Read: Phil 4:10-23
Reflect: “Thomas” was well-known in his church and often “worked the system”. You see, whenever Thomas wanted or thought he needed something, he would keep publishing it on the church’s prayer chain until someone became that magic genie in Thomas’s life. Could be a car, a vacation, furniture, etc. Rarely did he live in want because God’s people would pretty quickly take care of whatever he needed. Sadly, Thomas rejoiced in the abundant seasons, but he never learned how to be content when in need. He thought that to be in want was to be out of the will of God. Could be that Thomas had deleted the fourth chapter of Philippians. He missed one of God’s best gifts: to learn to live through rough times depending on God and to accept them, without complaining and gripping, realizing that we live in a world where little, especially for believers, comes easily.
When one reads Hebrews chapter 11, “The Faith Chapter”, there are the heroes of the faith and there are also the unsung heroes of the faith. Both had to learn to accept some terribly difficult circumstances which were in the providence of God. One of the heavy hitters mentioned is Abraham. Abe had become very prosperous, but he also had to literally wait decades for God to naturally give him his promised son via a wife who was equally aged. Abe was ready for a nursing home and God then chose to make him a proud daddy. Another celebrity is Moses, the pride and joy of the Old Testament. He was a brilliantly educated man, but he had to endure the school of hard knocks: 40 years of being branded an outcast and a murderer, while he was given the dead-end job of herding sheep in the desert. Then at age 80 Moses was commissioned with leading a people whose second nature was to continually complain and to question his leadership. It would seem that God would give that kind of job to someone young and bursting with energy, not someone like Moses who maybe sometimes just yearned for an RV and the open road which would take him away from his crabby people.
Hebrews goes on to mention those who “experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented 38 (people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground.” Were these beloved ones out of the will of God because they were suffering? No, they were actually getting Graduate Degrees in the School of Faith in the Providence of the Sovereign God.
How many times have you asked someone, “How are you doing?”. Their reply is “Can’t complain.” Then, the person goes on for the next 20 minutes sharing their latest complaint. Complaining is a very natural response to an extremely broken world. The contentment mentioned by Paul in Philippians is not by any means an easy spontaneous response to pain. That’s what is remarkable about what the Apostle Paul wrote from the isolation of a prison cell. He was lonely, cold, missing and out of touch with his loved ones, not knowing if his stay would stretch into days or years and yet he wrote: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general, and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty.” (J.B. Phillips)
Paul learned that the only way he could survive the different seasons of his life, with all its extreme lows and highs, was through total dependence on the strength of Jesus Christ, “the One who lives within me”. When Jesus said in John 15:5, “for without Me you can do nothing” he was talking about everything, both the lovely clear summer skies and also the desolate dark winters of life. I love the Amplified paraphrase: “In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.”
What kind of season are you currently going through? Is it a season where you definitely know you are being obedient to and following both the Word and the will of God, yet sometimes life seems to be at times unbearably hard? Then take courage, you are in the best of company. You have the company of heaven and you also have the fellowship of believers all over the world who at this minute are calling on the secret of the presence of Jesus to walk them through this particular season. Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (Amplified). The tough times may be the greatest gift of all. Amen and amen!