The Tabernacle Scroll

Issue 119

“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” (Philippians 4: 11-13, NIV).

In the perfection of their character, Christians have a lot of practicing to do. We can learn what is expected of us from God’s word. However, knowing what is required and becoming what is desired are two different things. The tools that God uses to perfect us are to be found in the school of life, in practical, everyday living. It is here that we are confronted with the trials, temptations, adversities and a whole host of unpleasant events, circumstances and people!

Notice Paul says “I have learned to be content”. There was a process involved. His contentment wasn’t some supernatural gift that he received. It was something that he attained through continual exposure to many hardships and persecutions.

Getting everything one wants may bring temporary happiness, but learning to be content with what you already have is the only sure attitude that brings peace. If we measure our worth by our material possessions, we will be besieged by the terrible twins Resentment and Frustration. Resentment will grow because we will always be conscious of those who have more. Frustration will not be far behind, constantly reminding us that we have less than we want!

Paul says that he had experienced both extremes of circumstances – to be in need and to have plenty. I am quite sure that he was not referring to luxury items, but to basic needs! He goes on to say that he learned the secret of being content.

What was this secret he learned? I believe the secret was thankfulness. When he had plenty, his thankfulness to God enabled him to steer clear of greed and covetousness. He curbed the desire to possess more. When he was in need it was this same attitude of thankfulness that enabled him to trust in God’s timely provision. He did not allow his situation of need to make him frustrated.

The bible commentator Matthew Henry reportedly wrote this in his diary on the day he was robbed. “Let me be thankful - first because I was never robbed before. Second, because they took my wallet and not my life. Third, because although they took all, it was not much. And fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who did the robbing.” He knew what it was to say “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”



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