Moving from Covetousness to Contentment

Philippians 4:11-13 – 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, 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.

The apostle Paul admitted in Romans 7 that the command, “You shall not covet” was one with which he really struggled. In fact, he said he was full of “all kinds of covetousness” (Romans 7:8). He clearly struggled being thankful for what he had, so we can safely assume that if he was coveting, that he was also jealousy and envious. It all goes together.

But later in Paul’s life, Paul had “learned” to be content in whatever situation he found himself. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, he transformed from a covetous,  envious person to a contented person. Take note that he wrote Philippians from prison in Rome. He took a pretty hard route to get there, too. Just read Acts 21-28 to see what he endured. Yet, he had learned the secret of facing life’s ups and downs.

Look at Paul’s focus, just in the book of Philippians:

  • Paul chose to be thankful (Philippians 1:3-6; 4:6). Thankfulness is a choice and it is powerful to help us through anxieties, envy, etc.
  • Bad things happened to him, but he made a choice to see how those events actually turned out to further the gospel (Philippians 1:12-14).
  • Even when others were preaching with evil motives while he’s in jail, he pointed out that at least Jesus was preached (Philippians 1:15-18).
  • He was determined to think of the good work of Jesus in himself and others, even if bad things happened to him while good things happened to others (Philippians 1:6; 2:12-14).
  • Paul made a decision to set aside his own righteousness, and to be filled with God’s righteousness (Philippians 3:8-10).
  • His mindset was not on the past, but on moving forward (Philippians 3:12-14).
  • Paul chose positive, spiritually minded people for his company. Look at how he spoke of men like Timothy and Epaphroditus in chapter 2. Find contented Christians and make them your pattern to follow (Philippians 3:17-19).
  • He learned to view heaven as his home, and that eventually changed his perspective on how he saw things on this earth (Philippians 3:20-21).

If we find ourselves being jealous, envious and covetousness, we can take some time to prayerfully meditate upon Philippians. Paul was a man that transformed from covetousness to peaceful contentment. The Holy Spirit can do that same work through you.

Other articles on jealousy, envy and covetousness:

Monday – It was because of envy

Tuesday – What is jealousy?

Wednesday – Jealousy versus envy

Thursday – Signs you are jealous or envious

Signs You are Jealous or Envious

How do you know if you are jealous or envious? This week we’ve been looking at the words jealous and envy and seeing how they affect relationships. What gets me is to see that James says in his letter that most relationship problems come down to “jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:16). He said that whenever you find disorder and every evil practice, then at the root is jealousy and selfish ambition.

What is that telling us, guys? Marriage problems? Jealousy and selfish ambition. Church problems? Jealousy and selfish ambition. Parenting issues? Jealousy and selfish ambition. Problems at work? You’ve got it – Jealousy and selfish ambition.

I believe that one of the 10 commandments is directly tied to this discussion of jealousy and envy, and that is “You shall not covet.”

Exodus 20:17 – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Paul equated covetousness to idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Look at what Moses said above about covetousness. You can see how covetousness is tied to the concept that I am not happy with what other people have. I want it for myself. I want that man’s wife. I want that man’s life. I want that man’s business success. I want what he has. I want, I want, I want. I’m not happy until I have it. That guy has confidence, and is successful, and I’m not happy. Those folks don’t bow down and worship all my ideas. I can’t handle it. That’s covetousness, and that is idolatry.  What is the god you are worshiping? You! Your desires!

Think about David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba was another man’s wife. David wanted her for himself, which means he was taking her way from her husband. Look at where David’s god of pleasure, his envy and covetousness led (2 Samuel 11-12)!

Here’s a few quick questions on helping me see my own jealousy and envy:

  • Do I praise other women and criticize my wife?
  • Do I criticize other people’s successes and blessings by finding fault with them or by not openly rejoicing with them?
  • How do I handle it when others are promoted and are moving up, and I am seemingly stuck in a nowhere job?
  • What happens when others are getting lots of attention and praise at church services?
  • How do I respond when people are not coming to me for advice but are going to others?
  • Am I secretly pleased when others are having problems, failures and pain?
  • What am I saying about people behind their back? Do we connect gossip to jealousy? Its connected folks!
  • What do those closest to you say? Those who have the courage to tell you what you need to hear…what are they saying? Ask them, and don’t be sensitive and defensive when they tell you!

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

Here is a link to an article about other signs you are jealous (powerofpositivity.com).

 

Here are the previous articles from this week.

Monday’s article – It Was Because of Envy

Tuesday’s article – What Is Jealousy?

