Practice makes... a little more practice

Mollie's competitive nature was evident early in her life.  Whatever the event, whether a board game like Aggravation (now there's a family story for another time) or a basketball contest of HORSE, she was up for the challenge. 
She didn't just accept the challenge, she planned, prepared and practiced for it.  When tennis was the sport of choice, I would find her EVERY day by the side of the house smashing the ball against the wall over and over again... not just 10 or 20 times, but 500-1,000 times.  When the basketball bug hit her, she would shoot every day, all day... from every corner of the driveway.  During her 3 year commitment to Bible Drill, believe me, we drilled...
Her practice followed her to high school as she studied for tests by making herself hundreds of flash cards for any and every vocabulary word or calculus formula.  Practice definitely proved profitable in her life - she did well in school and thrived in sports....
she wasn't the valedictorian of her senior class
she wasn't the star athlete for her team.

Not sure I really agree with that old saying, "practice makes perfect", do you?  Practice builds stamina, practice decrees improvement, practice adds endurance, practice dictates perseverance... but it doesn't yield perfection, at least not in my experience! 

Paul's words in Philippians 4:11-12 offer us guidance as we long to practice contentment.  I love that he so transparent in his advice... from the Amplified Bible:

Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.

Paul had numerous experiences with difficulty, with pain, with suffering.  Don't you love learning from someone who has been in the trenches that you are in?  Rick Warren recently said,

"Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain."

Our experience becomes our greatest gift.  So Paul, I believe, is offering his words through his circumstances to encourage others... to encourage us.

I counted the word "I" in the verses above 8 times.  This is extremely personal for Paul.... almost too much "I" - his point to me is this... "I" had to do something on my end, make a choice in this contentment world while living in the real world of so much discontentment.  Unhappy, discouraged people; unloved, uncared for children; dissatisfied, depressed women; hurried, workaholic men.... the list is unending in our culture, isn't it?

The answer... comes so gently and thoughtfully in verse 13...  
I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.

I have a choice - I have a decision to make...I have an option...  Not because of "I" or "me", but because of Christ... who empowers me.

From the Amplified:

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me. I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.

So, my friends... we practice... we practice being content... and the more we practice... the better we achieve... through Christ - our strength...

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