I must admit, “contentment” is not an easy lesson to learn. It seems to take a lifetime of going through various situations that try us before we learn what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4:11.
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” That word “content” (autarkēs) is made up of two words in Greek, “auto” and “self-rule.” This combined idea is part of Paul’s description of the fruit the Spirit produces in us; “self-control.” In other words, it is the Spirit’s work in us that helps us learn to be content
Paul continues his exhortation in Philippians 4 and adds, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (4:12). This is not natural to any of us, but is gain through the indwelling Spirit as we allow Him to teach us.
The instructions to Timothy were; “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6–8). We do not gain unless we are content.
Perhaps the present trial is forcing us to learn this lesson in a new way. If we learn this, the Spirit will make it an “automatic” function of “self-rule” so that as circumstances change and our lives are required to adjust to new situations, we will be content with what the Lord gives us.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
Sadly, we often think that if we worry about a problem, we will eventually find a solution. In reality, worry or anxiety actually adds to the weight of the problem and we make our situation even more difficult. Solomon was right; “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down.”
David, Solomon’s father, learned that it is better to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). The word “cast” means to “throw, fling or hurl” your “burden” or “anxiety” away from yourself onto someone who is far more qualified to deal with it and carry its weight for you. He will also give you stability.
Jesus gave us this personal invitation; “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In verse 29, Jesus goes on to say; “learn from Me.” Naturally we do not cast our burdens on the Lord because we have an attitude that we are able to carry weighty matters on our own. Learning from the Lord means that I partner with Him in whatever circumstances He places us in or allows us to go through. When we do, Jesus guarantees “rest” and a “light” burden.
Will you accept His invitation?
As we hear of more cases of the Covid-19 here in many parts of the world, and how it is affecting family members and friends, our minds go to the Scriptures for comfort, wisdom and stability. Yesterday I pointed us to the only sure place of peace in these times – in the Lord.
I thought of J. Oswald Sanders and his book, Enjoying Intimacy with God. In the fifteenth chapter, Intimacy Prevents Discouragement, Sanders points to Paul’s attitude that flowed out of his close walk with the Lord.
If Paul can be so positive in circumstances that were far more difficult than ours, so can we. Sanders reminds us that “we lose heart when we lose the sense of wonder at the surpassing superiority of the ministry entrusted to us. “Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit” (3:5-6; page 130).
Be sure to strengthen your heart through getting close to the source of courage and comfort.
As in other times of uncertainty, people are asking questions about whether the events surrounding COVID-19 are a sign that we are at or near the end of time. These questions are not new. Jesus was asked similar questions, even by His disciples.
“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus followed this question with a warning; “See that no one leads you astray” (24:4). The tool of the Deceiver (Satan) is to distract us from the real purpose of why we are left here.
Part of the deception is diverting our attention to persons who claim to be “Christ” in order to “lead many astray” (24:5). These are called “false teachers…who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). The attempt is to cause fear and distrust so we look for security outside the person of Jesus. Remember His words; “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”” (John 16:33).
Our greatest stability is in the person of Christ. In sending the Holy Spirit to be here in His absence, Jesus is drawing each of us into a closer walk with Him so we know this peace. Out of that place of peace, we can tell others where to find peace. I pray the Spirit will direct your heart into this inner circle with the Lord so He will send you out with the message of peace – “Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35–36).
In these days, it is not hard to feel the frustration, fear, anxiety, loss of hope and pain many are experiencing and expressing. No one felt these conditions more than Jesus did. As He walked through His own creation, He healed, comforted, and supplied food for many. But these conditions needed something far better and more powerful than medicine and stopping disease.
These persons needed “the gospel of the kingdom.” It’s the Good News of the King that has provided a way into His kingdom through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. While the material and physical things help our temporal needs for a time, they do not go beyond death. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers eternal life in a new heaven where righteousness reigns.
Have you offered that Gospel, that Good New to anyone today? This is true compassion of the highest order! When you do, you will be a real ambassador of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; 2 Corinthians 5:20).
Have you ever been in a situation when you wanted HELP immediately? As some friends and relatives come in contact with persons who have COVID-19, there is a feeling of needing help for several reasons. We don’t know the outcome of that moment and we may not know where to turn for the right kind of medical care. We need to know the correct response in these moments.
There was a Levitical family in the Old Testament known as Korah. They rose up in rebellion against Moses causing God to instantly punish them with death. However, a few members of this family survived, and through the years learned very important lessons about God’s character.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1–3).
