Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 15, 2017

whether in need or plenty

For all of us, a quick review of last week would give a good indication of how we are doing on the contentment meter. Without a doubt, you had some surprises, some irritations, maybe even some delays and disruptions to your already pre-planned schedule. As I noted in my article last Wednesday, the planning for my week changed dramatically. There isn’t a question in my mind that the Father, in His guidance, re-directed my plans. From a great meeting Friday, to a very meaningful conversation while traveling home Saturday, I sensed the Father’s hand of blessing in my travels for the week. The problem for me, and probably you, is that we often look at interruptions negatively, all-the-while being able to articulate words like trust, sovereignty, and grace but not enjoying the contentment made available to Christ-followers.

Picture yourself 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 in speaking about the contentment available through Christ, but I don’t see many who have learned the secret.

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.
Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Set in the context of the church at Philippi showing concern for his needs, Paul makes it fundamentally clear that whether in need or 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, one of my favorite pastors from days gone by, 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.”

All Christ-followers wish to have the same mindset as Paul in learning the secret of contentment in any and all circumstances. We, like Paul, also have the Holy Spirit guiding us and our all-sufficient and sovereign God caring for us. I can almost assure you (and myself) that the plans we have crafted for this week will collide with some surprises, irritations, delays and disruptions. In accepting each event in the light of God’s love and sovereignty over our journey, we can find our self in a place of contentment. Be a learner of the secret of contentment!

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