Revive Our Hearts Podcast

— Audio Player —

A Trusting and Selfless Heart

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says that when you show contentment . . .

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: . . . you’re not only determining your own peace level, versus frustration, but you’re in large measure impacting the lives of your children who are learning how to respond to life’s difficulties and challenges.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, June 26, 2014.

You can’t complain and be thankful at the same time. Continuing in the series "Cultivating a Contented Heart," Nancy here to explain why it is so much better to choose thankfulness.

Nancy: We’re looking at how to cultivate a contented heart, and we’re looking at characteristics of a contented heart. In the last session, we saw that a contented heart is a thankful heart, learning to recognize and express appreciation for the blessings of God.

I would just encourage you again to take time on a daily basis to say, “Thank You, Lord,” and to list for God the specific blessings that He’s brought into your life that so many times we just take for granted or we bypass.

Sometimes I wonder if God only did for me the things that I thank Him for, how many blessings would I have down the road? If He didn’t do anything more for me than what I’ve already thanked Him for, would I have a blessed or a deprived life down the road?

A contented heart is a grateful, thankful heart. We want to see next that a contented heart is also a trusting heart. It’s a heart that trusts God’s character, trusts God’s providence, trusts God’s plan and knows that whatever God does is good.

A lady wrote to me, and she said, “I’ve been discontented in my family life, in particular with my husband and what I think he should be doing in our family.”

This is an area, by the way, of discontent for many women. It’s a dangerous trap to fall into. It’s a dangerous habit that many women develop and don’t even realize they’ve developed this habit—having expectations within the home front that are not fulfilled.

Let me just say, by the way, there is no husband that God ever created who will be the perfect husband. There’s no husband who can meet all the expectations of his wife. And, by the way, there’s no such thing as a perfect wife who can meet all of her husband’s expectations either.

So God knew what you needed when He selected that husband for you, and God is intending to use even his rough edges to help shape and mold you. But when you focus on the ways your husband or your children or your parents do not meet your expectations, you’re going to find yourself frustrated.

This lady went on to say, “My lack of contentment shows that I do not trust God and His provision. I have been reminded that my husband is God’s perfect choice for me, and I need to trust that He knows what He is doing in my life.”

That is such a simple statement, but it’s what life comes back to—believing that God knows what He is doing in our lives.

Someone has said that God’s will is exactly what we would choose if we knew what God knows. Now, we don’t know what God knows. That’s what makes Him God and us not. But when we are in eternity with the Lord and we stand looking back on this life, we will have a perspective that we can’t have now. We will see from that eternal heavenly perspective, “Yes! God knew exactly what He as doing. He didn’t make any mistakes. There was a tapestry He was weaving. There was a path He was leading on, and it was right. It was good. And, yes, if I’d been God, I would have made exactly those same decisions, if I had known then what I know now.”

We can’t see all that now. We don’t have that total perspective, and we won’t have it in this life. So we have to trust what we cannot see, and it’s that faith that pleases God. You want to please God with your life? Then God will put you in circumstances where you cannot see the outcome; you cannot see the reason; it makes no sense. You’ve just got to trust, and a trusting heart will ultimately be a contented heart.

I was very struck a few years ago by a series of articles that ran in my local paper. One particular article in this series had the following headline. It said: “Love, Honor, Commitment: The Baby that Cancer Threatened Is Born”

Todd Stilson is a medical doctor who lives in our area. His wife Jane was a pharmacist. Early in her second pregnancy, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of breast cancer. The doctors advised her to abort the baby in order to fight Jane’s cancer. She knew that if she did not abort the baby, then her own life expectancy would be very short.

The couple said the easiest decision they faced in this whole process was the decision that they could not abort this baby. They refused in spite of the medical counsel they had been given. Both of them doctors, knowing the outcome, likely, they believed that the pregnancy as well as the cancer was from God, and they would accept them both. This particular article written right after her baby was born expressed this couple’s trust in God’s will and His plan for their lives.

