Being Content in the Time of Adversity
Is there a secret to living the Christian life? It may be a secret to some, but many have found it to be disclosed, God has revealed to mankind in His Word all that we need to live a life of godliness. The Scripture is given so we who believe in Jesus Christ can be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work that can please God (2 Tim. 3:16-17.)
The Word of God tells us “godliness is a means of great gain when it is accompanied by contentment.” Contentment is a concept hardly being heard anymore. Paul understood it as the essential ingredient for our endurance in trials and joy in life. He said, “And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8). If our basic needs are met, we should be satisfied. This was part of Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount; we are not to long for the immediate but are to look to the eternal. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount makes it clear if God feeds the birds and we are worth so much more, we should not stress over His provision for us. Yet popular teachers of prosperity try to influence the church by telling it not to be satisfied with what we have, it is not enough, there is always more. While they are presenting this as a teaching of faith, it is not faith to get more, but actually a lack of faith, making people covet and strive; not to be satisfied and content with what God has already given. The definition of faith means to trust, to be patient, and to be satisfied with the answer that you receive. We are to wait on the promises of God and be content with what we have. By this attitude the peace of God is brought into our lives.
Contrary to what some are being told that God will give you whatever you pray for in faith, the Wisdom in Prov. 14:14 states “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.” Letting God be the Lord over your life will bring contentment. The pursuit of ones own desires-- what you think is best in your life can remove you from being under his grace and essentially His blessings that He has for you.
As Charles Spurgeon stated “we have not been content to do His will without asking questions.” On the other hand a good portion of the church has been trained not to ask what His will is. So how can we fulfill His purposes in our life without pursuing His will. We need to do His will, His way and in His time; that should be a Christian’s pursuit.
Heb. 13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The enemy of contentment is coveting; it destroys our patience and faith. Contentment becomes a spiritual principle to live by so we can have joy no matter what happens in our lives. We need to know our own hearts anxiousness and protect ourselves from what would remove us from being content; that is usually not being patient.
It’s like the story of a man asking God, “What's a million years to you?” And God said, “A second.
Then the man asked God, “What's a million dollars to you? And God said, “A penny”:
So the man then said to God, “Will you give me a penny?” And God said, “Sure, you just need to wait a second.”
We should want to be fruitful as our goal. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). No tree bears fruit overnight, and the Christian life does not yield quick results by a slow and steady work of the Holy Spirit taking place. Patience and contentment go together, who ever heard of someone being anxious and unsettled and still called content.
Heb. 6:13-15 “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” Patience has always been a strength for the saints but in the last days it becomes even more crucial “By your patience possess your souls”(Luke 21:19).
Rev. 1:9 “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” six times in the book of revelation patience is mentioned as part of the commendation to the church and necessary for our perseverance. Rev. 14:12 “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” To have patience in trial makes on satisfied with what they have, they are not striving to gain anything, their focus stays on Christ.
A good portion of the church has become content with false teachers and prophets in the church, they don’t mind as long as they tell them they are going to prosper and be well and be part of some new thing God is doing. Never mind the damage done, the false representations to the world and the church’s reputation suffering. Many Christians find their contentment in seeking after all the things of the world. We don’t want to be like Esau, and have immediate satisfaction of our hunger, trading the promise from God for something that will satisfy our flesh craving for the moment.
Prov.30:15 “There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, “Enough!” The grave, the barren womb, The earth that is not satisfied with water--And the fire never says, “Enough!”
All of these are a product of a fallen world, no matter how much they have there is more to consume and they are not satisfied, there is not contentment. Prov. 27:20 “Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied.” When your pursuit in life is to have more money, more success, more of everything except God, and His plan and purpose, then you no longer content with the lot God has given you. You have stepped off the narrow road onto the slippery slide that leads you quickly away from the Lord.
Lets look at a Scripture that is often ripped from it context to justify getting whatever one wants “I can do all things through Christ.” Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In context what Paul is explaining is that he cannot look at a bad situation and be overcome by it. Not that he can get ALL things through Christ, but he learned to be satisfied in whatever state he was in by Christ’s stamina working in him. We need the grace of God to be able to be in the attitude of contentment.
What if we lost everything tomorrow, would we be able to cope? Would we blame God, or say we did not have enough faith and this is why it happened. True contentment is what Paul explained: as we read this whole Scripture in context “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He certainly must have had this in mind when he penned 2 Cor. 4:8-9 “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...”