Wednesday’s article – Jealousy Versus Envy

 

Jealousy Versus Envy

What is the difference between jealousy and envy? Is there a difference? People have many ideas. Psychologists may define these terms differently than Biblical scholars. Even among those who explain these Biblical terms, they will have differences in how they explain it.
Here is a note from my friend, Geoff, about the difference between jealousy and envy.
I’ve always found Vine’s helpful in understanding the distinction between the two.
“envy,” is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others
Think about that!  It’s not that I want what you have; I just hate that you have it!
“The distinction lies in this, that “envy” desires to deprive another of what he has, “jealousy” desires to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself.”
Depending on translation, the English words are used interchangeably, but the original language makes the distinction.  With that distinction understood, envy is the more insidious of the two.  And unlike envy, jealousy, “to seek or desire eagerly”, can be rightly directed. Note that  jealous (bad) in 1 Corinthians 13:4 and and jealous (good) in 2 Corinthians 11:2 are from the exact same original word and the context clearly shows the dual nature of the term.

Thanks Geoff!

Jealousy also has the aspect of it that there is a sense of protection of what you already possess. There is either a perceived or real threat of losing what you have, and you are jealous for it. A spouse may be jealous for fear of losing his wife. God is jealous for us, He wants to keep us to Himself (1 Corinthians 10:22, that is a good jealousy!). Someone in a position of authority may be jealous for losing his own status and power, when he feels threatened by the success, confidence and popularity of another.

Tomorrow we will consider signs that we are jealous and envious, including looking into the word covetous. Friday we will take the journey from covetousness to contentment.

Monday’s Article – It Was Because of Envy

Tuesday’s Article – What Is Jealousy?

What is Jealousy?

What is jealousy anyway?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines jealous as “Hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.” It also adds that jealousy is “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness,” and “disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness.”

There are a couple of things to note from that definition: Hostile toward a rival and hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage. How do you handle a rival? What if someone comes along and threatens your authority? How do you respond when others around you just seem way more talented, positive and popular? When others have things (not just possessions) that you do not have, how does that make you feel? Does it affect how you view others, how you treat them and how you talk about them?

Yesterday we looked at the fact that jealousy is behind a lot of strife in all kinds of relationships. How was jealousy part of the equation?

  • What did Paul and his companions have that the Jews in Galatia / Thessalonica didn’t? The people, both Jews and Gentiles, were flocking to hear Paul preach the gospel. Many were hanging on every word and begging to hear those same words again the next week (Acts 13,17).
  • What did Jesus have that the Jewish leaders didn’t? Again, it was that the people (from nobility to the harlots) ran to Jesus en masse to hear His teachings, be healed by Him, and to find forgiveness and grace. The Jewish leaders just couldn’t stand it that Jesus had that much popularity (Luke 15:1-2).
  • What did Abel have that Cain didn’t? Abel’s works were righteous, Cain’s works were evil. Cain saw Abel as a rival and a threat, not as a brother and an inspiration to draw closer to God (1 John 3:12).
  • What did Joseph have that his brothers did not have? Joseph was the favorite of their father, Jacob. He enjoyed advantages and privileges that the others did not (Genesis 37).

We’ll develop this more tomorrow, Lord willing, but for now think about this. If jealousy is at the root of a lot of relationship problems, shouldn’t you and I be open to the possibility that we might be jealous of others? We might not want to think of ourselves as jealous people, but God is saying that we are and it is the building block for fights. Let’s get at the root of this problem.

It was because of envy

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?(Proverbs 27:4)

Who can stand before jealousy? Great question. Here are several examples of great strife and pain caused by jealousy and envy.

  • The Roman governor Pilate knew that the Jewish leaders were envious of Jesus and that is why they delivered Jesus up (Matthew 27:18).
  • Joseph’s brothers were jealous of Joseph and sold him into slavery (Acts 7:9).
  • It was because of jealousy that the Jews in Galatia opposed and contradicted everything Paul and Barnabas tried to preach (Acts 13:45).
  • Jealousy led the Jews in Thessalonica to take wicked men and stir up the crowd against Paul and his companions (Acts 17:5).

James wrote in his letter that if we see disorder and every vile practice, we will find jealousy behind it.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
(James 3:14-16)

Family problems? Jealousy is somewhere close. Church problems? Look for jealousy. Problems at work. Envy is at work.

What is jealousy anyway? What is envy? Let’s look that tomorrow. If jealousy is such a source of strife, we ought to find out what it is, and how we can replace it in our hearts with godly qualities.

God Granted Paul 276 Men

I encourage you to read Acts 27 in which Luke describes in amazing and accurate firsthand detail the dangerous journey they took by sea. Not only is the firsthand knowledge of Luke’s account an incredible witness to the accuracy of the Bible, this is just a breathtaking and emotional journey as you read what those men went through on that ship in the Mediterranean Sea. So many faith and leadership lessons can be taught here.

What I want to focus on for just a moment this morning is how Paul’s relationship with God and his leadership brought all those people safely to shore.

Notice this: When Paul is speaking to the men on the ship, he tells them about what God told him.

and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
(Acts 27:24)

God has “granted you all those who sail with you.” What is implied here? Doesn’t it sound like Paul had specifically made a request to God for all of these men on the ship? God seems to be saying, I am giving you what you requested. These men will all safely come to shore, even if they do so swimming or floating on broken pieces of the ship.

and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
(Acts 27:44)

276 men were on that ship (Acts 27:37). 276 men made it safely to shore, even if it was scary and ugly. And they all can be thankful for Paul’s dedication, prayers, and concern. Paul showed who he was down to his core – he deeply loved and cared for everyone on that ship. And Paul showed them the loving and mighty God he serves. When those men swam ashore and stood on the ground, they could rest assured that God keeps His promises, and God answers the prayers of the faithful.