Jeremiah heard God say to him, ““Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?” (23:23). These are comments from persons who really knew God as being very near, especially in times of trouble.
There is nothing greater I could do for you than to encourage you to know Him in this personal way. Both Jeremiah and the Sons of Korah knew God intimately. Actually, He is right there with you and wants to establish a strong relationship with you so that even if trouble comes into your life, you will know God as your “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
So many times, I thank the Lord for the encouragement of Scripture. Paul felt this way too. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Though it would be a few years before he would see these believers face-to-face, Paul wanted to provide them with the real source of encouragement – God’s Word.
Reports from many parts of the world keep coming into my computer, some heartbreaking and others tell of great boldness in sharing the gospel of Jesus with those around them. We just learned that a friend of ours now has the Covid-19 virus, and now possibly his daughter. Our hearts go out to them and we again take a moment to pray for God’s mercy. At the same time, we hear that many in Wuhan are boldly sharing the gospel, and finding persons who are very receptive. How did the Early Church handle times like this?
This takes me back to Acts 4. They were under the threat of prison for preaching the gospel about Jesus which drove the believers to pray; “grant to your servants [the disciples] to continue to speak Your word with all boldness” (4:29). If you will pray like that, I can tell you what will be the result; “with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all” (4:33).
In these uncertain times, we must accept that circumstances may be very difficult for some time, but they DO NOT change the power of God. Let’s draw on that power to be His witnesses to others with boldness, love and grace.
Why would I turn to such a sobering passage of Scripture at a time like this? Yes, I desire to comfort, encourage, and strengthen each person who visits this website. I realize there is a great need for that in these days. At the same time, the enemy is taking advantage of our isolation and social distancing to weaken the minds and hearts of some. For them and you, I cannot keep silent.
Jesus was aware of dangers from thinking that we are exempt from the current crisis. He addressed those who only pointed their finger at others who died in a crisis. “And He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”” (Luke 13:2–5).
In any crisis, big or small, this same danger exists. Instead of finger pointing, we should be asking the question, ‘what is the Lord saying to me?’ Are we holding back in some area of our walk with the Lord? Do we give Jesus control of only certain parts of our life, but the other parts we keep tightly under our control?
We often point to circumstances as an excuse for not being fully surrendered to Jesus. Physical limitations and hardships are not the problem. It’s the barriers in our hearts that we have not repented of. They can only be removed by humble repentance.
A student in S. E. Asia has asked a very interesting question. “I do not know why Luke did not mention Titus in his account – Acts?” Paul mentions Titus in Galatians 2:1, which was about 14 years after his conversion (Acts (9:1-18; 37 AD), then says "I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me". That occasion was the Jerusalem council (Acts 15 - 50 AD). Since the Galatian letter was the first letter Paul wrote, it is obvious that Paul appreciated Titus and wanted his support in the ministry. Four letters later, Paul mentions Titus and tells the Corinthians why he sent Titus to them (2 Cor. 8:16, 23; 12:18). "Titus [had] the same earnest care I have for you" (8:16). We would say that they were “like-minded.”
When Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:5), it must have been around 60 to 61 AD (Acts 27:12). It is my guess that in their short stay at Phoenix, a harbor in Crete, disciples were made and a church was planted, but needed Titus to get them established in the gospel with elder leadership.
Some of these questions we do not know the exact answer to, but it should make us search the Scriptures more and more to see how God worked, and then follow God's model through Paul. Even though we don’t know why Luke left out Titus from his account, we see from Paul’s letters that Titus was a valuable asset to his ministry of establishing disciples and local churches.
Are you a “Titus” who, by giving yourself to strengthening disciples, makes the local church strong so they can multiply themselves through evangelizing, establishing, equipping and expanding?
I was speaking with someone on the phone this morning who seemed very hopeless as they and the world face the Covid-19 pandemic. Their mind was going from one worst case scenario to another, and for them there was nothing to encourage. I did my best to turn their attention to the great plans and resources we have in the Lord.
After we ended to conversation, my mind went to Romans 8 where Paul asked a very thought- provoking question; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (35). Think about that question.
Several words in that list may describe what you are going through or feel at this moment. You may not think that any of these circumstances would actually “separate [you] from the love of Christ,” but if we are honest, we often allow them to weaken our sense of His present love for us.
How does Paul answer this question? “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:37–39).
Is your confidence in the strength of Christ’s love that strong? If it is, you will realize that you are secure in the Lord, and present events cannot change who you are in Him!
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