Let me read you some of what they said. The article said:

This couple prays that God will intervene either through science or supernatural power, but they are prepared to accept an answer of no. "We trust in the providence of the Lord," Todd said quietly.

The couple has had their moments of fear and sadness, but "in the midst of the pain and suffering, there can be genuine peace," he said. "This story is much bigger than us," said Todd. "This story is what God is doing in our lives. My desire is that when people see us, it will make them want to know the God that we serve. Jane and I will come and go," Todd said. "People come and go. But the Lord doesn’t. He’s eternal. He’s forever."

Seven months later, shortly before Jane did go to be with the Lord, another article was run in which Todd said,

"We believe that God is in control, and He hasn’t made a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake that Jane was pregnant, and it wasn’t a mistake that she has breast cancer. We’re going to trust Him."

“God has His promises,” Jane said. “He’s never forsaken His people.”

Both Stilsons are in good spirits and remain very upbeat when talking about life. Depression, like an abortion, just doesn’t seem to be an option.

“When we found the cancer had spread to the bones, that was a very big blow,” Jane said. “They medically can’t cure me. That was the biggest letdown, but I’m not depressed. The Lord has been my strength.”

She admits, “We were very disappointed, and we cried [when they received this report], but I knew we had to go forward. I claimed God’s Word, and that gave me a lot of peace. He’s in full control of the situation,” she said. “It’s really out of my hands, and it requires me to have total dependence on Him.”

You know what the fact is? It all is out of our hands anyway. You and I try so hard to control, and we women are born controllers. We want to have everything fixed and operating right and under our management and control, but the fact is, we can’t control it. You can keep your child right at your fingertips, but you cannot control that child’s health, that child’s development and temperament and character. Ultimately, we are dependent for our very breath on God.

A contented heart is a heart that comes out of a trust that God knows what He’s doing, and that God doesn’t make mistakes. As the psalmist said, “God is good, and everything He does is good.”

So a contented heart is a thankful heart, it’s trusting heart, and it’s a surrendered and submissive heart.

Now, that’s not a word that comes easily to us, but if we want to have a heart of contentment, then we have to have a surrendered, submissive heart. That’s the heart that says, “Lord, this is not what I would have chosen if I’d been God, but I’m not God. I recognize that, and if it pleases You, it pleases me. Is this what You believe is best? Then I just say, ‘Yes, Lord. I surrender to it. Not my will, but Your will be done.’”

That’s really where we go to the cross, when our will crosses the will of God. We lay down our own will, and we say, “I don’t have to have it my way. Deep in my heart, what I really want is to have it God’s way.”

I’ve learned a lot about the beauty of a surrendered, submissive heart by some of Elisabeth Elliot’s writings. Let me read to you from her book, Keep a Quiet Heart, what she has to say about this whole matter of complaining versus submission. She says:

Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son. The things about which we are tempted to complain may be the very answer to our prayer to be made like Jesus.

Then she lists what some of those may be:

A headache, an insult, a long line at the checkout, [you know, it doesn’t take much to get some of us going] someone’s rudeness or failure to say “thank you,” misunderstanding, disappointment, interruption.

As Amy Carmichael said, "See in it a chance to die,” meaning a chance to leave self behind and say "yes" to the will of God, to be conformable unto His death—not a morbid, martyr complex, but a peaceful and happy contentment in the assurance that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.

Then she follows up with this little, but I think important point:

Wouldn’t our children learn godliness if they saw in us the example of contentment instead of complaint, acceptance instead of rebellion, and peace instead of frustration?

Remember, as you choose to trust, to submit, to give thanks, you’re not only determining your own peace level versus frustration, but you’re in large measure impacting the lives of your children who are learning how to respond to life’s difficulties and challenges.

I want us to look at two other characteristics of a contented heart. If we want to be contented people, we need a selfless heart—a selfless heart—coming to the place in our lives where all that matters to us is that God would be glorified.

