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The Challenge to Be Content

When life gets tough, giving in to self-pity can be a huge temptation. But circumstances don’t have to hold you back—God has a better way.

by Charles F. Stanley

 

As you sit there in your seat, reading these words, I’m willing to guess there are circumstances you’re dealing with. No doubt some of them are heavy things that rest on your conscience. Relationships that need attention, bills that need paying, dreams and goals and unfinished projects—life is so complex and so busy that at times it may seem like more than you can handle.

Let me save you some trouble: the truth is, your circumstances are already more than you can handle on your own, whether you realize it or not. Now, why do I say that? The answer is simple. You were never meant to live apart from the sustaining help of God, and it’s by His mercy alone that you’re able to continue day after day.

It may feel as though you’re managing on your own, but without God’s kindness, we would all be utterly incapacitated. That’s the first lesson. The second is that God doesn’t want you to go through life alone. He offers Himself to you in relationship, as a loving Father, to help and guide you through the most trying of circumstances. The question is, Are you willing to let Him? Too often we say that we want the Lord’s help, but our actions suggest that we’re unwilling to relinquish control and let Him take the lead.

At one time or another we all face situations that are less than desirable. In moments like these, we have two options: to live under our circumstances and try to get through them as best we can, or to humble ourselves in turning to God and letting Him lift us up. The choice comes down to faith in the Lord and whether or not, in our heart of hearts, we believe He’ll come through for us.

Can you relate to that struggle? Paul must have been tempted to be disheartened at times. You could argue that, as a man who faced extreme difficulty and suffering, he had a right to be frustrated with God. Repeated beatings, scorn, imprisonment—you’d think the Lord would always come to the rescue of His specially chosen apostle. But He didn’t. That hardly seems fair, considering how faithfully Paul had served Him.

But here’s what we need to notice: Paul didn’t let his circumstances dictate his behavior, shape his attitude, or control his mind. As he sat in that jail cell, he penned the following words to the Philippian church: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).

Notice that Paul learned to be content. It wasn’t the result of favorable circumstances or an easy-going temperament. His contentment developed in hardship and was the outcome of his obedience. You and I can learn to live with that same contentment, no matter what comes our way.

Focused on goodness

In Philippians, the apostle mentions Christ or Jesus 55 times, but he talks about his imprisonment in only a few verses of chapter one. There’s no complaining, self-pity, or blaming the Lord. In fact, the letter is filled with just the opposite—rejoicing.

Although his life continually hung in the balance, Paul could rejoice because he trusted God’s plans for his future. His life’s motto was, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). He knew death would instantly usher him into Christ’s presence, and life would mean more years of fruitful service. Either way, God’s plans for him were good, even when his circumstances weren’t. The key to Paul’s contentment was his firm belief in the Lord’s goodness toward him, recognition of His authority over him, and absolute trust in His will for his life.

From a worldly perspective, the Roman emperor may have held Paul’s life in his hands, but in reality, the Lord alone is the sovereign Ruler over heaven and earth (Ps. 103:19)—which means He’s in control of every event around the globe. Most people have a hard time with this statement because they can’t accept that a loving God would let bad things happen.

But when it comes to why He allows evil and hardship to take place, He has purposes and reasons that may always remain a mystery to us. What we know for certain is that the Lord is good, and in the end, His goodness will win the day (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 2:13). We may not see or always feel Him, but He’s there, abiding within us and working among us.

An opportunity to serve

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,” wrote Paul (Phil. 1:12).

Although imprisonment seemed like a huge obstacle preventing the apostle from serving the Lord, it turned out to be just the opposite. As a prisoner on house arrest, he had his own rented quarters, and people were allowed to come see him. So, he took every opportunity to teach his visitors about Jesus.

Furthermore, he always quite literally had a captive audience, because he was constantly chained to a Roman guard (Acts 28:16, Acts 30-31). Before long, the entire Praetorian Guard had heard about Paul and his imprisonment for the cause of Christ (Phil. 1:13). The gospel message even reached into the most unlikely place—Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22). Thanks to his imprisonment, Paul gained exposure to an audience he wouldn’t have had any other way.

