Last week I was talking about learning the difficult lesson of contentment. In this day and age of much discontentment, we were drawing lessons from Paul’s writing to the Philippians while he was in a Roman prison. He says in Philippians 4:12 – 13, “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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (NASB). Paul says that he had learned the secret to contentment. The word “secret” here in the Greek language is the word – myeo – which means to learn the secret of something through personal experience or as the result of initiation. The secret Paul is referring to is understanding that the Lord Jesus Christ is a present help to him in all times of need. Paul knew that all of his circumstances were ordered by God to create and increase opportunities for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to be presented.
There is a paradoxical tension in the Christian life. Christianity is a covenant gift that God has given to believers. God initiated this gift, and it is God who puts the conditions and privileges in place. But we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ must respond and obey and persist in our Christian walk. As Paul was content in all circumstances, he found that the ultimate secret was a profound trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that Jesus in John’s Gospel in the 15th chapter tells us that “He is the vine and that we are the branches.” He also tells us in verse 5, “that we can do nothing apart from Him.” In whatever situation we find ourselves it is critical that we keep our communication open with Jesus Christ because those communication lines and communion with Christ are the power source of God that works in us through the Holy Spirit. Paul knew he could face every situation involving material needs and still maintain a positive and victorious attitude towards the circumstances of life. Paul makes it clear that he did not depend on himself as many do today or boasting in his accomplishments. We need the Lord Jesus Christ to sustain us and empower us if we are to complete the task that He has given us to do in serving Him. All of the resources we have are inadequate apart from the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet whatever meager resources we may have that we put at Christ disposal can be used greatly for the kingdom of God because our God is the one who is governing all of our circumstances. We must recognize that the secret to contentment is a dynamic, growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter writes at the end of his second epistle and says, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen,” (2 Peter 3:18, NASB). Growing in grace speaks of growing in the sphere of God’s unmerited favor. Growing in grace means that when we are at the end of our resources, God meets us there. Growing in grace refers to allowing God’s grace to permeate more and more areas of our lives and to deal with people out of grace based experience rather than a law-based experience. To grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is to know Him who is life eternal and to advance in the knowledge of Him and to be increasing our desire to know Him more and more. Without knowledge, there can be no growth, and the increase of my acquaintance with Christ should lead to growth in grace and knowledge. This also means being open to different ministry opportunities and getting out of our comfort zones. Peter was once comfortable in a fishing boat, but now he was comfortable with parchments and scrolls of biblical text. You’ll never drift into spiritual maturity, but you’ll easily drift out of dedication and commitment to Christ because of all the distractions of this world. Someone has said, “that growth in the Christian life depends on obedience in times of crisis,” (Dr. James Dobson). That was certainly true in both the life of Peter and Paul. Is it true in your faith journey, are you experiencing contentment as you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Has Jesus showed up at critical moments to help you endure difficult life circumstances? Walking in obedience in times of crisis is clearly illustrated in how Paul walked through all the difficulties he experienced in his following the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet at the end of the day, Paul could say, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” I hope that you can agree with Paul and give a hearty “Amen” to this most important statement of learning how to live contently in any circumstances. Shalom, Pastor Rich Sivo
Shalom, Pastor Rich Sivo