Friday, December 27, 2013

Content and Not Complacent

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” (Philippians 4:10–14, NASB95)

The apostle Paul is such an encouragement to people who struggle with the issues of life—goals, planning, and provision. He went through a lot and he was open in sharing those struggles with us so that we would also be encouraged and also that we might have examples of how to respond to our own struggles as well as how to help others. This passage in Philippians is one often quoted when the issue of contentment comes up, and for good reason.

Paul served as a missionary and as such he traveled devoting most of his time to ministry. As a consequence there were long periods of time when he was unable to provide for his own needs or the expense of his travel. Yet he also was committed to not being a burden on those to whom he was sent. This meant that he at times would do other work on the side (as a tentmaker) or that other believers would provide his support. He had times when the support was plentiful and he had times when the support was lacking. He also had times when the road was positively responsive and other times when people would respond with hatred and even harm. He found times when the doors were opened for effective ministry and other times when the ministry was done in confinement. Paul endured a wide spectrum of things is his following after God, and in all of them he refers to the ability to do that as having learned a secret, and that secret was that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

This past year and a half we, like many we know, have experienced the process of learning anew this same secret through some difficult life changes. And like Paul, we even experienced being encouraged as our year closed with a group of hearts being moved in their concern for us which touched us greatly. And while we don’t know specifically who to thank, we know that the ultimate praise and thankfulness needed to be directed to God who provided for Paul and for all who have called upon His name through the ages.

Paul learned contentment as he sought after God whether God was moving him or keeping him in chains. There is another word which can be sometimes be a thin line in relation to contentment, and that is the word complacent. While contentment is the ability to be at peace in all circumstances, complacency has more to do with not really caring about the circumstances and maybe even giving little thought to any change in direction. Often times it can be a subtle slide from contentment to complacency when time marches on and things don’t change.

It is here that we need to make sure that our hope remains in God, that our eyes remain firmly on Him, and that we are seeking and trusting Him to direct our steps as we move. And if in the moving, He tells us to keep waiting, then we need to trust Him in that as well. But it may also mean stepping out at times into unknown areas in order to see what He does. Paul prayed that he might have doors opened for him for effective ministry, and then he prayerfully stepped out. I wish there was an easy 1-2-3 answer for knowing the will of God, but I can’t think of one other than continuing to read His Word, pray, ask, and wisely combine stepping out and waiting—seeing what God does in the process.

As we near the end of another year with God, it is my hope and prayer that we would all know His love, hope, and peace for the days and events ahead.

“For You are my lamp, O Lord; and the Lord illumines my darkness.” (2 Samuel 22:29, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/27)

I am preparing you for what is on the road ahead, just around the bend. Take time to be still in My Presence so that I can strengthen you. The busier you become, the more you need this time apart with Me. So many people think that time spent with me is a luxury they cannot afford. As a result, they live and work in their own strength—until that becomes depleted. Then they either cry out to Me for help or turn away in bitterness.

How much better it is to walk close to Me, depending on My strength and trusting me in every situation. If you live in this way, you will do less but accomplish far more. Your unhurried pace of living will stand out in this rush-crazed age. Some people may deem you lazy, but many more will be blessed by your peacefulness. Walk in the Light with Me, and you will reflect me to the watching world.

“For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4, NASB95)

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NASB95)

“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9, NASB95) 

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