Updated: Jan 9
Sometimes when people become very blessed (in the natural sense), they begin to lose the ability to default to contentment in smaller things. It is where complaining usually starts and lives, and it's where gratitude dies. We all do this, it is a part of our human nature. One of the more wonderful experiences of life is being content in smaller things especially when you are blessed with much. You may recall when Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13, "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 all THIS through him who gives me strength." Sometimes Christians read this verse and take it out of context in a couple ways. One way is that Christ will empower you to do whatever you want. That's not really what Paul is teaching here. All things are possible for those who believe, and faith is a wonderous thing in God's working will, but in this particular scripture Paul is saying he is able to do something specific that is difficult for most people with the help of Christ, and that is to be perfectly content no matter what is happening in his life. The other way much of scripture is misused, including this verse, is that we hear a verse like this and immediately feel condemned because we've just been caught in complaining mode. We digress for a brief time and correct our negative behavior, only to eventually come around to it again weeks later, sometimes sooner. This is why prayer groups will always have a new book to read to keep them in a cycle of learning to love others more or act nicer or (key in any behavior we keep trying to learn). It is a bad cycle in which we are always learning but never coming to the knowledge of whatever experience we keep running circles around. But in Paul's teachings, he is often not simply teaching as a means of *controlling human behavior* within the church, and sadly Christians often apply his teachings merely in that way, but even more he is inviting us to experience something he has found that is absolutely life changing and blissful despite the circumstances we may face. And it is a something that comes from a real relationship with Someone. Paul is always glorifying Christ for all Paul is able to do, but Paul is also inviting us to step out of our human nature, through the gift of faith in Christ, and into full reliance on Christ in our lives because we, who are not of this world, can live in this world as something out of this world and affect this world according to God's will in miraculous ways. This is an experience we'll often find in smaller more simple things. Paul once called this experience in Christ like experiencing another sort of heaven. And we miss these experiences when we begin to live in our indulgences as if they were less than blessings for which to always be deeply grateful. At various times, we all take God's goodness for granted. This is also why Paul would say that he rejoices in affliction, because it helps to keep us sober mentally and spiritually and keeps gratitude leading. Affliction is an opportunity to train oneself to walk consistently in God's goodness. God is good, very very good, and when we can truthfully declare this at our lowest point, we are walking in the fullness of His goodness. Let us remember this when we also walk in the fullness of all the earth! It is a gift of faith in Christ, and one which grows as we use it. It opens up everything in life, pleasant or not, as gifts upon gifts to us as well. This is an important lesson to learn and, if we need greater faith, praise be to God for He is willing and able to lavish it on us when we ask it of Him. As Christians, let us learn to walk with Christ with no need of the afflictions of life to train or teach us any longer, but with gratitude even for them, knowing that they provide even greater opportunity for blessing.