Contending for Contentment

contentmentI received a phone call yesterday from a good brother from across the country.  He was just checking in and giving me updates on what’s going on in his life and asking the same about me.  It was just good to hear his voice, sense his love and concern and hear that his family and he are doing well.

As a result of catching up, we took a bunny trail discussing the goodness of our Heavenly Father and His faithfulness.  As I listened to this young brother, I remembered that little over a year or so ago, this brother was, shall we say, in a different state of mind.  Things in life were unstable, chaos ruled in integral components of his life and there were serious questions.  Now, hearing him recount all that Father has done, there was an empowered tone and an instilled maturity ringing in his words.

Give Father some time and a brother some willingness to trust Him as he walks through some things and, in the end, you will see a transformed brother emerge.  Quite honestly, those are the types of bros. I long to walk with in the Kingdom.  I am no longer interested in associating with the brothers who have it all figured out, so nice and neat.  I hold nothing personal against them.  It’s just I know that nice and neat aren’t really Kingdom modes.  If a brother ain’t dying……..he ain’t trying!

So, I am truly not interested in hanging with the guys up on the stage basically screaming, “ I’ve got mine. Now, I’m going to show you how to get yours!”  Yes, I have literally heard those words come out of a “successful” brother’s mouth and many more brothers intimate the same philosophy week in and week out.  Phhhhhhht!

Word to the wise:  Don’t confuse such statements as an invitation to a deep, meaningful, transparent relationship with that brother because it isn’t going to happen.  He’ll be willing teach you ‘principles for success’ ad nauseam, allow you to sow seed into his anointing and thereby receive mystical blessings and bless you with his presence on Sunday and Wednesday at the church service but he won’t come down from the platform, embrace you, open up his own life, and walk through life with you.  The established system simply won’t allow it and it’s diametrically opposed to the Kingdom’s function.

I know……I know….you didn’t even see me get up on my soapbox, did you?  Okay. I am getting down now.

However, I am completely interested in relating with brothers like the one I spoke with the other day.  Yes, we can identify in struggles and weaknesses in our flesh because we are men trying to make it in this world. Be that as it may, what is most important is that this brother is so transparent I can see right through him and find the Christ in him rather easily.

Regardless of our diverse backgrounds, we share in the frailty of our flesh and our desperate need for a Savior.  As we embrace the Cross to answer the depravity of our carnality and the Christ in me connects with the Christ in him, we have the basis for a “greater is He who is in us” type of relationship that requires that we both move on in Him.  I am repletely blessed with such camaraderie with like-minded brothers.  Let me tell you, it didn’t come easily but it is one of the greatest strengths of my life.

Towards the end of our discussion the other day, we spoke of contentment. We both shared stories of Father’s Faithfulness through difficult times and how we learned  what Father was truly after by going through such times.  He wasn’t so much concerned with our provision, as this was never in question in His mind. You know, it’s the whole Father knows what you have need of before you ask Him principle we completely forget when times get a little rough. No, it seems He was more concerned about our propensity to trust Him regardless of situation and/or circumstances we found ourselves in.

To some degree, we had learned to be CONTENT!

I am not talking about the type of contentment that the world suggests or even the version that the church puts forward now-a-days.  I am talking about the type of contentment that Apostle Paul declared in his letter to the Philippian believers.

First of all, Paul says in Philipppians 4:11…..

I have come to learn……

The Greek construction used in this verse reveals that Paul has entered into a place of knowing that previously he was not participating in.  It was a new knowing; something that ousted his previous knowing and established itself as the new mode of operation.

Given Paul’s education under Gamaliel’s tutelage and the resulting zeal that incited the action of persecuting early Christians, I think it is safe to say that Paul had quite a bit of new knowing to come into in order to fulfill his calling.  Undoubtedly, he was involved in a consistent process of such new knowing.

