Louis Stevenson, the great Scottish author who wrote "Treasure
Island," was accustomed to bedridden illnesses. Although
frequently ill, he remained eternally optimistic. One
day his wife approached him after a terrible coughing spell
and remarked, "I expect you still believe it's a wonderful
day." Stevenson confidently replied, "I
do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles
to block my horizon." We can focus on the medicine
bottles (or debts, disappointments, conflicts, etc.), or
we can keep our sights set on the horizon of God's hope.1
The key is to learn contentment in every situation.
this very issue in Philippians 4:12-13. He wrote,
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.
in any and every situation? Can that be said of us?
Whether we have plenty or little, are our lives marked by
contentment? Let's look a little more closely and
see what we can discover from God's Word as fleshed out
by the Apostle Paul.
by writing, I have learned...
From that we can surmise that it's not a natural trait,
not something that just springs forth in our lives with
no effort. It is, instead, discovered, taught, learned.
As with many of the other lessons of life, a choice is involved.
On the days Paul was facing dehydration and malnutrition,
he chose to be content. During times when the disappointments
were overwhelming, the debts mounting, and the future grim,
he chose to be content. His refusal to nurse a complaining
spirit brought deep insight and great maturity.
revealed that in order to be content, one must know the
secret. Paul both knew it existed and had learned
it well. Secrets can be really tricky. Benjamin
Franklin said, "Three may keep a secret only if two
of them are dead."2
Some secrets are devised to remain secrets while others
are intentionally devised to be discovered.
Paul knew the secret, he was not satisfied to keep it to
himself; it was the kind of secret he hoped many would discover.
In fact, he was kind enough not to keep us guessing; he
came right out and told us the secret to his ability to
be content in any and every situation: I
can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
Yes, everything! When we walk closely, purely, wholly
with the Lord Jesus, He infuses us with the strength we
need to do everything He's asked of us. Through Jesus,
we have the strength of character to be content, and not
just to be content. We are also strengthened to do
a lot of other tasks that our flesh would woo us to believe
are not possible, like to love our enemies, to forgive that
horrible hurt, to walk by faith, to go the extra mile, and
to be strong in the Lord. Doing life in His strength,
not ours, is key; it is indeed the secret to the contented
life. And it's the contented life that unveils so
many of the other secrets to life in Christ: without contentment,
the reservoir of joy is drained dry; the place of peace
is filled with anxiety; and the fruit of love dries up on
the vine. I don't know about you, but I'm glad Paul
didn't keep this secret to himself. I've not yet arrived
at the point where I am contented in any and every situation
of life, but I'm daily learning to make that choice as I
learn more about doing everything through Him who gives
me strength. For me it's a process, a journey; a journey
on which I hope you'll join me.
pray today, ask God to reveal to you the kind of spirit
you have: complaining or contented. I think you'll
know what to do with the revelation.
1The Winning Attitude, John Maxwell, 1992, p. 122.
2Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1735.