Clearly, one of the reasons we are not happier and more joyous as a people is that we have failed to find contentment in our Christian lives. Throughout history, mankind has developed a habit of keeping up with the Joneses. As far back as the first born on earth we see evidence of this. Cain was so unhappy that he did not get the same recognition from God as his brother did, he killed him. This points to a very important lesson for us all. It is a lesson framed perfectly by Paul, who spoke more than once about the subject.
- “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” 1 Tim 6:8-11
This passage simultaneously encourages us to be content with having our basic needs met and warns us against being too desirous of things that may be beyond our grasp or need. I’m particularly struck by the assertion that there are those who, due to evident lack of contentment, “have wandered away from the faith.” Surely that is the ultimate tragedy. It calls to memory the rich young ruler who, when instructed by Christ to leave the material behind and follow him, went away sad and without salvation due to his attachment to his things. Sometimes our priorities are all wrong.
One may comment that this thought is all well and good, but suppose a person finds themselves suffering? It could easily and most understandably be asked, “How can a person be content if they are living a life of pain?” As I often say from the pulpit, I’m glad you asked. Let us again seek the Spirit supplied wisdom of the apostle Paul:
- "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor 12:10
Surely every Christian, if not currently, certainly at some point in our lives, can identify with this very powerful statement. There isn’t a person alive (or dead for that matter) that hasn’t undergone adversity. Nevertheless, Paul amazingly says that he is not just content but well content. This point is well made enough on it’s on own, but those of you familiar with the passage will well know the context of the statement. Verses 7-9 contain the famous telling of his “thorn in the flesh” and how after seeking God three times for its removal was told that His (God’s) grace was sufficient for him.
Family, Paul was suffering mightily, and he was one who knew suffering well. In fact Christ told him that he would suffer many things for His cause. Nevertheless, once reminded of God’s amazing grace, he was content. Lord help our unbelief! This thought is exponentially multiplied in Phi 4:11 where he says, “…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” I submit to you that we are without excuse.
Like you, I know that we are all but humble and fleshly creatures. There are many needs of the body, mind and spirit that we all suffer. My desire is to point out to you that there is an ever present solution and supply to every problem and need. To the person of faith, knowledge that there is a promised eternity with the Lord is a glory in which to rest. Sometimes our problem is that we allow our gaze heavenward to be diverted. We are like Peter who had enough faith to get out of a floating boat and walk on the sea, his attention focused on Jesus. We are equally like him when we allow are attention to be captured by our circumstances and surroundings and thus begin to sink. Thank God Almighty that Jesus is there to lift us when we lose faith.
The divinely inspired scriptures provide the perfect final thought:
- 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. Phil 4:12
Next time, we will talk about that very faith and how it is necessary to rise above our various situations and prevail within the lives that sometimes get us down.
Each One Reach One
Each One Teach One