To be blessed today is interpreted as having abundance in all things. What is taught is the Church being under a new and better covenant should have what some of the great men of faith had under the old covenant. We are not under the curse but the blessing! Certainly there is a portion of truth in this as the writer of Hebrews tells us we have a new and better covenant. “But now hath He (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a “Better Covenant, which was established upon “Better” Promises” (Hebrews 8:6). However this is not a covenant of works but rest in His work. We cannot initiate the promise but he is the giver of them by His grace.
It is on this basis that most prosperity preachers believe it should include abundance of health and wealth. If Abraham or the Jews were promised prosperity and health, why not us? We are the Church. They neglect to see the blessings for Israel were dependent on Israel’s obedience; it was part of their training in the mosaic covenant. If they obeyed the commands, they were blessed. It was a conditional covenant; we are under an unconditional covenant that is operated by trusting God and His will for us as individuals, not as a nation. One of the reasons the new covenant is better, and superior is because it operates by grace. Israel was punished if they did not obey and it was at times quite severe. What we see today is an elimination of any chastisement for the believer, having only the blessing. We want to have our cake and eat it too. To have a spiritual diet mostly on what is sweet steals our nutrition; honey can taste sweet and we can gorge ourselves on the pursuit of blessings found in the Word without realizing we have moved ourselves into a position of judgment. Because we don’t listen well, nor do we allow the Word to pierce our innermost being but instead use it for self aggrandizement. The Bible is not to be reduced as just a book of promises we go to and claim our successes and prosperity in life. There is nowhere in the New Testament where a promise of prosperity or financial blessing is given to anyone who follows Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Tim. 3:16 how the Scripture is to be used for the believer “All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” A godly man is willing to be told the worst of himself, Proverbs states “Those who hate reproof love ruin”
We become enemies to our God’s best interests and bring harm our own souls when we refuse his reproof.
Jer. 5:1-4 “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her. Though they say, 'As the LORD lives,' surely they swear falsely." O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; you have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, "Surely these are poor. They are foolish; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the judgment of their God.”
In the Western world and here in America we have merged Christianity with western consumerism and have done some real damage to how we live our faith.
Here something that was sent to me through an email that I think is appropriate for this subject I’m on.
If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed. 1/3 of the world does not have access to even one.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive the week.
If you prayed yesterday and today, you are in the minority because you believe in God's willingness to hear and answer prayer.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people around the world.
If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you are more blessed that almost a billion people in the world.
If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world!
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
And last- If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God, you are part of a very small minority in the world!
The church has “every spiritual blessing,” If one looks up the word blessing the Biblical concept teaches something quite different than what is taught today as material abundance. Ephesians 1:3: “Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Galatians 3:14: “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” That is the Gospel of salvation, this is the blessing of Abraham that has come to all people. Romans 15:29: “But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Abraham’s reward was God himself not the things he was given to prepare a nation.
Col 3:17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Our lives are to be a presentation of who Christ is to the rest of the unbelieving world. We should consistently give thanks for how God has changed us. You can’t really be thankful without having contentment.
Ps 75:1 “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.
The hand of God in his deliverance proves his faithfulness and his involvement with mankind. Many of us are like the lepers who were healed and only one came back to Jesus, we go on our way never willing to serve the one that has delivered us or shown mercy to us.
We give thanks to God in prayer. But words are not enough. Thankfulness can be shown by obedience and doing what He has asked. If a lifeguard rescued you from drowning and then a year later asked you to help him in a certain task, you wouldn’t hesitate to be there. Why do we not have the same attitude for God? Why do we forget so quickly what He has and continues to rescue us from?
False teaching on prosperity can cause anxiety, depression, because one thinks they are doing something wrong when they are not receiving the blessings that they are claiming. One can become severely disillusioned over God not answering their 'claims' or prayers
Ecclesiastes 7:14 - “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.” We should not always interpret circumstances as God’s approval or punishment. Romans 11:33 - Apostle Paul said “How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths are beyond tracing out” We need to accept our circumstances and learn to live through them to have God’s blessings at the end Psalms l8:30 “As for God, his way is perfect.”
It is not that one is doing wrong that suffering has come upon them. I Peter 3:17 “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Job 42:2 “...I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” This means 'the enemy' when he comes to steal, kill, and destroy cannot disturb God's plans for us. In the long run God is always going to be victorious in our lives... Nothing happens to us from Satan unless it has first passed through the hand of the Lord.
