In these interesting days, how are you going with ‘being content’ when things keep changing? Restrictions tighten and restrictions ease. We are unsure what tomorrow will look like.
Memories and grief surfacing
When the Coronavirus started impacting on Australia there was a few days where I struggled as grief surfaced from our daughter’s cancer journey. The continual hand santising was the trigger, a familiar practice during her 15 months of receiving chemotherapy.
And now when we are again on ‘high alert’ and restrictions are tightening, I am reminded of when we as a family were on ‘high alert’ or hypervigilant in relation to Victoria getting a high temperature (over 38 degrees) and having to go to hospital for at least three days. These emergency hospital visits happened many times and caused much anxiety and turmoil for each member of our family.
Warning: unashamed promo – if you want to read more about this part of our story, and God’s faithfulness throughout it, my book is available at wendyrobinson.com.au
What does it take to be content?
The current situation and memories of the past had me thinking about contentedness. How does one get to that state of contentedness regardless of what is going on in their lives or around them?
The Apostle Paul seemed to have found that place, as he explains to the Philippians…
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13 NKJV
There is so much to meditate on in this passage of scripture. Let’s not forget where Paul was when he wrote this letter – prison, with the exact location unknown. He himself was undergoing hardship, however he was still able to maintain his focus on Christ and on others.
Keep focussed on the goal
Paul was focussed on a goal, regardless of his circumstances. He explains this to Philippians earlier in his letter.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 NLT
Remember, Paul is in prison when he wrote this letter. Plenty of restrictions and unknowns in his life at that time! But he keeps his focus on Christ and his mission.
John Maxwell says,
This letter proves that even while the apostle Paul sat in a foul Roman prison, he never lost his passion, his sense of mission, his sense of direction, or his command of the situation. While Paul remained an inmate of Rome, he couldn’t plant new churches as he felt called to do. Instead, he sat in chains, attached to a Praetorian guard, awaiting a trial that he thought could end his life (1:21). Yet even in the midst of all of this, he never abandoned his role of leadership. NKJV Maxwell Leadership Bible Page 1470)
Rejoice in the Lord
Not only is Paul focussed on the mission despite the apparent hindrances, he is encouraging others to maintain their joy.
Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful! Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 GW
A supernatural joy that only comes from knowing the Lord and trusting that He is in control. Remember the scripture, Nehemiah 8:10
The joy of the Lord will be your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 NIV
Why was Paul content?
So how is it that Paul could experience that joy and continue to exhort others, in the midst of this trial?
Perhaps it had something to do with his first meeting with Jesus, which we read about in Acts 9.
During those days, Saul, full of angry threats and rage, wanted to murder the disciples of the Lord Jesus. So he went to ask the high priest and requested a letter of authorization he could take to the Jewish leaders in Damascus, requesting their cooperation in finding and arresting any who were followers of the Way. Saul wanted to capture all of the believers he found, both men and women, and drag them as prisoners back to Jerusalem. So he obtained the authorization and left for Damascus.
Just outside the city, a brilliant light flashing from heaven suddenly exploded all around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a booming voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
The men accompanying Saul were stunned and speechless, for they heard a heavenly voice but could see no one.
Saul replied, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, the Victorious, the one you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you are to do.”
Saul stood to his feet, and even though his eyes were open he could see nothing—he was blind. So the men had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. For three days he didn’t eat or drink and couldn’t see a thing. Acts 9:1-9 TPT
Well Jesus certainly got Saul’s attention. One moment Saul was on a mission to persecute the followers of Jesus. Then suddenly he has an interaction with Jesus and finds himself completely blind and having to be led by the men with him. Saul was in a very vulnerable position, and yet that encounter with Jesus was so powerful, he did exactly what Jesus told him to do.
God the Mastermind
Around this same time Jesus was preparing the way for Saul, to become one of his ‘chosen vessels’. This preparation involved a disciple, Ananais. For completeness, and because it is a wonderful example of how God brings restoration, purpose (and perhaps contentment?) into our lives, we will read Acts 9:10-19.
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”
And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Acts 9:10-19 NKJV
We know from the Bible that Saul, now Paul, went on to spread the Gospel throughout the known world at that time, experiencing many hardships including prison and shipwreck, but always staying focussed on the goal.
Paul had met Jesus and experienced the power of forgiveness. He had been transformed by Jesus and knew His power and authority. Paul had been filled with the Holy Spirit and he knew what his mission was. These Christ centred experiences enabled Paul to be content, no matter what. He knew Jesus intimately and trusted Him completely.
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:12-13 The Message
So how about us? Are we content?
Is our relationship with Jesus so intimate that we are content regardless of what is happening around us? This is a challenging question. And the answer probably involves a journey, some movement from where we are today, to a closer relationship with Jesus.
How to do we do that?
There are many ways, but perhaps the first step is talking to Jesus, asking Him to show you what your next step is. So why not ask Him now.