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F a i t h   M a t t e r s  with Dr. Ken Lovelace

 

The Secret

 

 

Robert 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.

 

Paul addressed 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.

 

Content 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.

 

He began 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. 

 

Next he 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. 

 

Though 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.

 

Everything?  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.

 

As you 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.

 



Copyright 2011. Faith Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights reserved.


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