Eccl. 9:2 “All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.” We cannot prevent evil from coming but we know what we can do when it does come.
How we act through our trials is finding God’s purpose of allowing the trial to be sent. The mature Christian that doesn’t run to cover when trials arise that give him an opportunity to love and serve God through his affliction. By being content in his trial it shows he has great faith and are trusting in God’s sovereignty. We can know God through our suffering, and there is even a reward for it: the Crown of Life, a victor’s wreath (James 1:12). There is a blessing pronounced on those who endure under affliction and temptations, how we handle the various tests and trials.
The one who had lost everything had God’s favor on him during a great affliction. A testing that most likely none of us will ever go through. I’m speaking of Job. He received some bad counsel from his friends and his wife who sympathized with him in his pain; she could no longer stand it and in empathy told him to curse God and die.
We see that all through the excruciating pain upon Job’s body he never rebuked Satan, nor dialogued with him, he didn’t even know that he was behind it. He only prayed to God. God never told Job why he gave him the trial when he was going through it. But we can read of God’s purpose for Job was to focus on God’s Sovereignty and personal care. Job repented after God asked him 84 questions and finally accepted his adversity without ever knowing WHY or whether it would end or not. In this he said, “though he slay me yet I will trust him,” these are WORDS OF FAITH. After all Job’s suffering, he was given double for all he lost. That’s what true faith is when one trusts their lives into God’s hands, he will be blessed. But even if one does not get the material blessing we are to trust his judgment anyway.
Charles Spurgeon says of Job, “The Lord was lifting him up, promoting him, putting him into the front rank, making a great saint of him, causing him to become one of the fathers and patterns in the ancient Church of God. He was really doing for Job such extraordinarily good things that you or I, in looking back upon his whole history, might well say, “I would be quite content to take Job's afflictions if I might also have Job's grace, and Job's place in the Church of God.” (from Spurgeon's Sermons, Topical Sermons (OT Texts) Why Some Sinners Are Not Pardoned -- Job 7:21).
It's easy to have this bravado and say this in retrospect.
Paul echoed the same conclusion thousands of years later 2 Cor. 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul went on to say...“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When the sweat turned to blood on Jesus’ face, and his day of undeserved death had come, he asked if there is any other way three times. With the answer of no, he accepted the will of the Father, bowed his head and cried, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done” (Matt 26:39). Contentment in a time of despair, quiet strength. Everyone wants power but what was the most powerful moment in Jesus’ life? When he was the weakest and the meekest, when he surrendered Himself over to God the Father on the cross. That became the victory for us all. And that is how he wants us to live our lives in surrender, and be content. That our distress would be God's opportunity to meet our deepest need.
Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:15) What was he saying? That we need to trust Him by showing our dependence on God as a little child does on their parents. We come into the kingdom dependent on his work for us and we continue to depend on God as we pray as children to our Father. But sometimes we have become children of discontentment, frustrated with where we are and where we are going. We are in the shadows wondering what is happening to us. Why? Sometimes it is God’s hand of care on us for redirection, it may be time to sit still and listen. It may be because we have forged out our own road and our own plans. We have not listened as children that want to be under the Fathers authority.
When people promise success, the things of the world in this life time because you are a child of God, when they deny you are to have trials, better check to see if your in the faith. You may not be a legitimate child for God says whom he loves he chastens. Paul states “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened (as child being trained) of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32). God does send trials of love to purge us of things in our lives that are not to be there, the purpose is to make us more useful for Him and to have us grow up and be mature. Its not that riches are bad that one must deny them, nor is it riches are good and one must have them to prove God’s blessings or love, its ones relationship to the Lord and having him be master of all that we have, being content with him ONLY.
Sometimes God gives us what we want to teach us a lesson. He may give you what you want as he did to Israel when they complained about what they were missing on their way to Canaan “And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15).
You may think it is from God and will never want to hear it is not. It may satisfy you for a while but will never bring contentment in the long - run. We delude ourselves into thinking God wants to bless our plans without our life nailed to the cross partaking in the suffering of Christ in this present world.
We cannot be content until we can say by faith, “ I cast myself, my cares upon him; for he cares for me.” Nothing short than unreserved surrender to Jesus will do in our times of adversity.