Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
As 21st century Americans, most of us have not struggled with not finding food for our next meal or not knowing where we’ll stay tomorrow night. We think it’s difficult when we open up the refrigerator and have to put various kinds of food together to make something “edible.” We grumble when the microwave goes out, and we have to eat our food cold, or when the beautiful homes we live in are cold on those frosty mornings. However, many don’t have the luxuries we enjoy. Around the world, people are struggling just to survive. And this was also true in 1st century Rome.
Life wasn’t easy. Sure, there were rich people who had innumerable slaves and servants to provide their every wish, but the average person didn’t have such luxuries, not to mention a traveling missionary. Paul faced various challenges as a traveling church planter and missionary. Not only was he rejected and persecuted for his faith, but he also had the daily problem of finding his next resting place or tomorrow’s meal. Nothing was a guarantee. Paul had times when he was hungry, really hungry. There were mornings when he probably woke up cold and stiff from sleeping on the ground.
But through it all there was one thing that Paul learned. Contentment. It was a lesson realized by tough circumstances, but in the end, it carried him through even more challenging times. And it’s a lesson he wanted the Philippians and all of us to fully acquire. As he shares in Philippians 4:
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 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.”
What a powerful testimony Paul shares! Through the various trials of his life, Paul had learned to be content in whatever situation he found himself. When nothing went according to plan, Paul was content. When his own people threw him in prison and beat him, he was content. When after pouring out his heart and preaching till his voice was hoarse and no one accepted his message, Paul was still content.
How did he do it? How could he face hunger, need, discomfort, or pain with total contentment? We have a hard enough time being content in luxurious America! So how can we learn what Paul did?
There is a secret to contentment. A truth known and acknowledged by many, but only tested and proved by a few. That secret is that there is no circumstance or situation that Christ’s strength will not sustain us through anything. Catch that? Anything. No matter the trial or how deep the hurt, Christ will strengthen. No matter how hard the situation is or how bleak tomorrow looks, Christ will sustain us.
Many believers acknowledge and quote Paul’s declaration, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” But few actually put it to the test. Few step out in faith and wait for God to give them His strength at their weakest moment. And therefore, few—especially in America!—have found the secret of contentment.
So I challenge you to test God’s promise. Go out in faith and see how God will provide for you. Trust Him with the unknowns of tomorrow or the lack of abundance and see if you will not find the secret of contentment. Our world and culture is constantly looking for more--more stuff to fulfill us, more money to provide for us, more love to sustain us. However, the answer to all our needs is not more of what this world offers, but more of Christ.
The secret to contentment is reliance on Christ. So in the good times and the hard ones, let us always remember to fully rely on Jesus and in that find true contentment.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
~II Corinthians 9:8