#2208 – Over the Top
God’s desire for us is that we abound - in our relationship to Him, in our ministry to others, and in the difficult places of our lives.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. But what exactly does this mean? And how does contentment fit into it?
Well, hello. If we haven’t met, my name is Odalis, I’m part of the worship and pastoral teams here at Cornerstone SF. Welcome to our Sunday service, uh, from wherever you’re tuning in. It matters that we get to share this time together to share God’s word and to pursue Him in our lives together. It’s my privilege to get to speak today.
Uh, this is the last message in our Abound series, where we kicked off the year, considering what it means, to abound in the Lord to experience the abundance of putting Him first in our lives as a priority and ordering our lives come high or low around our faith. These seasons of high change that we’re in, the only constant we have is the Lord.
Everything around us will change, but the Lord never does. And so how can we stay consistent and stable at peace in a time that is so full of discontent. I don’t think I’m alone in having struggled with frustration recently at why things are the way that they are. It just seems like so much is I’m constantly asking that question.
And I really admire people like Pastor Terry, who can stay super informed, up to date on the news, know everything going on in the world and yet maintain an inner sense of peace. I find myself overwhelmed by the negativity. I was in a conversation recently where we were talking about sort of just that where things are at, how to plan.
How to, how to consider a future that’s still seems a bit uncertain. And even in part of our conversation, you know, thinking back to when things felt a little easier or at least simpler. And I really had to pause just internally and questioned my own train of thought. To challenge feelings that wanted to go down the path of, of why God, why are things the way they are right now?
You’re in control, I know that. And You decided that this was going to be the time that I was going to live in the world and get to have, you know, my, my stewardship over the life You’ve given me. I know You have a plan. You, I know You have a purpose. What do you want to do in this time? Like, just, just, just asking.
And it’s this train of thought that actually can sometimes spiral into a negative place. And I’m grateful that I’ve built enough trust in the Lord enough practice to stop that train of thought before it becomes despair. But, um, it was it’s it’s it’s I don’t think it’s uncommon, I guess for us, I don’t think I’m alone in fighting some of those spirals. It’s it’s this, this contentment that is,
all in the air, in our, in our country and our culture in the world. The great resignation, all over employment news. Uh, according to Gallup, 48% of America’s working population is actively searching or watching for job opportunities. That’s almost every other person wanting to, um, and there is a, uh, an alarming quit rate.
Uh, 3.6 million Americans that resigned in May alone and a record number of open job positions. That’s just the workplace. That’s that’s that’s one sphere of life that discontentment is not isolated to work places. It’s it’s across all spheres of life. And so in the season of such discontentment and disillusionment and disenchantment, what is the life of a follower of Jesus look like? Jesus certainly didn’t model discontentment.
In fact, He was so on fire and so on mission for what God had in mind that He catalyzed the entire course of human history to change. The apostle Paul defines it. He calls it a secret. It’s not a very well kept secret. It’s available to us even now. And so let’s pray together and dive in. Holy Spirit, we pause before You, and we welcome You in, we thank You for this time that we get to share.
We thank You for Your word. We thank You for a community of faith that we get to press into to pursue Your truth together in a world that is constantly changing around us. Lord, be our consistency and speak to us this day. We welcome You in Lord, and we pray these things in Your good name, Jesus. Amen.
Amen. So think back with me for a bit, I don’t know if you remember a Pixar short from many years ago called Boundin’. It is a classic. It’s one of my favorites. It’s got rhythmic narration that all rhymes, a really catchy hook and listen online community, if you want to pause this message right now and hop over to Disney Plus or YouTube, find it on there and watch it,
it’s like four minutes long. I will wait here for you. You like go, and come back after. Um, but if you don’t want to watch it right now, um, it follows this adorable little lamb with a gorgeous coat. He lives on some shelter on a rock, over a pond. And now every day he steps out into the sun, the sun gleaming on his coat and he starts to dance and all his wildlife neighbors dance with him.
And it’s, you know, you got the good life, the shining pretty coat until one. Uh, truck backs into the area and grabs the little lamb by the foot and pulls him off screen. And you don’t see what happens, but all you hear are the shearers going off across his gorgeous coat. And then the drama thickens night falls and it starts to rain.
And then we see the lamb thrown back on screen into a puddle, sad and naked and pink and totally ashamed. He feels stuck. He feels hopeless even. Until, bounding on the screen with the light now shining through the storm comes a jackalope who comes in to pump some optimism, right back into the little lamb.
He tells him he just needs to get his head right. And he can do more than dance while he can soar. He just needs to bound and rebound. And clumsily at first, falling over a lot. At first, the little lamb starts to get the hang of it and his wildlife neighbors. Instead of dancing with him, now they’re bounding with him.
