People can often be delighted one minute and dissatisfied the next. That fact hit me square between the eyes this past weekend when I set out to do yard work. I admit I was not looking forward to the usual heat and humidity of summer, but much to my surprise, the day had unseasonably lower temperatures and low humidity. There was a gentle breeze and some scattered clouds to keep the sun and heat at bay, all of which made working outdoors inviting. The weather that day was an unexpected blessing, and one that I was most thankful for until it came time to sweep my driveway.
The gentle breeze seemed more like hurricane-force winds because as I swept the driveway in one direction, the wind blew the grass the opposite way, and I thought to myself, “Does it have to be so windy!” In that instant, I felt convicted because I had enjoyed the comforting breeze throughout the day only to dislike it now when it made sweeping more difficult. How petty of a complaint, and you know, I suspect we do it more often than we realize. Have you ever experienced a similar moment? My experience reminded me of the Israelites after God delivered them from Pharaoh’s hands and how they, too, quickly became discontent amid one blessing after another.
Scripture records that the Israelites became discontent some 2-months after God delivered them from Pharaoh’s grasp and led them out of Egypt. The Bible says, “they grumbled against Moses,” saying, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exo. 16:3/NIV) Only 2-months earlier when the people rejoiced in their freedom from slavery only to now prefer having died in Egypt with a full stomach. In other words, they were happy in their blessing one minute and discontent the next; sound familiar?
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.”Exodus 16:4
Despite their lack of appreciation and disgruntle attitude, The Lord answered their plea and blessed them by causing the bread to fall from heaven. Families were only to gather enough bread for a single day, echoed by the eloquent words of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). The Lord not only provided the people with bread by morning, but He also provided them with Quail in the evening. Then it came about that the people complained of thirst to Moses, who, by faith, turn to God for the answer, which God provided by making water to spring forth from a rock. Again the people were happy in their blessing one minute and discontent the next.
A good brother in Christ once shared with me an experience that he had when his keys got stuck in the door jam of his car. Try as he may, the keys would not dislodge, and, at that moment, he became frustrated and angered. But then he said he heard the words “Got ya!” clearly in his mind as though Satan himself had said it, and he felt conviction come over him. God clearly warns us about how sin crouches at our door, waiting with a desire to master over us (Gen. 4:7). It begins small, like complaining about the weather, allowing our temper to get the best of us, or whatever stumbling block Satan throws in our path, sin is crouching at our door!
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Apostle Paul shared some beautiful words of encouragement based on his life’s experiences. He was the greatest evangelist of his time, and his missionary travels helped spread the gospel throughout the northern Mediterranean as far as Sicily and Rome. Paul, a man who often found himself at the end of a whip, jailed frequently, stoned to be left for dead, and much more, all for his faith, wrote:
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”Philippians 4:11-13
I like the fact that Paul says he “learned” to be content, which tells me that even the great Apostle Paul had to learn and grow in his walk with the Lord just as we do today. Paul learned to be content and not rely on his ability; instead, he learned to be content knowing that the Lord was with him and was his strength in whatever circumstance he faced; hence his words, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
In the fast-paced, complex world in which we live today, to be content in all things may appear to be a bridge too far, but we serve an awesome God, the same God who walked with Paul is the same God who walks with and strengthens us day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and minute-by-minute. It is about growing in our faith, clinging to our hope, and loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and loving our neighbors as ourselves. In love, for God Himself is love, we find contentment in all things.