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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Learning to be Content

Paul wrote to the saints at Philippi: "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, ESV) In this passage, Paul made it clear that he was talking about circumstances over which he had no control, and that the key to his contentment was reliance upon God. By employing this technique, Paul was putting into practice one of Christ's most important teachings about being a part of God's Kingdom.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Christ instructed his audience NOT to focus on the mundane things of this life (Matthew 6:19-24). He continued: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV)

Thus, we see that Paul had learned Christ's lesson about being content with circumstances over which we have no control. Christ directed his audience to consider the birds and lilies of the natural world, and how God provides for their needs. Hence, we see that Paul did both of the things which Christ taught about learning to be content: 1) Recognize your own powerlessness, and 2) Rely on God to provide for your needs. Moreover, inherent in this teaching is the underlying awareness that God may not decide to intervene and change the circumstance in which you find yourself! As Paul wrote to the Romans, "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good." (Romans 8:28, ESV) Are these lessons that we too can learn and employ to reduce anxiety and the stressful situations which sometimes arise in our own lives? Can we, like Paul, learn to be content in whatever circumstances we happen to find ourselves at any given time?

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