The willingness to give up this drive that I have to be happy, that life has to work for me—now, that’s natural. That’s a natural way to think. But the supernatural way of living for the child of God is death to self, death to my own drives and ideals and aspirations and hopes.

The apostle Paul understood and learned what it was to have a selfless heart. A selfless heart is a heart that can be filled with Christ, and it brings glory to God.

In Philippians chapter 4, you’re familiar with this passage, but when I read this verse, it astounds me that Paul could make a statement like this. He says: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation" (v. 12). Can you imagine being able to say that? "I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Paul knew a lot about all of that. He knew a lot about hunger and want and need.

I was reading just this morning in my quiet time in 2 Timothy chapter 2 where Paul talks about all the afflictions that he endured, but now he says to the Philippians, as he’s writing from a Roman jail cell, “I’ve learned a secret that has taught me how I can be content in every circumstance . . . including in this miserable Roman jail.”

What was Paul’s secret? Well, if you go back to chapter 1 of the book of Philippians, you realize that Paul had settled the issue of what he was living for.

In Acts chapter 20, Paul said there’s a different way. This was one of my dad’s very favorite verses, and we heard this quoted a lot as we were growing up. Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (v. 24 paraphrased).

You see, Paul came to the place, and we have to come to that same place, where he said, “Live or die, sink or swim, palace or prison, food or hunger, friends or—as I read this morning in my quiet time—everyone deserting me, it doesn’t matter. All that matters—I’ve settled the issue—all that matters is that Christ will be magnified.”

Have you come to that place in your life? Now, it’s not just something you settle, in a sense, once for all. It’s something that has to be lived out every day, but there’s a sense in which, until you come to that basic foundational commitment, you’re going to wrestle with this all your life.

Have you settled the issue that Christ is my life, that I’m not living this life for me? It’s not about me. It’s about Christ and what pleases Him and what brings Him glory.

Once you come to that selfless heart, then you can be a contented person in any circumstance, any situation.

I see a woman smiling back here whose family I know is living in a trailer—a small, cramped trailer—while they’re having a house built. We’ve talked some about the challenges that has brought for her family. I’ve seen in her heart response, though it’s been difficult, though we’ve had some tears shed over these circumstances, I know that in this lady’s heart there’s a basic commitment that what really matters is that Christ is magnified.

That gives perspective, whether you live in a trailer or a palace or a prison—it gives perspective on the circumstances that you face today.

Now there’s another characteristic I want us to look at of a contented heart, and that is that a contented heart is a God-centered heart—a God-centered heart, a heart that is focused on God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and His love.

A woman wrote and shared with me something that God was showing her about this matter of contentment. She said, “My husband just got out of jail and is now in rehab. Just last night I was feeling so angry and bitter about what we don’t have and what we could have if only he had not strayed.”

You hear those “if onlys”? Here were circumstances that she felt were beyond her control, but then she said, “God spoke to me through your talk about discontentment. Regardless of my situation, I know that God loves me, and He is my all.”

She’s illustrating something that I see very powerfully written about in Psalm chapter 73. You may want to turn there. We’re just going to take a quick look at it, but I want to give you an overview of a beautiful passage here about a God-centered heart. If I could just summarize this passage—there are two bookends: the first verse and the last verse. Both talk about the goodness of God.

The first verse says: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (ESV).

That’s the bottom line. That’s a statement of fact. That is true whether you believe it or not. It’s true regardless of what circumstances you may be facing in your life today. God is good, and the last verse reminds us of that.

“As for me, it is good to be near God.” Or, as one translation says, “The nearness of God is my good.” That’s my highest good—the fact that God is, and that He’s involved in my life.

Now, in between those two bookends there are three major paragraphs in this psalm. Let me just summarize them for you.