And every year, when the truck comes around to shear his coat, the little lamb is totally unfazed. He just rebounds. It goes right back to bound in his wellbeing. No longer depends on his coat or these external circumstances outside of his control. It’s a wonderful little short, honestly, it’s so cute. But I think we all have aspects of this little lamb in us.
What, what, what the, you know, the pain that this lamb walk through. You know, we’ve been hurt by something or someone in our past. It’s some experience that triggers a response of hesitation or fear or embarrassment in us. Or maybe, um, we’ve had our dreams sort of squashed. We don’t even know how to begin looking at the future in a new way. Or maybe we’ve always done things a certain way until circumstances outside of our control or sometimes because of our own choices they change.
And now we can’t really distinguish up from down and how to move forward. These are situations that are ripe with potential for discontent, the sense of angst and anxiousness in us, but the scriptures talk about contentment quite a bit. And just as our lamb friend needed to find a sense of contentment outside of what he originally knew, his lovely coat.
We too are invited to examine the sources of our satisfaction in life. Are we relying on the things that we can see and feel and hear. The things that we can understand and grasp. The Apostle Paul, again, he talks about this. He knew about learning contentment. He actually reminds me a little bit of the lamb.
You know, he was preening about in his luscious Pharisee coat until Jesus grabs him and sheers him down and breaks his pride and then gives him a new purpose. A little bit of a stretch, but I think there’s something there. Why don’t we look together at Philippians chapter four, if you’ve got your Bible, if not, we’ll put the verses here on screen.
Um, in this context, Paul is affirming the church in Philippi for their generosity toward him. And he’s not just affirming them because of this financial gift that they have sent. He’s also, and maybe, and I think definitely more so because of the evidence of God at work in their lives. So let’s read from verse ten.
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length, you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.” This is again, an affirmation of that expression of love and support that gift they sent. He goes on. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low,” um, older translations, use the word abased. “And I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Now notice how Paul is exhorting, encouraging the Philippians in the Lord.
He’s affirming their generosity. Not just in their financial gift, but in their spirit that they had a desire, a good intention in their hearts prompted by the Lord and they saw it through. And this matters to point out before we go any further that what’s, what’s really being emphasized here by Paul and it’s in the scriptures.
Like if it’s in the Bible, it’s a big deal. Is the faithfulness of heart. It’s the Godly intentions and the commitment to see those intentions through. The Philippians out of their concern, they could have sent a note saying, “hey Paul, we’ll be praying for ya here for you, you know? And that would be fine, especially if they do pray right?
Prayer is powerful. Um, but they had a sense of deep concern for Paul and they expressed it as thoroughly as they could raising funds in the community to support his needs while he’s in prison. And that’s the emphasis, the demonstration of a living, an active abounding faith within the Philippian community. They demonstrated sensitivity to the prompting of the Lord and they didn’t just talk about it.
They did something about it. And if we’re honest, we know, and sometimes ourselves can be a little bit flaky. Maybe this is generational, but it seems almost normal for people to sort of cancel or change plans at the last minute. Or sort of think of an excuse for how you can avoid doing something or get distracted with other things, because really we just wanted to stay home or do our own thing anyway.
Anyone ever plan out sort of how late they can arrive somewhere and how early they can leave? I’m only asking, cause I have. And it’s even normal things too, you know, our, how our intentions and how we want to maintain our home. You know, for some reason that pile of laundry that’s been clean for three days has not folded itself.
And the dishes in the sink have not marched their way into the machine and turned it on and sort of closed the door by themselves, for some reason. Maybe that’s the more, or I guess, less disciplined of us. Um, but if we do this socially, and if we do it in our homes, do we do this with the Lord? We have really good intentions about spending time with Him. Reading the Bible or praying, spending more time with other Christians getting more involved at church or a small group or growing in our faith.
But there’s always things that come up. There are always these reasons to stay sort of not right now, or I’ll circle back to it later. And I’m not denying that there are seasons that are just so jam packed. We don’t have room to add anything else. There are always seasons like that. But I’m speaking more generally about the, you know, the general intention to sort of move and keep growing rather than staying in the same place.
But Paul affirms in the Philippians is something for us to consider in our lives as well. The abounding life is one that not only has good intentions, but sees them through. So, what are the godly desires God has put in your heart? Like the Philippians had to support Paul? And what does it look like to see them through?
Otherwise, they’re just intentions. And I say this with love. Intentions don’t bear fruit. And so Paul affirms them, but then very quickly deviates to point out that gift or no gift, he has learned to be content, no matter what. Whether he has nothing or he has everything, whether he is starving or full, comfortable, or shipwrecked welcomed or stoned and left for dead.
And he certainly experienced all of that, and more. He has learned to find contentment outside of his circumstances. And then we get that familiar last verse. I can do all things through Him through Christ who strengthens me. And that we see that last verse on a lot of things. We see it on home decor or on social media bios or on Steph Curry’s shoes.
