Contentment 🍃

I have a secret. 

I used to wish that I had been born in another era. Call me old-fashioned, but it started even before I read Jane Austin’s novels, my all-time favourites being Pride and Prejudice and Emma. 

Watching the Downton Abbey series didn’t exactly help cure my obsession either. Exquisite lace dresses, perfect eloquence and impeccable manners all caused me to reminisce about those days. 

There’s nothing wrong with fancying these sorts of things, but I’ve come to realise that by having a materialistic focus and by constantly thinking about what I would like and about how I think things should be, I risk missing out on a God-given gift. The gift of contentment. 

In a world where more is never enough, it is difficult to imagine what it would look like if we were completely satisfied with what we have. So many of us base our worth on and find our identity in our possessions. Status has become more sought after than integrity and more prized than a good reputation. Our lives have become like a fast-moving treadmill where the goal is to keep up with the pace of advancement constantly happening all around us. It’s a challenge to be content with where we are and with what we have in a world where the accepted mindset is always “I need more”.

However, in Philippians 4v11 b, Paul challenges this mindset when he writes, “For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” 

Okay, so let’s take a moment to understand this. Paul didn’t say, “I have learned to be content when things are good and when I have everything I want.” Nor did he say, “I have learned to be content most of the time.” 

No. 

Paul confidently stated that, “in whatever state”, meaning in any and every possible condition and despite every circumstance, he had “learned to be content“. We don’t learn things we already know, so by writing this Paul implied that contentment isn’t natural to us as people. He understood full well that our hearts are naturally selfish and that we often just aren’t happy with our circumstances. 

In case you aren’t familiar with Paul’s life story, I just want to get this straight; he most definitely did not have it easy. He confirms this when he goes on to say, in Philippians 4v12, “I know how to be abased (to be in need), and I know how to abound (to have plenty). Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” 

So, here’s something that most, if not all of us, are able to relate to. Whether physical, spiritual or material, all of us have, at one stage been in need. All of us have experienced what it is to be hungry as well as what it is to be full. To bring it closer to home, every single one of us has felt dissatisfied with our circumstances at some stage in our lives. 

So how can we have contentment? 

The next thing Paul says after v12 shows us the first step we can take towards having contentment. He says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 

Take a moment to soak that in. “All things”. Once we truly believe this, it changes the way we see and approach every single aspect of life, including our attitude and our mindset. We need to look to Jesus for the strength we need. Hebrews 13v5 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.” We need to hold onto this promise and allow it to transform the way we live.

Then in verse 19, Paul says, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 

Can you grasp that? There is honestly no reason for us ever to feel discontent in this life because we have God’s full assurance that He shall provide our every need (see Matthew 6v25-34). We need to ask the Lord to help us to find our satisfaction in Him and in Him alone and to trust in His everlasting and unfailing goodness. The truth is, we cannot ever expect to find satisfaction in our belongings, in our situation in life or even in another person. Once we begin to understand this, God will start to show us that He is the source of true contentment. 

I love 1 Timothy 6v6-8! It says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (For further reading, see verses 9-16). Where is our focus? Is it on eternity or is it just on the here and now? Let’s ask God to help us to see His bigger picture. 

Paul ends off by saying, in verse 20, “Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

I think that this could be easily overlooked, but something stood out for me here. Notice the way that Paul is so full of praise and gratitude towards God. I think that this is something we desperately need to hold onto. We so easily forget how much God has done for us and we often choose to despair rather than to praise the God who is constant and faithful and unchanging. What if, the next time we feel hard done by, we choose to raise our head to heaven instead of hanging it in discontent? I believe that if we choose to do this and if we choose to find all of our satisfaction in our Heavenly Father, we will experience His peace that passes all understanding in our hearts as a result. And it is then that we will truly begin to see the gift of contentment as just that. 

A gift. 

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Passing On The Baton

The dictionary defines a baton as “a hollow cylinder carried by each member of a relay team and passed to the succeeding runner.” 

This morning it occurred to me that faith is a bit like a baton. Kinda cheesy, I know, but for those of us who have had the blessing of having grown up in Christian homes, this baton is the legacy of faith our parents (and other warriors of faith who have impacted our lives) have passed on for us. 