Verses 3–12, you read the word “they” or “theirs” thirteen times. Here the psalmist is looking outward, and he’s focusing on other people. He says, “I envied the arrogant. I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they cover themselves with violence.”

He looks at other people, and he compares his circumstances to theirs. They get away with all kinds of things, and then they prosper. They sin, and they don’t seem to reap consequences. When the writer of this psalm looks out at others, he finds himself being jealous and discontent.

Then beginning in verse 13, he changes his focus. He’s no longer looking outward. Now he’s looking inward, and you see the word “I” or “me” or “my” sixteen times in this paragraph. He says, “Surely in vain—verse 13—have I kept my heart pure. In vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued. I have been punished every morning, etc" (paraphrased).

He goes on, and his focus is on himself. When he looks inward, the result is self-pity and bitterness. In fact, he describes that bitterness in verses 21 and 22. He says, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”

Now in the last paragraph, beginning at verse 23, he comes back to a focus that is upward, a focus on God, and six times in that paragraph, he talks about the Lord, You. “I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.”

You see, he gets his perspective back on the eternal, and the result is a heart of contentment and trust and security. He says in verse 25: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

What is he saying? God is enough. You are enough. The nearness of God is my true good.

Gene and Sherry Foltz are friends of mine who have been missionaries for many years in Thailand. They serve with a faith mission. They raise their financial support. They have no guaranteed salary.

Some time ago their family was in need of a vehicle, and at a very low moment, they called our ministry to share that need and asked us to pray with them about that. Two months later, we received this letter from Gene and Sherry which began by referring back to that call where they had shared this need with us. Here’s what Gene shared in that letter. He said:

I guess that down deep I was doubting the goodness of our God. We tend at times to expect certain things from the Lord, almost as if we deserved them. After all, I’ve been in the ministry for twenty-some years, and I’ve sacrificed much on God’s behalf. The interesting thing is I saw it coming. I knew it was wrong. I knew what it meant when I told the Lord I would go by faith, but I still struggle with trusting Him fully when the going gets tough. Satan continually tries to erode our confidence in the promises of God’s Word.

We’ve now been three months without a vehicle except for a motor scooter, and we are fine. We have had a few close calls, been caught in the rain a couple of times, and get tired of wearing helmets in this Asian heat, but overall we are content.

I do not share this to cause you to feel sorry for us. Actually, we feel the opposite. God has been blessing us richly with spiritual blessings. We have a peace that it doesn’t matter whether or not we get a vehicle. God may give us one, and we would be thankful. And then, He may not. One thing we do know: God loves us dearly, and He takes care of His sheep. We are taken care of.

Leslie: If you complain, it can have a big effect on your co-workers or your family, and when you show contentment, it affects others as well. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why in the series "Cultivating a Contented Heart."  

A lot of Revive Our Hearts listeners have discovered a resource that helps them keep their focus on God’s goodness and God’s protection. Focusing your mind on the truth will help you avoid complaining and grumbling. 

The resource I’m talking about is the CD series, Hidden in My Heart volumes 1 and 2. We’ve told you about these here on the program and our listeners loved these CDs. Now, volume 3 has come out. Nancy’s excited about it. 

Nancy: The Hidden in My Heart, Volume 3 CD takes you on a lullaby journey through the life of Jesus. Sometimes I wish it didn't have the word "lullaby" in it because that can make some people think it wasn't for them as an adult. But this is powerfully peaceful music based on the Word of God that I believe will ministry deeply to every age.

Song:

Let not your heart be troubled.
Do not be dismayed.
Let not your heart be troubled.
Just believe in Me.
For My peace I leave with you. 

Leslie: We’ll send you Hidden in My Heart, Volume 3 when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Tomorrow’s the final day we’ll be making this offer—tomorrow, June 27. So visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call with your donation to 1–800–569–5959.  

Well, is it possible to be content even when you’ve suffered incredible setbacks? We’ll hear some stories that show you, “Yes. It’s possible.” That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version 84 unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

Read More