And I love it. Um, but that verse is more than just meets the eye. Paul is not writing here that he’s been through a lot and now he knows that whatever he puts his mind to, he can accomplish. And God’s going to bless all his goals. Uh, he’s not saying that he can face every challenge no matter what. And he’s got the capability within himself to deal with every blow life throws at him. Look where he started in the passage.
He has learned in whatever situation to be content. This is the same Paul that wrote that God demonstrates His strength in our weakness, in a sense of dependence on the Lord. Interesting and hoping in the one who outlasts and is greater than all of our circumstances. So that last verse doing all things through Christ who strengthens, has less to do with our hopes and our goals and our dreams as good as those are.
And so much more to do with living a life of contentment. I can do all things has nothing to do with self-sufficiency and everything to do with living a life of dependence on God. And Paul’s confidence that he can do all things, comes from his learned contentment in the Lord. And so what is this contentment that Paul is talking about?
I think if I’m the newly following Jesus version of me from, thankfully now many years ago, um, if she heard this, she might roll her eyes. You know, this whole, you just need to learn to be content thing. Um, I didn’t like my circumstances. I was carrying a lot of pain and grief. I didn’t know how to deal with it.
I was desperate to feel better, and I just didn’t understand why things had to be the way that they were. Some aspects of that, the Lord is still working on me in. I think if that version of me would have defined contentment, it would have been some cheesy churchy word about being fine with a bland sense of, of acceptance at, at what life is like or worse being okay
with a lack of ambition or shrugging at the things that are wrong in the world or inside of us. And if that’s our sense of, of understanding of contentment in any form, we’re actually missing something that radically changes our lives. This is the secret that Paul has been talking about. True contentment is not a blissful state of unfazed.
And instead it’s like the little lamb had to learn. It’s an internal consistency of being. Come high or low adventurous life or monotonous season. Contentment is not about just being okay with what happens to us and keeping an arbitrary sense of a status quo. It’s about learning and developing over time.
And the partnership with the Holy Spirit, a deep inner satisfaction, unaffected by life’s circumstances or our feelings or our thoughts. It becomes the foundation of our lives, like a, like a foundation of a house that is not shaken, regardless of job change or experience, relational pain, impatience, lack of understanding, anything, any of the things that pester our hearts.
Again, we’re not talking about a lack of ambition. Remember, who’s writing this, this is Paul, who I think is arguably one of the most ambitious people in all the scriptures. He ambitiously persecuted the church before Jesus encountered him and changed his life. Then he ambitiously pursued the kingdom of God.
He planted churches all over the Mediterranean. He contributed to the conversion of thousands of people and his partnership with the Holy Spirit in the work of God, in that time helped to establish the church, the church that changed the course of human history that’s ambition. But he wasn’t swallowed by his ambition nor was he left with a sense of a self-focused craving for achievement.
His ambition was tempered and laser-focused like, um, a magnifying glass with catches the light just right. It punches through the darkness with the light of the Gospel. And this contentment that Paul models, it must be learned. But even more than that, it’s important to remember that it can be learned.
We’re not doomed like Angelica from Hamilton. I will never be satisfied. Like, we can be satisfied. This is part of what Jesus offers us in the abundant life. Paul writes that he learned to be content regardless of his circumstances, because his contentment doesn’t come from his circumstances. It comes from the one who strengthens him, who showed him how to be content over time and experience. And the
original phrasing of that strengthened word, it implies much more than being lended strength from the outside or even of our own inherent strength being magnified. It speaks of being infused with the strength of another. The strength of the One who empowers us by His Holy Spirit, no matter what we face. We need this infusion of strength from the outside.
We cannot experience true contentment out of willpower or our human capabilities. We have too much longing in our souls. Longing, which in its best form should drive us to think of eternity, but doesn’t always. Often misdirected longing is part of what contributes to this deep sense of discontentment that we feel stuck with.
CS Lewis phrased it beautifully in his book, Mere Christianity. He wrote, “if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” That longing in us is designed to draw us into the Lord, to register in us that we, things are not how they should be yet that we are not who we should be yet. But that instead we and the world around us are in a process of renewal.
And we need empowerment. We need strength to be in this now and not yet. Empowerment to participate in that renewal that begins in our hearts, then with our families and friends and all that God has given us not just the material. Over time, and experience through these longings, as we press into our God given purpose by His God given strength, we can learn to build contentment.
And so how we’ll before we start building it, we have to be infused with the strength of the living God. I could do all things through Him who strengthens me. We need that strength from Him. And it sounds intense a little bit. Yeah, but it’s not a mystery. As we profess Jesus as Lord in our lives, the actual Spirit of God is given into us to do exactly this.