I don’t know about you, but passing on this baton of faith feels like a huge responsibility. Often an overwhelming one. By just opening my Bible, I am blown away by the countless examples of people who lived lives of sincere, passionate faith and as a result, changed the world around them, and passed on the baton. Sure, none of these men and women were perfect, but they lived every day with their eyes fixed on Jesus and their lives fully surrendered to Him. This is exactly how I want to live. I want my relationship with Jesus to reflect reckless abandonment to Him. I want to faithfully pass on the baton of faith to the next generation. But how can we do this? 

I think it’s important to start by asking ourselves a serious question: “Am I pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus day by day or have I settled for a mediocre one?” Amy Carmichael, one of the most inspiring missionaries who ever lived, once said, “The saddest thing one meets is the nominal Christian.” The fact is, we cannot call ourselves Christians and not be following Christ. We cannot expect to change the world if we haven’t allowed God’s powerful, living Word to change us first. If we want to one day pass on a legacy of faith, we need to be radical and decide right now to “put mediocrity behind us and to courageously determine to pursue Jesus with our whole heart, soul and mind.”

Secondly, we need to start now. You are honestly never too young for God to use you. Just look at David, Joseph and Daniel! God used these and many other young men and women remarkably when they decided to obey Him. God is capable of incredible things and He can use you in amazing ways if you will trust Him and be obedient to Him. Paul encouraged Timothy to pass on the baton of faith when he wrote, in 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Let us ask God to help us to abandon all fear and exchange it for faith.

Finally, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. This life is beautiful but it is also tough. There will be challenges and the Devil will do all that he can to distract us from the amazing lives that God has called us to as Christians. The thing is, we can remember that the battle has already been won by God. The victory is His! So let us keep our eyes on Jesus, let us hold onto an eternal perspective. Let us pass on the baton of faith so that one day our Saviour will smile at us and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Choosing Thankfulness

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When I woke up this morning, I decided to be thankful.

I’ve been pondering this lately; it’s so easy to forget just how blessed I am and to rather focus on what I wish I had. Quite honestly, I’m guilty of this most days. Today is different though. Today I am choosing to be thankful.

I’m thankful for my beautiful home. I’m thankful for my wonderful, loving family and true friends, all without whom my life would be terribly dull.

Today I’m thankful for this gorgeous winter sunshine. I’m thankful for the precious gift of life.

I’m thankful that it’s a Friday and that all my needs are provided for.

And as I think of all these things, I’m reminded of my AWESOME God, who gives every good and perfect gift. When I take the time to remember that all my blessings come from Him, He fills my heart with incredible joy and praise!

So, with His help I’ll keep choosing thankfulness. Not just today, but every day.

Serving Orphans in South Africa

About two years ago, I came across The Rebelution.

A friend had recommended that I watch the Fabulous Life of a Teenager series.

Soon after watching them I discovered TheRebelution website and the “100 Hard Things Challenge.” I decided to take it up and every day, I would attempt to do at least one hard thing, whether it be as simple as setting an example for my younger brothers or as complicated as achieving a good mark for my higher grade Math exam.

I completed the challenge and still try to do something which challenges me each day, although I have stopped keeping score.

About six months ago I remember reading through the posts on TheRebelution website and being intrigued by the incredible things teenagers, a few my age (and younger), were doing. I would often wonder what I could do to make a significant difference, to leave a legacy, to help others.

I would brainstorm amazing plans of how to change the world but when the seemingly mundane tasks of life filled my to-do list and reality kicked in, I began to realize how small I am on my own.

If I was to do anything to help make a difference, I realized, it would have to be done in the Lord’s strength, not in my own, otherwise my efforts would be pointless and selfish.

So I chose again to do something hard, which may seem relatively simple. I chose to embrace those “mundane tasks” which filled my to-do list: my school work and assignments, the daily chores, the visits to lonely extended-family members and the commands from God to love Him first and then to love my neighbour as myself.

By choosing to do something ordinary, something extraordinary happened.

I began to live joyfully and love more fully. I looked forward to the “small” lessons God would teach me each day, as I began to follow Him without complaining or arguing. Contentment began to bloom in my heart and gratitude for the many blessings God has given me.

