LOOKING UP: Learning to be content
Friday, 19 October 2012 by Joe Baisden
The Apostle Paul told the Philippians: "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Phil. 4:11-13).
My fifty-four years of ministry have been filled with opportunities to help folks deal with changing circumstances in their lives. Taking a cue from Paul, my message to those in the throes of difficult change has had this basic theme: "It is not what life does to you that is significant, it is what you do with life that makes the difference."
Our natural response to unpleasant changes in our lives is to whine. The better response is to look for how God can bring something good out of the worst of circumstances. The underlying support for that approach is found in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Please understand, the Bible nowhere says that everything that happens to us is good, but it does definitely say that God can work whatever happens to us for good. As quickly as possible, when unpleasant things happen, we should start looking for the good that God can bring out of whatever it is, and to seek to cooperate with Him in bringing it about. It helps to employ prayer that includes something that may be most difficult to consider, but it is something that must not be left out—that of giving thanks. It's in the book: "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18).
How can we conquer the desire to whine and become bitter? The answer again is found in scripture. The Hebrews writer reveals the secret in 12:15: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Allowing bitter resentments to take hold of us in difficult circumstances will not only adversely affect us, but will also have a negative effect on those around us.
That same writer explains how to obtain that grace in chapter 4:16—"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." God is not against us, but for us. He proved that when he allowed his only Son to die for us on Calvary's cross, thereby dealing with our sins and making possible a relationship with the Father. In that relationship, we have access to Him for the help we need. In that relationship the Apostle was able to say and believe: "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
How can someone in a life and death situation be content?
Some years ago, Joe Pirtle knew that I would be in Abilene from time to time. He asked if I would extend one of my West Texas trips to Midland, where his sister, Billie Eiland, was terminally ill with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). My Abilene visits were always confining, so I booked a flight out of Austin one afternoon for the purpose of ministering to his sister. There in Midland I had the most incredible experience of receiving more ministry that I gave. So full of faith and confidence in the Lord, Billie had truly learned to be content in all circumstances. She modeled the attitude and behavior of a Christian in the worst kind of circumstances.
She was able to do so because her whole life had been lived learning to be content. In whatever came her way, she sought to learn what God could teach her and she grew thereby.
Are you ready to be content when the worst crisis comes to your life?
How wonderful it is to learn that principle at an early age and practice it throughout life. Our daughter Katherine reported what her nine-year-old said recently when both family cars went on the blink at the same time. Bonnie said, "Maybe God is just giving us a test to see how we will act."
May she hang on to that thought for the rest of her life.
"Be content with what you have." – Heb. 13:5