And if you’ve never received Christ. Maybe you’ve wondered about it. Maybe you have discontentment in your life or in your heart. You’re wondering if things can be different. They can be, they will be. Jesus changes, absolutely everything. And He absolutely loves you. He has a beautiful purpose for your life.
And so if this is you, I want to invite you to close your eyes and to just talk to God, to express this desire for Him. Ask Him to come into your life and show you His hope and His truth and the grander of who He is. And please reach out to us, to our pastoral team. We would love to talk through this with you and walk it out with you.
It is the most important and the best decision we ever make. And for those of us who’ve been following the Lord a little bit longer, are we remembering to return to the source of our strength? Are we turning to Him in all of our circumstances for His power? I think if we’re not cautious, we can sort of get used to doing things our way and we forget, we need God every step of the way.
We need His guidance and His love to fill us so that it affects the world around us. And this is what Paul is teaching the Philippians. The strength to do all things is found in dependence. It’s found in commitment and reverence and deference to the Holy Spirit in our lives. And this is what begins to produce that sense of contentment in our lives.
It means for those of us in difficult circumstances, whether these are lifelong challenges or hopefully the more temporary seasonal ones. That we don’t permit the circumstance itself to define our sense of wellbeing, or our inner satisfaction or our outlook on life and on hope in the future. Instead, it means being resolute to pursue Jesus and structure our lives in a way that continually helps us to look to Him and to count on Him for that infusing of strength.
And it also means, for the more ambitious ones among us, that that ambition is exercised in a Godly way. Not cutting others down, not manipulating, instead remembering that in all the places we’re in, in those, in that position of influence that we might be in, God, has put us there to represent Him. And as we climb, staying humble. Biblical Commentator, Matthew Henry phrase it this way, he wrote, “let us pray for patience, submission, and hope when we are abased; for humility and a heavenly mind when exalted.
It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state, not to lose our comfort in God nor distrust His providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition, not to be proud or secure or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other, for the temptations of fullness and prosperity are more than those of affliction
and want.” And so as Paul models, we are invited to build greater contentment into our lives. And I have three final considerations for us as we look to make Jesus the priority in our lives. First is notice anything in your heart that’s make or break. And this might invite us to practice some imagination as well.
Dreams we want fulfilled, goals we want to accomplish, relationships, those drivers in our lives. Notice those things and how their fulfillment or their absence does affect us, or may. Contentment in these things looks like abounding regardless of their fulfillment. Secondly take stock of activities and habits in your life.
It’s the often asked and often frustrating question of how are we spending our time. And contentment looks like meaningful use of our time for both ourselves and extending ourselves out for others. This is the healthy balance between work and rest, and rest as God defines it, not as the world does. Lastly take stock of your trust in Jesus.
Commitment looks like actually trusting His ways over our own. And often that means being wrong and being okay with it. Maybe even celebrating it when the Lord is showing us those areas. The, come new variant or new administration, friends coming and going, job change, being thrilled about it, or being frustrated in it, whether we are abased or whether we abound, we have learned to be content and look to Jesus. Do all things through Him who infuses His strength into us.
The song that the band is going to close with is an anthem of just that. That if I lose everything that makes up my external world, all the material, all that I’ve built up everything that is that structure externally, that I know I still have everything I need and all that truly matters. Before they do,
this is our time of giving, uh, for this is primarily for those who call Cornerstone their home church, but also for those who want to participate in the joy of giving, as we give our tithes and offerings in thanks to God who is our provider. You can give online through the app, you can mail in a check.
Um, and lastly, I would love for us to pray together. Um, would you, yeah. Would you join me in prayer. Lord God, we thank you for this, um, the hope that we have in You, Lord, the hope of a future and a hope, eternally as well as here, Lord, that You change all of our circumstances. God, and You give us the consistency to walk through life in a way that
honors You and shows the wholeness of God to those around us. Lord, and we pray for You to build in us a greater sense of contentment and a habit of looking to You to be infused by Your strength, Lord. We pray that You would help us to come to the place that Paul did, in what he wrote to the Philippians that we can say as he did,
and, and if you’re comfortable, let’s pray this out loud together. This is from the message version. Lord, we want to be able to say, actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content, whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy, whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty, whatever I have.
Whatever I am. I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Lord, that is our prayer. Help us order our lives and prioritize You and seek You above all other things above the experiences we face, not minimizing or diminishing them Lord, but submitting them to You. So that we too, like Paul can declare
with boldness and confidence and humility that whatever we have, wherever we are, we know we can make it through anything in You, the one who strengthens us, who makes us who we are, we are yours Jesus. And we thank You for this time. We pray it. All of this, in your beautiful name. Amen. Amen. Amen. Let’s receive this song now together.
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