Sure, there were days I’d feel less-than-blessed or a little miserable about “doing everything without complaining or arguing,” but when my attitude turned sour, I’d turn to God, and refreshment, peace, and purpose started to fill my life.

The end of the story? I think not.

Despite my choice to joyfully embrace the simple challenges I faced in ordinary daily life, I still felt a longing, especially in my spare time, to become more involved in my community. Namely, to pursue my passion of working with children.

I’ve always had a heart for orphans and wanted to get involved at the local children’s home, The Hope Centre, which houses children whose parents have died of AIDS. I had previously had the privilege of getting to know these children as they had attended a Holiday Club when I was helping as a leader at our local Baptist church.

I decided to contact one of the temporary American interns at The Hope Centre, who I knew from my church, to organize a day when I could visit and get to know the children a bit better.

It turned out that the intern had returned to America, so she recommended I contact some missionaries who had recently moved to South Africa to get involved at The Hope Centre. I contacted them and waited for about a week to receive confirmation that I would be welcome to visit the children.

In the meanwhile, I had come across a search for a representative for the Commonwealth South Africa.

The Commonwealth competition was looking for a South African teenager to represent the South African Commonwealth at the International Commonwealth competition in London.

They uphold values very close to my heart such as social upliftment and responsibility and the promotion of unity, racial harmony, poverty eradication and cultural cohesion. The fact that they were searching for an ambassador for our country caught my attention.

Perhaps this would be another “hard thing,” something which would extend me and provide challenges which, by embracing, would help me to grow in character, and maybe it would provide the platform I needed to be able to raise awareness for The Hope Centre.

Perhaps this was an opportunity provided by the Lord?

After much prayer and discussion with my parents, I decided to seize the opportunity and send in my entry.

After an interview with the Mrs. Commonwealth International, I was selected as one of fifty semi-finalists for the South African Commonwealth and it was then that my journey began.

As a semi-finalist I was assigned certain tasks which I was required to complete before a set deadline. One of these tasks was to approach local businesses in our hometown to ask for sponsorship, which creates a relationship between the sponsor’s company and the Commonwealth South Africa.

Our second task was to select a local charity to raise funds or items for. I immediately thought of The Hope Centre and approached the Head to ask for permission for them to be my chosen charity.

Permission was granted straight away and I set to work to see what I could do to help.

The forty-one children who live there do not have much at all, but after spending more time with them, I realized they posses the things which really matter. Many of the children have a firm, unquestionable faith in God as well as joyful hearts, unity and love among themselves, gratitude for their few belongings (most of which they share) and hope for the future.

I wanted to do something to bless these children, to reward them a little bit for their contentment.

After approaching friends, family and numerous local businesses for donations of clothing, shoes and bedding (as we’re approaching winter now), God generously blessed my efforts and we were able to collect about eight large bags of good quality clothing and shoes as well as a R10 000 voucher from a local home furnishing store.

The voucher was a huge answer to prayer for the staff at The Hope Centre and the children. With it they were able to buy duvets for the young boys, mirrors and lamps for the girls’ rooms, and six beautiful bookshelves for the little library.

It was at this point that I realized God’s grace in giving me the opportunity to work with these children. Though it was presented in the form of a competition, it was all part of God’s wondrous plan.

I now do not mind whether or not I am chosen as the Commonwealth Ambassador for my country, though it would be an honour and present more opportunities to do even “harder things.” I’m content to be a role-model to the children at The Hope Centre, who don’t have parents or older relations to look up to. I surrender the future into God’s hands.

The lessons I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve formed, by simply choosing to follow God day by day and by taking a step outside of my comfort zone, are more precious than any title could ever be.

I’ve also learned that God has created us with specific passions and talents which, by embracing, we can use to His glory. God has given me a passion for working with children as well as the desire to be a leader and a role-model for the young generation. The Commonwealth competition has presented me with the opportunity to accomplish both.

I hope that God will continue to use me as a shining light and a vessel to pour out His love on others. I am sure I will still fail in many ways as I continue to choose to do hard things, but by His grace, I will keep persevering through the challenges, so that the glory may be His.

I’ve learned that when you seek to do hard things, whether big or small, to the glory of the Lord, He can use you in ways you never dreamed possible. After all, our purpose is to glorify Him.

“May it be said, when the sun sets, you made a difference.”