"Content"—it literally means "desiring no more than what one has; satisfied." 1 Do you know someone who lives with such freedom? Contented, satisfied, settled, and fun to be around? I need more of that in my life.
Paul was an unlikely ambassador for Christ. Before becoming a follower, he actively persecuted Christians (Acts 9:1-2).
But it's just like God to turn one of his enemies into an ardent follower. As Saul was on his way to Damascus, a light from heaven flashed, and he heard God ask, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you?" Saul asked. The answer he heard was clear: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
Later, Saul would become God's chosen instrument to carry His name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel (verse 15).
How wild it must have been for Saul to hear from the very God he was persecuting! But God didn't just issue a cease-and-desist order. He filled Saul with the Holy Spirit, and the Bible tells us, "At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20).
A persecutor becomes a servant. Hatred becomes love. One day he's after Christians and the next day he is one. What irony!
The same irony often filters through modern-day life. In Jesus, brokenness finds healing. Hopelessness finds hope. Weakness finds strength. As we grow in faith, we learn that God is present in the unexpected, the unimaginable, and the unbelievable. Paul's story doesn't end with his conversion. In fact, it just begins. His ministry came with a high price. He was flogged, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Yet amazingly, he says, "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" (Philippians 4:12-13).
Despite the hardship, Paul was content. He was confident in Jesus and recognized that his strength came from the Lord. With this strength, he could face his pain and the mountains in his life with a new peace.
As Henry Blackaby wrote, "God's always given his people assignments that are too big for them to handle alone so that a watching world can see not what we can do—but what God can do." 2
Our job is to be content with our life and the assignments we're given and to do them to the best of our ability, trusting God's strength to make it possible. It's not easy. Contentment is not a natural emotion for most of us. It is something we must strive for.
When emotions threaten to overwhelm us, we must realize that God is in every circumstance and everything we feel. He's present in our anger, fear, insecurity, and depression. He's our strength when we feel the job is too big or we can't go on. Rest in Him and find the contentment that only He can give.
1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
2. Henry Blackaby, Reflections on the Seven Realities of Experiencing God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), as quoted in Henry Blackaby, “Watch God Work!” Today’s Christian Woman, March/April 2002, 34.