As we go into Memorial Day weekend, let us also remember that we have made it safely through a lot of storms in our country. God is to be praised and thanked for that first and foremost. But do not forget those who sacrificed of themselves and poured our their blood because they wanted all of us to make it safely to the shores of freedom. We stand in freedom because others laid down their lives.

Rising Early

Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Have you researched how many occasions the followers of God in the Bible “rose early in the morning”? It is pretty fascinating. They rose to pray, to meditate, and to begin early in the day working for God. From Abraham, to Moses, to Job, to Joshua, to Ruth, to David, to Hezekiah, to Ezra, to Nehemiah and to Jesus. They all rose up early to get about their day, to meditate on God, and to do the things God called them to do. You can do a Bible search using a concordance and search for the word “early” or “before dawn” to see all the occasions of people waking up early.

Aristotle said, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”

Evil wakes up early also!  It’s good to get a head start on them! Here are a ton of verses that show that darkness rises before daylight too! (Exodus 32:6; 2 Samuel 15:2; Psalm 36:4; Proverbs 4:16; Micah 2:1; Hosea 7:6-7; Zephaniah 3:7; Matthew 27:1)

There is plenty of help out there to give you practical tips for establishing a better sleep routine, and websites that demonstrate the health and wellness benefits of getting up early and having a regular sleep schedule.

For example, take a look at:

sleepfoundation.org

This may not be possible for everyone. These general principles of waking up early to devote time to God’s word and meditation, and also getting your day started earlier are going to help most of us if we commit to them.

Our Prayers for the Graduate

Following up with yesterday’s post, we want to offer our prayers for the graduate.

Our prayers are for you:

  • To prosper and be in good health, even as your soul prospers (3 John 2).
  • To follow Jesus, be in the world, not of the world (John 17:14-17).
  • To be filled with knowledge and understanding, and with the fulness and depth of God’s love (Ephesians 1:16-21; 3:14-21).
  • To have God’s richest blessings poured out upon you, as you walk with Him (Psalm 20; Numbers 6:22-27).
  • To be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man or woman of God (1 Kings 2:2; 1 Chronicles 28:9,20; 29:19).
  • To rejoice in your youth and go for it! But remember God and your purpose (Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1).

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

 

Encouragement for the Graduates

2020 was not the graduation year our graduates were expecting. They have had to deal with a year that was far different that they were anticipating. The class of 2020 will have a story to tell that is unlike any previous class.

We are proud of you seniors, whether you are graduating from high school or from college. Well done! And great job on being flexible and making the best of your senior year in the midst of the Covid-19 chaos. Although you have not had the year you wished for, we know that you will take these challenges and trials and use them to develop you even further in your growth as a man or woman.

The encouragement for you today is to look at the various men and women of the Bible who went through big changes in their lives, many of them away from their homes, and most of them in some great life-transforming events. Look at these men and women and live to imitate them.

  • Be a Solomon who asked for wisdom (1 Kings 3)! We all need help and advice sometimes.
  • Be a Daniel and a Moses who were educated in the world but did not become worldly (Daniel 1:4,8,17-20; Acts 7:22; Hebrews 11:24-26)! Daniel was a Dean’s list type student, but he did it without caving in to the culture.
  • Be an Esther who stood up for others even when it could have cost Esther her life. She saw her purpose (Esther 4:12-16). Use your talents and positions in life to look out for the helpless and hopeless.
  • Be a Joseph and stand for sexual purity in mind and in body (Genesis 39)! Joseph showed us that being sexual pure is not only possible, but God will richly bless you for keeping yourself pure!
  • Be a Jacob and see that God is with you wherever you go, and He will keep His promises to you. Commit like Jacob to making the Lord your God (Genesis 28:10-22)! Jacob was on the run for his life, but was shown by God that God will always be with him.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27)

The Person, the Word and the Holy Spirit

Take a minute to read 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10. The text is at the end of this post.

What I saw here is that when Paul preached, three things were effective in helping the hearts of the Thessalonians to turn from idols to serve God.

  • The Word (verse 5).
  • The Powerful working of the Holy Spirit (verse 5).
  • Paul and the other preachers’ examples (verse 5).

Also take notice that the Thessalonians became “imitators” of Paul and the other ministers (verse 6). Look at what happened.

  • They received the Word (verse 6) and they themselves sounded out the word (verse 8).
  • The Holy Spirit created His fruit within them…Joy (verse 6).
  • They in turn became examples to people everywhere (verse 7-10).

So remember, our example matters when it comes to preaching the word to others. Read 1 Thessalonians 2 to see the kind of example and character Paul demonstrated toward them. It also is very important to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work, too. As we are preaching the word, our example and the working of the Holy Spirit also has a tremendous impact on the conversion of souls!

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.