Furthermore, Paul wasn’t dogmatically preaching principles or steps that fellow believers were required to enter into his new knowing.   According to Wuest, the “I” in verse 11 means, “I, for my part, whatever others may feel.”  Essentially, Paul is saying that he has found a better way of existing and functioning. From his experiences, he has exercised the power of repentance and entered into a new knowing and enjoyed the verifiable fruit of that new way of thinking.  He was simply modeling what it was he had come to know and trusted that the benefits were there for all believers who chose to enter experientially.

In seeking to encourage his spiritual son, Paul would later exclaim to Timothy:

godliness with contentment is great gain… (1 Timothy 6:6)

What precisely was it that Paul had come to learn and share with a younger, maturing brother?  Paul was expounding the fortifying force of contentment.

The word used for contentment in both texts was used by the Stoics to teach that man should be independent of external circumstances and be sufficient in himself for all things.  (you can watch a video about those silly Stoics here)  Paul hi-jacked the word and converted it by placing the need for sufficiency in Christ; not in himself.  His sufficiency and dependence was not of the Stoic kind which was based upon worldly knowledge and wisdom thereby empowered by the animated soul’s self-will.  His contentment and sufficiency was firmly established in Christ’s finished work and generated by the power of the Holy Spirit bringing the revelation knowledge that transcends mere worldly knowing.

As such, our dear elder brother Paul could go on and say….

I have come to learn, in the circumstances in which I am placed, to be independent of those and self-sufficient.

Now, consider Paul’s upbringing, which was somewhat luxurious for that day and compare it to the beatings, shipwrecks, trials and persecutions he suffered for Christ’s name and then go back and read the previous statement!

What a glorious (Christ in you the hope of glory!) state of being!  Not being governed by situation and circumstances, rather, being content, satisfied and fulfilled in Christ and trusting in Him for all things is the way of mature sons.  My prayer is that believers begin to come to a new knowing of what the Gospel truly is and the actual impact that it is designed to bring in their existence.

In the same letter to Philippian believers, Paul lays this little jewel on them:

I am still setting all things down to be a loss for the sake of that which excels all others, my knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord which I have gained through experience, for whose sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I am still counting them dung, in order that Christ I might gain.  (3:8, Wuest Expanded Tranlation)

Paul is instructing us that maturing to the place of such contentment insulates believers from the influence of outward conditions and equips them to initiate and sustain a spiritual balance and maintain peace during both favorable and adverse circumstances. Such an existence is not only realistic, it is actually the expected result of New Life in Christ.

The time is quickly approaching when the “gospel of get yours” isn’t going to any longer have a leg to stand on and the chants of “it’s my time for my thing!” are going to brutally come to an end.  The people of God must be taught correctly and equipped to not only survive difficult times but thrive in them and, in so doing, fulfill Father’s Purposes.  The craving and crying for more worldly “stuff and things” of orphans and spiritual babes still on the bottle must come to an end and the declarations of Father’s sufficiency made by mature sons must begin to be heard in the earth.

Such a declaration is what I heard from my brother the other day.  He now knows his Father in a way he has never known Him and it has wrought significant changes in his being, his marriage, his family, ………in everything. Now, that I am interested in!

Keep your peace!

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6 thoughts on “Contending for Contentment

  1. Amen! I truly can relate, I am so thankful for all the father has done in my life and continues to do on a daily basis. Great post Bryan. 🙂

  2. Bryon,

    I’m with you. It seems the world is full of those who weave the scriptures with many hybrid versions of vain philosophies into what they call Christianity; issuing noises that sounds to me like Charlie Brown’s teacher. What we get for putting our hope in their words is frustration. The world could be a lonely place were it not for those who are able to share Father’s life with the simplicity that shuns pretention. Hope, peace and joy can be shared with these. I believe that contentment can only be found when we see and engage the Christ in others in spite of the partially un-renewed mind that exists in us all. Content in the moment, I long for more of such relationships.

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