Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The apostle Paul said that he was content in all circumstances. Well, I am not. I do not like sickness, trouble, or outright adversity. I do not like bad weather, hard days, or crabby people. Frankly, I do not think that he did either. Nobody does.
So what exactly did he mean?
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...Philippians 4:12
Paul needed to learn a secret in order to achieve this contentment. Well, Paul, give it up, will you?
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.--Philippians 3:4
His secret was knowing Christ. He gave up everything for this secret. He began life educated and influential, met Jesus, and left it all behind. Without money or power, Paul leaned only on faith in Christ, and he found it plenty. This was his secret.
But, be careful in this. He did not find faith by the giving up of money and power. Practical trouble and poverty do not automatically usher in faith--they are not admission into the throne room of God. We do not become holy by experiencing privation. And yet...
Trouble does seem to follow believers, however, doesn't it? Sometimes seemingly more than for unbelievers. What's up with that, God?
It's really not that hard to understand. Simply put, adversity endured brings faith, not because we are rescued out of trouble, but because God comes to us in the middle of it to a degree we never otherwise see.
"Oh, God," we say when things are good..."You are powerful and mighty and faithful. I love you." And it's true.
But when times are tough, and the sun begrudges its rising, and we wonder why in the world God opened our eyes on another sad day, to say "Oh God, You are mighty and powerful and faithful. I love you," means something quite different. On those days, we know that we know, and something firm and strong is built in us, a bulwark that supports and carries with all the assurance the love of an almighty God brings.
We pray so often for rescue from our troubles, forgetting that God comes on the wing of trouble more vividly than any other time. Trouble is more than how we grow--it is where we meet the Living God, able to see His glory.
I have been reading Paul wrong. He was not content with nasty circumstances any more than I am. He did not enjoy his troubles, but he did enjoy what God brought through them--abiding faith that comes not from rescue from them, but from having met God in them.