Do you find it hard to be happy? Steph Nickel takes a look at the life of Paul and how he managed to be content even in the darkest of times.
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Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it will soon be winter. Does discontentment describe you? Although I wouldn’t describe myself as discontent, if I’m honest with myself, I’d have to say the word applies.
Here are some realities in my life that hint at that discontentment:
I have purchased a number of appliances and kitchen utensils recently, hoping they will motivate me to prepare healthier meals from scratch. So far, that hasn’t happened. One appliance sits on my counter unused. Another is still packed away in the box. Neither was cheap.
I keep signing up for online courses and summits, thinking, “I’ll stick with it and complete this course. I’ll take notes and put what I learn into practice.” I don’t even remember all the courses I signed up for and all the lifetime access passes I purchased so I could get around to listening to and reading the content … someday.
I ask myself how I can run a successful home business while working at the church 35 hours per week and volunteering for several hours each week on top of that. This thought leads me to ask if I should quit my job as church admin and devote myself to building my home business. But then I think of my hubby who has worked for over 30 years in what was supposed to be his temporary job. And, for the most part, I enjoy working in the office.
Do any of these scenarios sound like you?
The Apostle Paul
They make me think of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13, which say, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).
These words were penned by a man who made it a point to hunt down followers of Jesus and have them put to death. I’m sure there were times that memory weighed heavily upon him.
And after he became a believer, from a worldly perspective, his life went downhill from there.
Second Corinthians 11:24-28 gives us a snapshot of what the apostle experienced. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (ESV).
He’d learned to be content through all of it? Can you imagine? How could that be?
How Can We Be Content?
Although Christians often quote Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” it rarely applies to such incredibly challenging circumstances.
Was Paul a special man, chosen for God’s purposes? He was.
Did he have access to some super spirituality that is no longer available to believers in Jesus? Absolutely not.
If Paul could learn to be content in times of want and times of plenty … If he could learn to be truly at peace whether free or in prison … If he could remain faithful whether loved or despised by those around him … so can we.
We may be called to be content in our workplace this day even though we feel emotionally and physically drained before we arrive at work.
We may be called to be content even though we don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills.
We may be called to be content even when the ministry we believe God called us to never materializes.
How could Paul achieve authentic contentment? How can we?
Philippians 3:13 gives us the answer. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (ESV).
We must keep 1 Corinthians 10:31 in mind. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV).
If we seek to glorify God this day, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, we will begin to experience the contentment Paul experienced. If we focus on the task at hand and trust the Lord to redirect our course—if it’s His will to do so—we will be much further along the path to contentment.
Where will your focus be this day?
Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.
Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.
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