his task. Perhaps the most glaring example of that came after his greatest success. You remember that God told Elijah to gather the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Jehovah would prove Him-self over their gods and vindicate Elijah. Well, God did that and hundreds of Baal prophets were seized and executed. But Queen Jezebel put out a contract on Elijah’s head and he was forced to run for his life. “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said: ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!.’” It was just too much for him to handle...he thought!
Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed by some mission you felt inadequate to handle? I read a story about Jimmy Stewart, the actor. He was a colonel in the Air Force stationed in England during the Second World War. Tomorrow he would command a squadron of bombers on a dangerous mission over Germany. He knew that some of the planes would not return and that some of the aviators would die or be captured. He could not sleep. During the night he pulled out a stained letter from his father back in Pennsylvania. The note was intended to provide reassurance to a beloved son. Included in the envelope was a copy of the 91st Psalm: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you...” (vss. 1-3). Those words gave Colonel Stewart the courage to fly.
Most of us take on some scary mission in our lifetime. We live in a scary world. It really doesn’t matter what your mission is. It probably won’t be flying a bomber mission, although some are needed to defend our country or protect our citizens domestically in police forces. It probably for most will not be calling out the advocates of social ills before the media, although all of us must stand up against the outrageous evils of our day. Your mission may be caring for a spouse or becoming a parent charged with raising a child. It may be taking on a new job or entering the medical or teaching profession where critical decisions affecting the lives of others take place every day. Your mission may now be dealing with some continuing or terminal disease or caring for someone with illness. Whatever our mission, the future looks confusing and uncertain.
Is it questionable that we will succeed?
Elijah felt overwhelmed by the obstacles thrown in his path by Jezebel. He longed for certainty, even if that meant the certainty of his own death. He cried out for the Lord to take him out of this situation by letting him die. He was hurting physically with hunger. He was hurting emotionally. He was even hurting spiritually. How could he survive?
It was at this point, as Elijah was sitting under a broom tree in the wilderness praying that he might just die, that God stepped in. You might think it ironic that Elijah’s crisis of confidence came so shortly after the great victory God gave him at Mount Carmel. He saw himself as one without the needed skills or abilities but he forgot that God was not going to forsake him. The writer of Hebrews articulated God’s constant promise to His children: “be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Our mission may be (“should” be) to be a faithful disciple of Christ in this confusing and unsettling world filled with all kinds of temptation. Please remember the words of the apostle Paul: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). We sometimes think we are alone and that we are only human. But we are not “only human.” We have the greatest Helper to get us through the difficulties and provide what is needed to accomplish our mission. “Arise, eat and drink” God’s blessings and let Him carry you to success.