A Matter of the Heart, Part 1

A Matter of the Heart

“For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not” (Is. 30:15).

Those last words are haunting: “but you would not.” Think about it—the Holy One of Israel, the Lord omnipotent and full of grace, tells how true rest and deliverance can be found; how a quiet confidence that is so allusive in our day can be acquired and strengthened in a weary and hurried soul. All this offered, “but you would not”; you would not return to the one lover and savior of your soul. What a sober commentary on missed opportunities, a warning to those who ought to have ears to hear and hearts to receive instruction!

J.R. Miller closed our 29-week review of Young People’s Problems like this: “Shall we not set this lesson for ourselves in the bright days of youth when we are learning to live? Let us trust God and do our duty, committing all the tangles and frets to Him. He will take care of us. Though we must walk through dark ways, we shall always find light; for He who is the Light of the world will walk with us. It is a great thing to have in one’s heart a fountain which will supply all one’s needs. Then one can be independent of circumstances and of experiences, and be everywhere and always the same sweet, quiet, rejoicing Christian.”

If we are honest, we must confess that the topics we studied this year are “adult people’s problems” too; they are lessons we ourselves need to heed as well! Dear parents and fellow Character Advocates, lovers of our own children’s souls, hear again the axiom: “We cannot lead another any further than we have gone ourselves.” Only the healthy, those who are strong, can help and lift up those who are not. We must find that rest and quiet confidence if we are to instill it in another.

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). Hebrews 4 is familiar to those who have spent any time in the Word. It is often viewed as a personal challenge to the “individual” who might fail the “promise [that] remains of entering [God’s] rest.” Yet if we look closely, we will see an element of the collective: “Let us (each individual) … enter that rest, lest anyone (of us or another) fall according to the same example of disobedience.” That word “anyone” can imply “someone” else; and given the context of Heb. 4:11, I submit that the rest God promises here reinforces both our own personal faith and faith/obedience in the hearts of others under our influence.

Thus these pointed words of John Angell James: “The silent influence of parental conduct is far greater, either for good or for evil, than most parents are aware of. You teach by what you say, you influence by what you do; and also by what you do not say, and do not perform… O parents, parents! Take care what you are teaching your children by your example. You are always influencing them for good—or evil. You are leading them to Heaven—or to Hell. Not a day passes, but you produce impressions, perhaps permanent impressions—either good or bad!”

I am not through; these thoughts will be continued.

— Joe LoGiudice, Principal


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Serial Reading of Young People’s Problems Chapter 28 – Learning Contentment – Part 2

Serial Reading of Young People’s Problems

Chapter 28 – Learning Contentment – Part 2

This final topic is of such importance that I opted to cover it in two parts. I’d like to begin today’s consideration with a favorite quote from my personal collection: “Events belong unto God, but duties belong unto us” (Anon). This quote often comes to mind when I face a difficult circumstance, reminding me that the Author of our faith rules in all events; my call is to dutiful obedience in submissive faith.

Now, to continue with Miller’s thoughts on contentment:

“We are to let ourselves rest down upon God’s omnipotence, nestling in the bosom of His everlasting love. We are to stay in the strong, warm refuge, not restlessly tossing ourselves out of it. If we stay in God’s love — God will keep us in perfect peace. ‘You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.’”

These are words that we need to heed and to pass on to our covenant children. It takes learning because it is not our natural state of mind and spirit to be content.

“[Contentment is] not to be affected by the things around us. It may be of special comfort to young Christians to note that Paul says he had learned this lesson of contentment [Phil. 4:10ff]. He was quite an old man when he wrote the verse, and we may suppose that he was a good many years learning it. Probably it was not an easy lesson for him, and we may suppose that he got it only through long discipline and careful training.”

Miller continues, saying, “This may seem, therefore, not to be a young person’s problem — to be a lesson which the young can scarcely expect to learn — yet it is not impossible for the young to attain this grace.” In fact, “The lesson is set for the young, therefore, for it is in youth that it must be learned. To grow into mid-life or old age discontented is to remain to the end discontented.”

“If young people realized how lovely the spirit of contentment is, and how unlovely discontent is, they would all strive to learn the lesson, whatever it may cost them. Discontent mars the beauty of the face, makes people old before their time, makes them petulant, disagreeable, and uncomfortable companions… One secret of lovableness is a sweet spirit, restful, at peace, quiet, and undisturbed in any circumstances. We all admire such a person.”

Character Advocates, do you know such a person? Is there one in your circle of influence that can be pointed to with the words “follow him or her, as they follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1)? I have a favorite verse that brings to mind my beloved stepfather who lived and modeled contentment so well. Isa. 30:15 defines the peace and confidence which I saw in him, but which few of us have apprehended. My step-father’s example remains before me as a life goal which, like Paul, I have yet to fully apprehend; but a goal it remains nonetheless.

“Shall we not set this lesson for ourselves in the bright days of youth when we are learning to live? Let us trust God and do our duty… He will take care of us.”

Let us both learn and teach in our TEAM2work task that, “though we must walk through dark ways, we shall always find light; for He who is the Light of the world walks with us.”

