World English Bible translation
4:10But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; in which you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity. 4:11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 4:12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. 4:14 However you did well that you had fellowship with my affliction.
In reviewing the lesson yesterday, I realized that there was simply too much to say about this passage in scripture than I could cover in one lesson. This passage has a great capacity to inspire and instruct us. In the last lesson, we scratched the surface of what Paul meant when he said that he had learned to be content in all circumstances. What can Paul, who lived in a much simpler time, teach us about contentment?
Paul wrote that he had learned to be content in whatever state he was in because he had experienced so many different situations while being led on his missionary journeys. God had sent Paul out into new places and around people very different from himself. During this time, Paul had been placed in some very difficult situations. He had been physically thrown out of several cities. He had been excommunicated from some of the Jewish synagogues. He had been stoned, arrested, shipwrecked and reviled.
Paul did not choose these experiences. When he was arrested, Paul prayed that he would be set free. When he was in a storm at sea, he prayed that his ship would not be shipwrecked. The contentment that Paul came to experience was not because God had given him everything that he had asked. In many cases, Paul had been given the exact opposite of whatever he had prayed for. So, how did Paul learn to be content?
He learned to be content by giving up his expectations about how his life should turn out and the expectations about what God should do for him. We expect life to be easier for us because we know Christ when many times our life only becomes more complicated. We expect to learn from our mistakes and to grow more mature as we continue to live the Christian life. Yet, often we find ourselves making the same mistakes and sometimes we do things that are very self-destructive. We expect God to give us certain things or perhaps to take away certain things and many times God does not fulfill our expectations.
The key to contentment is in surrendering our expectations to God. When we allow God to lead us wherever he would have us to go and allow God to give us whatever he would want us to have, we can find contentment wherever we may be. And we have to learn to give up our expectations for one another as well. You are God's work, not mine. If I canít live up to my own expectations about my life, how can you live up to my expectations?
None of this is to imply that we cannot accomplish what we set out to do. Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Whenever we allow God to work through us, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed. But, God doesnít work according to our gameplan or by our timetables. If we allow God to take control of our lives and if we give up all of our expectations of what He will do, God will achieve phenomenal things with our lives.
Are you willing to give God the control over your life so that you can find contentment in all circumstances? Are you willing to give up your expectations so that God can do whatever He wants to do with your life?
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