I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. -Philippians 4:11b NLT

Sometimes contentment is misconstrued as resignation. A better word, for me anyways, is optimization - making and living the very best in whatever situation we find ourselves. Such was the case when the Apostle Paul wrote these words from a prison in Rome. He was, as it is sometimes said, an example of blooming where you are planted.

That said, I think that the concept is very challenging to people who do not understand what it means to be content. For some it resembles a weird form of victimization and a means of hopeless acceptance. And for the egocentric it resembles a strange form of self abasement. Yet for many contentment is a path full of hope and promise.

In you Lord, we live and breathe. And in you, we are learning to be content.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


“Anything is possible if a person believes.” -Mark 9:23 NLT

These were the words that Jesus spoke to the father who questioned his ability to heal his son. The father's response to Jesus was a cry to help him overcome his doubts. Most of us can relate to these struggles. We understand that anything is possible for God but find it so hard to believe that He will actually do the impossible when we pray.

That said, I think that it is good for us to remember a few important points about this verse.
  • When Jesus says "anything is possible" he is using hyperbole.
  • Hyperbole points us to a greater truth but often breaks down in the details.
  • It is not about believing for something but in Someone.
  • God makes things possible when we believe in him.
  • The impossible came because Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing.
Finally, things are only possible in prayer if they are in accord with the revealed will of God. So don't ask God to make you rich, give you laser vision or the ability to fly. Ask for things that advance the kingdom of God.
    Father, we confess that we are hindered by doubts. Help us to believe more in your ability than our own.

    ... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


    God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. -Ephesians 2:8

    I resonate with what this verse teaches when it says a gift is something that we "can’t take credit for". Yet to actually be a gift, the thing given must be received. For example, a person can give you a check for $100 but it will be of no effect unless you endorse the check. That does not enable a person to claim credit for the gift but only makes the gift useful.

    So it is with salvation. Apart from the grace of God we are unable to receive the gift of salvation. Yet apart from saying yes to the Holy Spirit, this grace is rendered useless. I find this to be true of the full length of eternal life. The Holy Spirit is there giving gifts of grace and we simply say yes to them. And as we cooperate with the Spirit, he works in us.

    Lord, help me to be one who cooperates with your Spirit and receives yours gifts.

    ... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


    These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. -John 16:33 NASB

    In looking at the definition for the word translated here, I read that "bold courage means living out the inner confidence that is Spirit-produced". It reminds me of this quote by future missionary Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire:
    "I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within."
    Tribulation is experienced externally but often penetrates our very being. It can wreck us with worry. To this Jesus says that in Him we have peace. He speaks to us of taking hold of this inner divine confidence that overcomes tribulation.

    Eric Liddell, like many in history, saw the race to the end because of this divine courage from within. These are examples to us of what it means to have courage. To never quit. To always believe. To take courage and overcome the world.

    Help us today Lord to pick up the courage you have deposited in us and run the race with confidence.

    ... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. -Psalm 23:1 ESV

    This is one of the most famous sentences in all of human history. The image of God as a divine shepherd seems to transcend language and culture. Jesus referred to himself as a shepherd. Church leaders throughout the ages have taken on the title. It communicates two important truths. We are sheep and we are in need of a shepherd.

    The verses following this one speaks of how the shepherd leads us, comforts us and watches over us. I love the metaphor but understand that, like all metaphors, it presents a simplistic view of the dynamics between sheep and shepherd. The image is most representative of a spiritual shepherd who cares for our soul and leads us by his spirit.

    Lead us, O Divine Shepherd, to the place where we do not want for love, joy or peace.

    ... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.