So in my last post, I posted some thoughts about New Year resolutions and how they are often manifested because of our dissatisfaction or lack of contentment with the way things are in our lives. I moved on to talk about Gospel Contentment and how Paul is able to have such an incredible peace amidst the hardships that he was facing during his imprisonment. What Paul shares to his beloved friends in Philippi is that he has learned to find this incredible contentment/peace in Christ through the depth of his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how it is only through the Gospel that he can say with such confidence “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
So why do we have a Part 2 to this True Contentment topic then, Helicon? I could totally have stopped at the end of last week’s post and ended this train of thought but I believe that God has helped me see some new wisdom and insight on the topic recently. There were times when it was not so easy to be filled with joy or fixated or at peace with Christ, but it was in those times that I continued to pray and ask God to show me more reasons why this understanding is so important and how much further it continues to go into my foundations and faith.
Here’s why this contentment stuff is so important… like me, you WILL face times when you will encounter hardships /discouragements /trials/suffering /loss/heartbreak/loneliness! The question is… how will you respond in those times? Will you become so distraught that you are unable to function? Will you start to panic and perhaps even go as far as to blame God for what happens? Maybe you won’t panic as much, but inside you are deeply shaken to the core of the foundations of your faith and this may become the catalyst to a growing distance from God in your daily life. You may even be rebellious due to your frustration and lack of seeing God’s activeness.
The reality is we face these dilemmas and they are a part of our lives that we cannot ignore. Rather than facing these times, we often rather hide these struggles as we try to put on a brave or courageous face for the rest of the world to see. What happens is we ignore these thoughts until they are upon us and then we have to struggle even more so because we are ill-prepared to face the reality of our lives. This denial or willful blindness only makes the journey longer and the hole deeper; rather than finding ourselves to God, we feel further and more ashamed than before. To ignore these dilemmas then would be a huge blind spot in our soul, and a place where we will be missing God’s grace and refinement (God’s there, but our blindness leads us unaware or unwilling to listen to him in those areas).
Paul grasps this hope/eschatological confidence in the Gospel… and as a result, he not only has a deep peace in the truth of the Gospel, but in the promise of the Gospel. What is the reason we can trust God so much in the present when things look so screwed up? I think that we can have such confidence in the present because of a confidence in the fulfillment of the promise in the future. The promise of that hope and the belief that it will be fulfilled drives our confidence in the present… and though this may seem so elementary, we can easily gloss over it in our own hearts. The truth is that this is a very powerful ingredient to Paul’s confidence in the Gospel. He believes what Jesus Christ has said and that God will redeem it all in the future; he has no doubt about this and this is what strengthens him in the present. We remember the past and what Christ has accomplished, but we anticipate the future for its fulfillment.
Too often, I think our understanding of the Gospel is stuck only in the present… and rather than seeing God’s powerful work transcending time, we can only see it from the singular (even narrow) perspective of the present. We are so easily shaken because we can only see things within the present context and never consider the Sovereignty of God & His control that transcends time. We may consider the past and we may consider the future, but what we must remember is that God is not bound by the boundaries of time. God sees/defines/authors the complete big picture! I think that it’s in seeing the promise of God (with an understanding of the future) that gives Paul this unwavering 100% confidence. He doesn’t just understand this… he KNOWS this with all of his being to be true. This is a real faithfulness and trust in God’s promises!
This is definitely something I feel that we have to desire and constantly pray for because it is so easily forgotten. How often has that dreaded feeling of doubt and discouragement come creeping in during a bout or season of trial or hardship? This is why preaching the Gospel to ourselves has such an essential role to our faith and its healthiness. It is this constant radical reorientation back towards Christ; it is that recalibration that cannot afford to be off even by a teensy bit in our lives. We need to be focused because even the smallest incorrect focus over the distance of our lives will end up far off the target of our relationship with Jesus Christ. This constant vigilant correction is necessary and perhaps why we are compared to sheep: who are so easily distracted and strayed.
So as I share today, do we constantly see this future promise and it’s completeness in the Gospel? Do we see and place our confidence in these promises and earnestly desire to see these things from this mindset? It is perhaps when you are able to do these things that you can say with as much confidence as Paul the following words: “… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11b-13).
What do you place your confidence in when things get tough? Do you place it in the promises that Christ will return and things will be made right? How often do you reflect on the Gospel and preach it to yourself? Do you believe and long for the future fulfillment of God’s promise and see it as a definite or a possibility? This my friends will be something you wrestle with your entire life… it is a journey that you will constantly encounter such moments, and the question then is: will you continue to remember to preach the Gospel to yourself, and cling to Christ?