Find the full text on Grace Gems at: http://gracegems.org/Miller/young_peoples_problems.htm

…Joe LoGiudice, Principal


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Serial Reading of Young People’s Problems Chapter 28 – Learning Contentment (Part 1)

Serial Reading of Young People’s Problems

Chapter 28 – Learning Contentment – Part 1

We come to the last chapter of J.R. Miller’s invaluable instruction regarding Young People’s Problems. In this final chapter, he aims his exhortation at discontentment, that universal plague of the soul.

“Not many people are contented. Not many seem to think that discontentment is a sin. Not many appear to understand that contentment is a grace which should shine in every Christian character. Yet no grace adds more to the beauty and the comfort of a life, than contentment. It is also enjoined in the Scriptures as a duty.”

“The time to get this spirit into our life is in youth. If one has allowed thirty or forty years to pass in discontent and fretfulness, the habit is so firmly rooted, that it is almost impossible to change it. But if one begins in childhood to learn to keep sweet in all conditions and circumstances, by the time one has reached maturity — the habit has become so much a part of one’s very life, that it is easy to maintain it.”

Miller goes on to show how we are to traverse that fine line between godly and ungodly dispositions:

“Contentment does not mean satisfaction with one’s attainments. [It is an] indolent person who is one without noble aspirations and longings. The end of longing, is the end of growing.”

On the contrary, Miller continues, “Contentment, however, is the spirit of restfulness and peace in whatever circumstances one may be placed. Paul tells us what it meant in his life, when he says, ‘I have learned, in whatever state I am, therein to be content.’ The word content means satisfaction — and implies that he had in his own heart the secret of satisfaction, and was not dependent for it on any outside circumstances.”

“On a dark and stormy night a happy family gathers in the living-room of their home. On the table the lamp burns brightly. About the room the members of the household are grouped. There is gladness, conversation, song, cheer. The household is independent of the outside weather. Beat as the storm may upon the windows, it disturbs not their zest and gladness.”

“This illustrates the secret of contentment. A true family possess it in their own home, in themselves. Paul carried in his heart the secret of peace and of joy, and was not dependent upon circumstances. He wrote [his] insightful verse in a prison; but the prison atmosphere, hardship, and restraint did not affect his inner life of contentment.”

“Every Christian should have in himself the same secret. We are God’s children, and the strong Son of God is our Savior and Friend. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Our faith should lift us above the hard experiences of life. We may be in sorrow — but the sorrow should not break the inner divine peace. We may have suffering — but the suffering should not destroy the comfort we have in resting in God.”

“It is not our part to keep ourselves in peace — God’s part is the keeping; our part is the staying ourselves upon God.”

Find the full text on Grace Gems at: http://gracegems.org/Miller/young_peoples_problems.htm

Chapter 28 – Learning Contentment – Part 2

 (to be continued)

— Joe LoGiudice, Principal

 


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Serial Reading of Young People’s Problems Chapter 27 – What Is the Comfort?

Serial Reading of Young People’s Problems

Chapter 27 – What Is the Comfort?

Heidelberg Catechism Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. … He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

There is more to the answer above; the excerpt quoted is quite applicable to J.R. Miller’s comments for today. Once again I urge you to go to the full text for Pastor Miller’s wise instruction found in a narrative that is both disquieting and challenging to our faith and life perspective.

There are few who live an insular life devoid of problems and severe suffering. Many a time we encounter either in ourselves or near friends and family burdensome tragedies that challenge our faith. In this story Pastor Miller brings us face to face to that heart-probing question “What is Comfort”, or better yet, “what is your only comfort in life and in death? The question ought to give us pause. Miller’s story is of a young man, his life and death and its impact upon others.

“He had just completed his long course of preparation. He had been graduated from the University, and then from the Theological Seminary. He had been called as pastor of an interesting church, and had been ordained and installed. Then almost immediately, he became ill. He was tenderly watched over. The best medical skill was procured in his behalf, and all that could be done, was done. But all availed not. One October day, he sank away into the quietness and stillness of death. Truly it seemed a mysterious providence.”

This is a story not only about the tragedy of a promising life spent so quickly, but of a parent’s crushed hopes and aspirations as well. It also tells of a “young maiden’s ‘sweet dream’ unrealized; of broken hopes folded up and shut away in [her loved one’s] coffin.”

What are we to make of such things? As much as we would want to deny it, we are surrounded by similar sorrows in our own life and times. And as those who belong to Christ we must concur with Miller that such a thing “was no accident, no surprise to God; it came as part of the divine plan for their two young lives.” The key to this faith-affirming thought is knowing that “the years of love had their part in the building up of the character, and the culture of the spirit, of him who was called to higher service.”

As such, we are reminded “that the trial of your faith, [is] much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire” (1 Pet 1:7). From this narrative and the Scriptures we understand that the events of our lives – confrontations and sufferings encountered not only give shape to, but reveal our true “character,” who we are and what we “truly” believe in faith and practice (2 Pet 1: 3). Our true comfort is made evident in how we respond to life’s unavoidable realities. Such things reveal the depth and degree of our faith, our inward ability to explain our “only comfort in life and death” in a Christ-honoring manner.

Find the full text on Grace Gems at: http://gracegems.org/Miller/young_peoples_problems.htm

Chapter 28 – Learning Contentment

 (to be continued)

— Joe LoGiudice, Principal

 


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