In Philippians 4:12-13 the Apostle Paul writes this:
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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
That is a fairly radical statement to these ears, made even more so by the fact that he’s writing these words from prison! Paul had learnt to look beyond his circumstances to the person of Jesus and gain his strength and peace from him. Paul often faced extreme circumstances. He lists some of them in 2 Corinthians 11 and they include being flogged, being stoned, being shipwrecked, being hungry and being cold and naked. Paul knew suffering but he also knew the words of Jesus that were spoken to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”
At the moment I am in a season of plenty. My kids are healthy and happy. My marriage is strong and full of love. My work is rewarding, albeit challenging. I have the privilege of being able to work on a Masters degree. My relationship with God is dynamic and intimate. So why am I feeling so restless? Why have I been having moments of discontent? If Paul can feel content in prison why am I not feeling content in this season of my life?
I sense a battle being waged over my heart at the moment. My restlessness tempts me to seek change but in reality I don’t need external change; I need more of Jesus. This is what Paul knew. In every circumstance he belonged to Jesus, was loved by Jesus and was an intimate ally of Jesus. The purposes of Christ’s mission were being worked out through Paul’s life and sufferings and Paul knew all these things at a deep level in his spirit. He had cultivated a relationship of dependence and trust in Jesus through his sufferings, triumphs and hard labour on behalf of the kingdom of God.
This is where I am being taught at the moment and where God wants to teach all of us. He wants to lead us into a more profound trust of Christ’s life and work in us. It’s not just that I have a belief that God will work things out; it’s believing that in all circumstances Christ is in me and I in him. He is with me in intimate friendship all the time. He is the voice of love, encouragement and strength. He is inviting me to trust in his presence and from there I can know peace, joy and contentment.
Contentment is not complacency. How can it be? The battle is raging and it seems particularly so at the moment. When I look around me I see my enemy trying to make trouble among God’s people and in God’s world. Contentment comes to us in the midst of battle when we look to the one who has already won the victory. Jesus is the one who tells us; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”
On Friday we held our annual Light Party as an alternative to walking the streets dressed as vampires. We had an amazing time and the community came in droves. For a couple of hours before the event though I sensed battle. It was symbolised by the weather which was very unsettled. After praying for breakthrough and standing against the enemy I was given a picture of Jesus at the wedding of Cana in John 2. That is, Jesus relaxing among family and friends and enjoying the party! He was present among us and his peace radiated among us. The enemy wants to blind us to his presence so he stirs up trouble. As we fight we choose to trust Jesus and as we trust we grow closer to the one who has overcome the world. Then contentment is ours because we have Jesus.