Shonebarger

As we approach the Christmas season, many people are making out their “wish list” of gifts they would like to receive. Whether it be a new car, a major appliance, jewelry or electronics, everybody wants something that they have dreamed about. Children also have their list of things that they feel that they cannot live without and they make sure that everyone is aware. The media only stirs our passions as advertisements run continually on radio and television. Want, want, want; get, get, get; gotta have, gotta have! This is the mantra of the season for the multitude.

We have all heard stories from our great-grandparents about yesteryear when they were kids during the Great Depression. They tell us that they would be fortunate to receive an orange and a couple pieces of candy for Christmas. Indeed, there have been many folks who have been negatively affected by poverty and who have gone without during the holidays. The greatest of joy for them was the family gathering together. The emphasis was not on material things but rather the family’s bond and their faith in God.

During the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment, he wrote to the church at Philippi and praised them for the generosity that they had shown him. That church had been a tremendous blessing and the grateful man of God testified of his appreciation. His praise was qualified with a provocative statement, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12).

Although the church had been benevolent, Paul insured them that the receiving of their gift was not as a result of his coveting a gift. On the contrary, while he appreciated the goodness of their gift, nonetheless, he had grown to a place in his faith where he had learned to be content with what he had. His yearning was not on the things he lacked.

The well-traveled apostle had total dependence on God. He had learned to walk by faith and not by sight. He had learned to wait for God’s provision, wherever it came. As with all the great saints of Holy Scripture, he had learned to eat from the hand of God. God’s faithfulness is declared in His name, “Jehovah-Jireh,” The Lord Who Provides. Paul had experience seasons of poverty as well as bounty. Yes, the Lord gives and the Lord taketh away.

Through it all, God is in control and His grace is sufficient in all seasons.

Being content is a challenge for many people. The constant coveting and yearning for more or bigger or better plagues our consumer driven, materialistic society. It is also a genuine threat to a Christian’s spiritual maturity. In a letter to Timothy, Paul emphasized that, “…godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (I Timothy 6:6-8). Godliness with contentment must be the priority of every disciple of Jesus Christ.

As we approach the season of gift giving, let us be content with the message of the season, a Savior is born. Let us find contentment in gathering together with family and friends. Let us celebrate God’s love for us and His unspeakable gift of salvation. Let us remember those who have needs across our world to include missionaries (like the Apostle Paul), charities and non-profit organizations. May we magnify the non-material components of our lives and limit the focus on materialism.

Have a great week and remember, God loves YOU!

Contact Jon at jtshonebarger@gmail.com.

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