Learning to Be Content

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Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…and my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4.11b, 19

In my previous post, I asked my readers how they were doing. The past month has definitely created a temporary new normal in the way we live. The amount of time we spend at home. Parents are now homeschool instructors for their children. We have new heroes who are on the front line of this pandemic. Their lives and vocation have changed, including their hours and routine. Many are absent from their families to shield them from daily exposure to germs in hospitals. The list goes on…some of us are…

  • Lonely. The new practice of social distancing has created a void in our social life.
  • Grieving. Grieving over losing a loved one or their job.
  • Anxious. Anxious about getting sick. Anxious about what to eat. Anxious about life in general. Anxious about the future.
  • Angry. Angry at God. Angry at the government. Angry at people.
  • In denial. For many, this current state of living is more surreal than real.
  • Accepting that this may be the new norm for months to come.

As I briefly mentioned from an earlier post, it is as if we are going through the stages of grief.

My goal in today’s post is to encourage you from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In Philippians 4.10-19, the Apostle Paul addresses his current state in prison to encourage his readers on how to be content no matter the circumstance. I want to be realistic in that, I understand that it is one thing to say it or write it, it is another to live it. It sounds good, but is it a valid statement? Can one really be content no matter the circumstance?

Learning from One who Knows:
The apostle tells us we can. He also indicates that he is one writing from experience. For he writes, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have LEARNED the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (v.12).

Learning to be content:
The point that Paul makes is that he has had to “learn” to be “content.” What he is saying is that in whatever circumstance, “I have accustomed myself to be self-sufficient.” Paul realized that times of need and plenty were temporary (v.12), because of this he learned the “secret” to be content.

How did he learn this? He learned how to adapt. To adjust to new situations or conditions especially as it applies to physical needs and food. His source of adjustment comes by walking with Christ, who sufficiently strengthened him. He states, “I can do all things THROUGH Him who STRENGTHENS me” (v.13).

This lesson was not always easy for Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12.9, we learn that Paul was being tormented by something in his life. He prayed to the Lord that it would pass. But, the Lord in His wisdom chose to allow this weakness in Paul’s life to remain so that he may depend on the Lord’s sufficient grace rather than his own power. God’s grace was sufficient for Paul, for God’s power is perfected in our weaknesses.

Because of this, Paul desires the same for the church. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he prays on their behalf, “that He [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Ephesians 3.16).

Why? “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;” (v.17a).

That’s the secret! To depend on God’s power and strength so that He may strengthen us through Christ inwardly to build up our faith in Him.

Therefore, the lesson is this: Our faith in Christ ought not to depend on circumstances. Therefore, no matter what we face in life, even in our weaknesses, we can face ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens us.

One of my most recent favorite worship songs is “Give Me Jesus” by Sovereign Grace Music. The lyrics are as follows:

Take the world, but give me Jesus
All its joys are but a name
But His love abides forever
Through eternal years the same

Oh, the height and depth of mercy
Oh, the length and breadth of love
Oh, the fullness of redemption
Pledge of endless life above
Take this world, my God’s enough

That’s the secret…” take this world, my God’s enough.”

Learning to trust in the Lord:
I think it is important to note that your circumstances may be only temporary. There will come times in your life when you will be better off than others and then there will be times like these when you depend on God and others to help you get by. I believe the latter is more common for most people in the world. Most of the world population is barely getting by. Most of the world is lost. No direction. No hope. Wandering aimlessly. Needing guidance. Though many may seem to conquer this world, inside they are anxious about the things of this life. At times their suffering never seems to end.

This should not be for believers. Followers of Christ ought not to be defined by the course, time, and pattern of this world. Our status is not based on physical wealth or poverty. We are far richer than anyone or thing. Our kingdom is not of this world. Our kingdom lies eternally in Christ. Thus, in times like these we have this promise from the Lord:

“The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger” (Proverbs 10.3).

What this verse is saying is that the soul of the righteous will never know hunger. They will be filled. Our life in this world is but a mist says James (James 4.14). We do not know what tomorrow may bring, so why be anxious about tomorrow when today has enough concerns of its own. God knows what you need, therefore, seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6.25-34).

Again, I know that speaking spiritually, this does not put food on the table and in your tummy, or even pay the bills. But, the lesson here is this...to learn to be content in physical things in life, one must learn first how to be content in the Lord. This was David’s point when he wrote Psalm 23.1 – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

David was content in the Lord. He trusted in Him and so can you for today, tomorrow, and for eternity.

Learning to be humble and grateful:
 In times like this, we may grumble, complain, be anxious, or even get angry. We react in these ways because we have not learned to trust and depend on God for daily provisions. This humbles us. We need to learn to accept help from others and be grateful to God for their assistance. Paul responds by stating, “I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent” (v.18b) and in return blesses them that God would return the favor with the riches in the glory of Christ (v.19).

Personal lessons in life:
Like Paul, I too have had to learn this same lesson, even recently. How prideful I had been in ministry. Depending on my own abilities and talents rather than on the grace and strength that comes in Christ. God humbled me. Took me out of commission. Imprisoned me. Broke my bones and like a shepherd huddled me close to His side so that I may not be in want of anyone or anything, but Him. For this I am grateful.

What did God do?
Below I list 5 things I learned from Paul. Lessons he learned from God.

  1. It is God who taught me to be content (v.11)
  2. It is God who strengthens me (v.13)
  3. It is God who supplied my need through others (v.18)
  4. It is God who richly supplies my need spiritually in Christ (v.19)
  5. It is God Who I give glory for all things (v.20)

The secret of learning to be content in times like these is to have a high view of God. This is humbling for us in many ways. But, for God to do a good work in us, we must humble ourselves or be humbled. We must learn to trust Him more. To depend on Him more. This is the secret.

I close with this thought, in the moment of crisis, the Lord protected and provided for His children in the wilderness of Sinai. The Lord provides for the birds and the flowers, how much more would He provide for you. The secret is by seeking His Kingdom first, not yours (Matthew 6.33).

Grace and Peace! – GT

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