Faithfully serving the Lord in difficult circumstances is a witness not only to the unbelieving world, but also to fellow Christians. Paul’s imprisonment inspired other believers to trust God and courageously speak His Word without fear (Phil.1:14). But there was an even more surprising result. Some believers who were envious of Paul started preaching the gospel out of selfish ambition, hoping to cause him distress. But even in this, Paul saw the blessing and rejoiced that whether in pretense or truth, Christ was being proclaimed (Phil. 1:15-18).

How about you?

Where is your focus during difficult circumstances? Are you constantly looking for a way out? Or do you fret over the situation until it becomes so insurmountable in your mind that you give in to despair? Another option is to focus on yourself by wallowing in self-pity or casting blame on others—even on God.

If you’re dealing with stressful situations, it’s only natural to be concerned. But a child of God has the privilege of a higher focus. When circumstances seem overwhelming, all we have to do is fix our eyes on Christ (Heb. 12:2), turning our anxious hearts and minds over to Him.

If we’ve trusted Him for the most critical issue in life—our eternal salvation—surely we can trust Him with all our temporal concerns. It’s possible to live with a sense of unwavering courage and confidence in the Lord instead of being swayed and defeated by the storms of life. The deciding factor is trust.

In the midst of Paul’s horrendous circumstances, his heart was set on the Lord—“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). No negative circumstance could rob him of that longing. On the contrary, imprisonment was producing for Paul what he desired most: a more intimate relationship with Christ.

The right perspective on your circumstances begins with your thoughts. A mind focused on God and His Word looks beyond the temporal trials to His unseen hand at work. Once your mind is focused on Him and your trust in His sovereignty and goodness is firm, you’ll have no problem submitting to whatever situations He allows in your life.

In fact, unshakeable contentment is available only when you’re fully surrendered to Christ. Then you can be at rest even when surrounded by chaos, as Paul was, because you’ll know the Lord is holding you in His loving hands, working it all out for good.

 

 Do you know God?

Learn how to let Jesus Christ transform any circumstance into one of peace, beauty, and joy by beginning a new relationship with Him here.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


36 comments
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  • November 20, 2013 03:32 PM

    by

    It was very timely as if God spoke through this. Thank you!
  • September 27, 2013 03:36 AM

    by

    Dr. Stanley you and your sermons have been a blessing to me. God is my Father and Fortress and I've been saved for 23 years. Your TV broadcast and website is a place I frequent when I need confirmation and affirmation. God directs me to Dr. Stanley's messages. I've been so blessed and at peace knowing my steps are ordered. Thank you Dr. Stanley!!!
  • July 29, 2013 09:21 PM

    by

    You are wonderful. I am so grateful to God because He brought you into my life. Your messages have helped to keep going trhough this difficult trail. May God bless you and give you a long life!
  • July 01, 2013 11:09 AM

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    Praise GOD. The one true living GOD!!!
  • June 30, 2013 12:06 PM

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    Thank you for these words of encouragement I really need it my heart has been so heavy with worrying about my marriage, home, school, and my job. I have been hit with so many challenges one after another and yes, it has become overwhelming. I know God is able to see me through but I sometimes ask where are you God in all this. Dr. Stanley thank you for your words of encouragement that really means a lot to me especially during this time I am going through. I will be taking a test for college it is 3 parts to it and I must finish in 3 hrs my career depends on me passing all 3 parts of this test this is new to me and I don't have the confidence that I will pass. I know God is able to see me through this but I sometimes ask will he? I know God is testing me on my faith and will I trust him with the impossible. Reading this article on the challenge to be content is talking to me personally. You don't know how that has blessed me and gave me the courage to trust God in every aspect of my life. Thank you again over and over. God bless you and thank you again for reaching so many lives and blessing them with your words of our Great and living God!!!!!
  • June 24, 2013 09:09 AM

    by

    Thank you for this article, it was just what I needed this morning to help me get through this day!
  • June 23, 2013 08:32 AM

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    Thank you. Your words helped me to remember to put Christ first
  • June 21, 2013 08:21 PM

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    Comforting message indeed thank you and God bless you Dr Stanley
  • June 20, 2013 12:53 PM

