As I prayed this morning, the Lord brought a verse to my mind--a verse, in fact, that the preacher had spoken about Wednesday night at church. Coincidence? I think not. Philippians 4:11 states, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I've heard, read and quoted this verse so many times, but just recently I realized that I was missing a big piece of the puzzle. All this time, I believed Paul was content because it was in his nature or maybe because of some supernatural power bestowed upon him by God. The way that he could suffer all that he suffered and still walk away saying, "I'm content" had to be some sort of miracle, right?
Well, yes and no. The fact of the matter is that Paul's contentment was the result of his education. Notice he didn't say, "I am content." No, he said, "I have learned to be content." It wasn't an automatic thing for Paul any more that it is an automatic thing for me. Paul didn't just sit down one day and decide that he was going to be content with whatever life threw his way. His pursuit of contentment was a process. It was an ongoing battle, day after day, situation after situation, until he finally got to the point where he could honestly say, "Okay, now I'm content." It didn't happen overnight.
Another sobering fact is that this education took place, not in a classroom, but through the trials of life. Each event in his ministry was a lesson that he took to heart. "Circumstances are bad, but God still delivers. Some people absolutely hate me, but God will always love me. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future. God will supply everything I need; everything else will just be a hindrance to my calling." See what I mean? Every message he preached, every beating he received, the shipwrecks, the imprisonments--they all instructed Paul in what it takes to be content. He learned through his trials, and because of that, he grew to the place where he could be content in the midst of his trials.
At this point in my life, I can honestly say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, I should be content." To go beyond that, well, I guess I'm still learning. But I have been reminded that instead of complaining about my current trials, I should be thankful for the education I'm receiving. Through these tough times, God is teaching me to be content. Is He possibly doing the same for you?