Summary: Seemingly unbearable situations may cause Christians to pause and wonder why, but mature Christians have learned to be content by trusting in the Lord in and through it all.
TO FIND JOY IN THE JOURNEY IS TO ACQUIRE CONTENTMENT AS WE GROW OLDER
In a third world country, a Jewish man complained to his rabbi: “Life is unbearable for me and my family. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?” The rabbi thought for a moment and answered, “Bring your goat into the room with you.” The man was taken aback but the rabbi insisted, “Do as I say and come back in one week.”
A week later the man came back more upset than before! “We cannot stand it,” the man protested. “The goat is filthy.” The rabbi told him, “Go home and let the goat out. Come back in a week.” Yet another week later, the man returned - excited and full of joy, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy our lives now. There’s no goat – just the nine of us.”
In practically every life situation, things could be worse than they seem. So, as Mama said to me: “Always look for the silver lining.”
In the Christian life, there are two ways to approach bad situations in which we find ourselves - contempt or contentment.
We can despise our situation or we can look for that silver lining, make a few adjustments, then proceed to make the most of our situation.
Vance Havner suggested three options when faced with seemingly unbearable situations: resign . . . be resigned to the situation as is . . . have your commission re-signed.
Time and again, the apostle Paul had his commission re-signed by remembering the who, what and why of his calling and by renewing his vow to stay the course to the finish.
Paul could have despised his situation, but he chose to believe that, in every situation in the Christian life, the Presence of Christ gives rise to contentment not contempt. So:
Paul stated the principle he had learned; he challenged fellow Christians to learn and live by that principle for the rest of their journey: True contentment is found by trusting the Lord in seemingly unbearable situations: Philippians 4:10-20 . . .
Here was the old apostle (who, before he met Christ, had been known for his hatred of Christians, but whose dramatic conversion to Christ followed by his dynamic commitment to spread the gospel, was met with hostility by Christian haters) speaking of his contentment.
It is rare to find a truly contented person but, as an old saying goes, “when you do, listen to him”! Amazingly, as with Paul, truly contented persons possess next to nothing materially. To illustrate this phenomenon, there’s an ancient parable:
Once upon a time, a king suffered from a painful ailment. His advisor told him that the cure was to find a contented man, get his shirt, and wear it. The king’s men traveled the whole of the kingdom, searching for such a man, intent on returning with his shirt.
Months passed as the servants looked high and low. One by one they returned, but none brought back the healing shirt. “Did you find a contented man in all my realm?” the king asked. “Yes, O king, we found one – just one, in all your realm,” they replied. “Why did you not bring back his shirt?” cried the king! “O great king,” they answered, “the man had no shirt.”
The Apostle Paul was much like the shirtless man - down to almost nothing materially, locked in a prison cell, facing the death sentence because he remained true to his calling to spread the Good News about Christ.
Despite dire circumstances, Paul was content because he had the strength of Jesus in his heart, and he trusted God for his provisions.
Paul thanked his fellow believers for their support, but more important to him was the fact that they still cared about the ministry of spreading the gospel.
Paul appreciated their gift, but he made it clear that God supplied his needs through them who had been willing to serve as instruments in God’s hands.
Neither plenty nor poverty was a big deal to Paul. He had depended on God since his encounter with Jesus, and would do so for the rest of life’s journey. “I can do this because of Christ who gives me strength and God who supplies my needs!”
With Christ in control of our lives, we can rise above dire circumstances, we can handle “these things” because Christ gives us strength and God supplies our needs!
So, we will not go on worrying . . . fretting . . . negatively thinking, expecting the worst! We will trust the Lord, lean not on our own understanding, in all our ways acknowledge Him, through all our days let Him direct our paths! To do so is to rise above dire circumstances!