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    Thank you Dr. Stanley for the insight about keeping the faith, no matter what. I have sometimes struggled with accepting God's intentions when going through trials. However, I now realise that it is all about spritual growth. Thank you for your dedication to the Ministry. May God Bless you.
  • June 19, 2013 07:50 AM

    by

    Amen.
    Persistently keep the Word Of God in your heart and you will the feel the contentment of your Christian life.
  • June 17, 2013 10:02 AM

    by

    This message really hit home today. Thank you
  • June 16, 2013 10:01 AM

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    Yes yes i believe and let god take thereigns
  • June 11, 2013 12:41 PM

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    Thought Provoking!!!
  • June 10, 2013 06:21 AM

    by

    Thanks a lot, very timely and comforting message for me. God bless you more Dr. Stanley!
  • June 10, 2013 06:18 AM

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    I always thank God for bringing a timely message for me through you, Dr. Stanley. Every time I'm in a given situation, your message speaks clearly to inspire and comfort me. Indeed, God never fails. May God bless you more and your ministry, thanks a lot!
  • June 09, 2013 06:13 PM

    by

    I Love watching your program every sunday morning, it has Helped us in so many ways to understand why . Thank you so much.keep going and never stop..<><
  • June 09, 2013 10:17 AM

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    This article truly touched our hearts!.. My wife and I are reminded through this message of the Lord working in so many ways helping us in our Christian walk and to be content in our circumstances. Somethings we understand and somethings we don't. However, we know with God's help all is well. The Lord has continuously brought people along side us to help us just at the right time. This message from you Dr. Stanley inspires and encourages us. May God continue to bless you Dr. Stanley and InTouch Ministries!...

    We thank God for His continuous guidance in all who seek Him (Footprints in the sand).

  • June 08, 2013 11:19 PM

    by

    I soo needed this article and todays devotional. May God continue to use you in this season..
  • June 07, 2013 09:40 PM

    by

    Dr. Stanley, I can not thank you enough for this message and thank God enough for placing these words on your heart to put into writing for me to see at this particular time in my life. All week long I have been feeling a tug in my spirit to surrender and every time I think I have made up my mind to do so, life's circumstances tempt me to once again do my own thing and I not only fall back where I was before but each time its a little deeper. I have been a Christian for many years and I know the power of God and how amazing He is first hand, however when things seem to be going "as planned" I tend to sit Him on a shelf behind a "break in case of emergency" glass while I attempt to handle my life myself.
    I am now at a point in my life where I am on the verge of desperation. Husband, children, job, FINANCES, friends... everything seems to be a struggle and above all of this the worst part is the feeling of loneliness. Still through everything I am dealing with, the words that continue to surround me at every turn are, "just surrender."
    After reading this article, I am hearing those words stronger and louder than before. I know what I must do. There is no other choice, but honestly surrender is so much easier said than done!
    I know that you receive hundreds of emails a day and the chances of you having the time to read this one is slim to none but if you would just mention only my name at the bottom of this message when you pray I am positive that will be enough. I need the strength to surrender. To let God have absolute control and not try to take back the burdens upon myself once He has promised to bear them. He said to cast all of our burdens on Him for His yoke is easy. I so desperately need to do just that but the hard part is leaving them there.
    Thank you again so much Dr. Stanley for this very timely message and may God continue to richly bless you and your ministry for many years to come.
    Sincerely,
    Neshia A
  • June 07, 2013 11:52 AM

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    Praise God! I am so thankful to God for Dr. Stanley's messages. He always inspire me to keep pressing on no matter how difficult things are. I love you Dr. Stanley and the Intouch Ministries, Oh, what a blessing this ministry is to the world! I pray that God will continue to inspire, uplift, encourage and strengthen the saints as well press, no matter what.
  • June 06, 2013 08:21 PM

    by

    Indeed, We have a living God and He is using everything just to uplift one's spirit. Thank you Dr. Stanly for this encouraging message.
  • June 05, 2013 10:50 PM

    by

    Praise God for intouch. Your message is always timely. Indeed God is using you to touch peoples lives and to speak to us through your insights...
  • June 05, 2013 09:56 AM

    by

    I always enjoy your inspiring messages and wisdom. Your teachings are always on target with what's going on in the world. I thank God for you Dr. Stanley. May God continue to bless you and this ministry.
  • June 04, 2013 10:24 AM

    by

    Oh how God has used you to inspire and encourage others through the years to Trust God and His goodness, I thank God each day for your contributions to His Kingdom. There's power in the blood!
  • June 04, 2013 09:41 AM

    by

    Praise God!

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