Posted by: mikenicholsblog | June 5, 2011

have we really learned?

For all of us, a quick review of last week would give a good indication of how we are doing on the contentment meter. The week was filled with a series of events, many of which may have pulled at your patience and even caused a bit of frustration. My week started well, but quickly took a detour. Riding home from a Memorial Weekend military ceremony, my wife, mother-in-law and I decided to get some ice cream. It was a quick decision and I had to make a U-turn to get to our favorite ice cream place. Even with my 87-year-old mother in law and wife riding with me, I received a ticket ($137) for making the U-turn. It was my fault (no sympathy please), but it still started the week off in a frustrating manner. Every week will have its share of U turns that pull at our joy, but we have a chance to learn from the apostle Paul about navigating with contentment.

Picture living in a small apartment as a prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier and still having contentment. Those were the surroundings that Paul faced when he wrote the book of Philippians. Compared to many of the circumstances that pull at our joy, Paul had every reason to feel less than contented. However, he had learned the secret. His life was single-minded in devotion to His Lord, and circumstances were not the determiner of Paul’s joy. Our American Christian culture does well at speaking about the contentment available through Christ, but I don’t see many who have learned the secret.

Philippians 4:11-12
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Set in the context of the church at Philippi showing concern for his needs, Paul makes it fundamentally clear that whether in need or having plenty, he was content. He had discovered that His God was wholly adequate for any situation in his life. His joy was derived from the relationship that he had with Christ, and the conviction that God’s sufficiency in every circumstance was his to enjoy. He had learned the secret. Intellectually, you and I agree, but have we really learned the secret?

If you are in Christ, contentment is God’s provision for you. The difficulty is living in the reality that God is sufficient, sovereign and really concerned about your journey. Learning the secret of contentment will be life changing. Our issue isn’t whether we are struggling financially or living in luxury, but instead, whether we are resting in His sufficiency. Ray Stedman, a great pastor, summed up contentment this way.

“I think what is meant here is that every circumstance the apostle faced, whether hardship or luxury, was not evaluated by his own personal reaction to it, but it was accepted as the Lord’s choice for him in order for the Lord to display his overwhelming ability, no matter the circumstance.”

I wish that I had mastered the secret, but I haven’t. You may feel the same. But you and I both have the same Holy Spirit guiding us, and the same all-sufficient and sovereign God caring for us as Paul did. God wants us to know the secret of being content. It will probably be a directional shift instead of a U-turn. Learn the secret!


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