Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Learning contentment

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
—Philippians 4:11-13

Of course, I haven’t “arrived” where Paul was, but this is my goal. Over the past nineteen months that I’ve been without a fulltime job, as I've thought more deeply about the fact of God's absolute sovereignty over absolutely everything (including my employment status, and the resulting financial strain for my family) I've come to see that discontent is really a form of unbelief.

In other words, when I'm discontented with my circumstances, I'm ultimately questioning God's choice to place me in these circumstances of partial employment and reduced income. If God is truly sovereign (and He is: Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11), and if He has the power to cause all things to work together for my good (and He does: Romans 8:28), then I have absolutely no legitimate reasons to be discontented with and complaining about any circumstances which God ordains for my life. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow, but swallow it I must! The Lord does “all things well”, and He makes no mistakes.

Contentment, however, shouldn't be confused with apathy (I’m sure Paul would have preferred freedom to imprisonment). Being content doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I must like my situation. Contentment is recognizing that whatever happens to me has been ordained by a good and sovereign God for my good. Contentment is the realization that God’s design is that I be a better man, conformed to the image of His Son. Contentment is the confidence that comes from knowing that God is not against me; He’s for me. Contentment is simply trust in God’s word.

I admit it is exceedingly difficult for me to feel content with many of the things which are going on in my life right now. It’s no fun. But Scripture says I can be content, and genuinely feel contentment, “through him who strengthens me”—through the Holy Spirit (“the Spirit of Christ”, Romans 8:9) who dwells within me. How do I draw upon the power of the indwelling Christ? “The just shall live by faith”—faith in Christ.

I’m learning. I’m not “there” yet. Nevertheless, I know God is good and, through the past nineteen month, has been good to me and my family. And He is sovereign. I can trust Him.

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