August 29, 2004
”…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
The apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the group of people, in Philippi, who put their confidence in Jesus Christ. Briefly, this verse breaks down into three points: First, Paul learned; Secondly, he learned something about whatever state of mind, body, spirit, soul or circumstance he happened to be in; and Third, the reaction he learned was contentment.
How did Paul learn these things?
The obvious answer that comes to mind is that Paul learned these things through—are we ever ready for this--suffering!
“Of the Jews five times received I [Paul] forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:22-27)
Paul faced and survived more than most of us have ever faced. Yet, he made it through and came out in even better condition. What gave him the incentive to keep going?
We see this answer in Paul’s letter to the Philippians; “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). After surviving his experiences, Paul learned that, with God’s grace and strength, he could survive anything. Rather than falling apart at the seams, Paul’s trials and tribulations produced inner calm, peace and resolve.
What can we learn from Paul?
First of all, the things written in the Bible are not for stuffy church elders or the dust and spider webs that collect on unread Bibles! God put this book here on earth to educate any and everyone. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
Notice why God gave the scriptures: “…that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The Bible teaches us many things about how God expects us to live. As we patiently follow God’s ways, taking comfort from the lives of others in God’s Word, we are encouraged and have hope to persevere until the end.
The point, here, is that Paul is not some spiritual “Super Hero” that we can all oooooh and aaaaaah about,…and promptly file in a slot called “doesn’t apply to me”. Paul is a human being who responded to Christ. Granted, there is no one else like him, before or since. But then there is no one else like you, before or since. God gave Paul and the entire Bible as an example for us to imitate.
I don’t know about you, but my life has trials and tribulations in it, over and over. Sometimes I wonder how much longer and harder the waves of adversity can pound. And pound, I’m sure they will. Yet, God uses these very things to teach my heart trust in Him.
Next time you face a dilemma, remember Paul and his beatings and shipwrecks. Try to relax and trust God and see how He works, in the midst of the storm.