Undoubtedly, if a person lives long enough, there will be opportunities and experiences in life that will thrust, often without saying so or control, our lives through extremes in our lives. Those feasts or famine, life or death contrasts are some of the most difficult times of our lives. They are if we had the opportunity to vote on the matter, the times of our lives we would most likely choose to avoid at all costs. And yet, they come.
The apostle Paul was a prisoner of Rome when he wrote the letter to the Philippians and he spoke of such moments in his life in chapter 4 verses 11 through 13. It is in those verses that he spoke of the pendulum of life swinging back and forth between need and abundance, hunger or satisfaction, having plenty, and having nothing.
But through the various contrasts of his life, he learned how to remain steady…how to be consistent…how to be content in whatever circumstance he found himself. Even then, he was living through such a contrast of life, having lost his physical freedom, but only his physical freedom, for there was no way that Rome or any other enemy could bind and chain the freedom that he had in Christ. There, in Rome, he remained with the constant companionship of his Roman guard, bound to him through Roman iron. But yet, there was no closer companionship than Christ himself as Paul lived through the reality of his desires found in Philippians 3:10…knowing the Lord in such a deep and desirous way and sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering.
Paul learned, the text says in verse 11, to be content in whatever state he would find himself. He had learned to live through the extremes of life by the strength of the Lord (in verse 13). When Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he told us that the Lord would strengthen and sustain him through the extremes of his life. It is the Lord’s hand upon him, though he remained under the chains and the watchful eye of Rome. It was the Lord who would bring him through life, whether need or abundance, hunger or satisfaction, having plenty or nothing.
We have all gone through such extremes in life, but have we done so with the contentment that Paul wrote about? Have we rested in our Lord as our world has come crashing down upon us or have we crashed along with it?
Paul learned to remain content through whatever came his way, and it is not too late for any of us to learn the same vital truth as we cast all our care upon Him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). And we are running out of time to learn such lessons. Not only are our worlds about to come crashing down upon us all, but the whole world is also about to fall into chaos as the Day of the Lord approaches.
And while we, as the church, the bride of Christ, will not be going through God’s wrath upon the earth, the times ahead, leading up to the days of Tribulation will be challenging indeed. Time to learn a lesson of contentment.