“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
Paul was an extraordinary human being. He was persecuted, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked many, many times. It seems as though there was no pain Paul had not experienced. How could a man with such a rough life say, that in all things, he has learned to be content. In Philippians 3:8b-9a, he even says, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him…” The key to Paul’s hope and joy is found in his perspective. Paul knew who he was suffering for and out of the abundance of his pain, God’s peace and beautiful grace would shine through, bringing great gain to all those around him. Paul knew that one way or another, God would deliver him, because he had a steadfast, unshakable knowledge of who God was. How easy am I to forget who my God is. All I see is the hurt he has allowed in my life. All I see is the cost I am paying. But who am I to even utter those words, “the cost I am paying.” Did I forget the price Jesus paid to save, rescue, and heal me. He gave up his rights and came down to the earth and undeservedly was beaten, rejected, tortured, tormented, and sentenced to death. Though I was not physically there to participate in his murder, I yell, “Crucify him, crucify him,” every time I sin and reject his will. Even in knowing this, Jesus endured death upon the cross for me. It was all for me. It was all to have me. My present pain does not compare to what Jesus went through to save me. He paid it all, and all to him I owe. This does not mean that I cannot doubt God, or mourn my circumstances. In fact, I believe that in those moments of deep darkness, God’s light shines the brightest, but we have to have eyes to see. Many times, I look at life and all of its brokenness, and I become angry. I remember one time in particular that God really rocked my world. Last July, I came to Antigua on a missions trip and one of our last days, we went to Escquintla; also known as the city dump. The poverty the children were living in, wrecked my heart. I remember washing some dishes, watching the kids running around with joy in their hearts, wondering how. How could they be so content with their lives? I have seen plenty of sparrows back in America, better fed than these children. I thought God was the great provider? On the bus ride back to Antigua, God revealed to me a sight that I had forgotten. In the muddy, garbage ridden road, was a whole cluster of butterflies that flew up out of the trash as we drove by. Those butterflies reminded me of something I so easily forget: In the broken, ugly situations of life, God creates beauty and he brings joy out of sorrow, and abundance out of poverty. Those kids knew that, but I did not. I know with certainty that those children could proclaim, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” How desperately I desire to be like Paul and the kids from Escquintla. All it takes is my eyes to open up again. All it takes is a new perspective; to see life through the gracious eyes of Christ and remember the pain he went through to rescue me out of the ashes. Jesus, whether I am content or discontent, help me to remember the price you paid for me, and may it spur me on to live life fully for your glory, that the world might see you living inside of me.
Application: Being that it was my birthday yesterday, I asked God to give me a message for my nineteenth year. Ironically enough, the theme for this week, was contentment, and that is just what God spoke to my heart. He continues to show me that I need to learn how to be wholly reliant, and fully satisfied in him and him alone. This morning, I will fast until lunch, that I might be able to spend quality time with my Jesus, just me and him.