I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13
One of the first things I thought of on November 1st was whether I was going to shave during the month. November is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and since I understand firsthand how prostate cancer affects men of color, I decided (like many others) not to shave to symbolize how precious hair is when many cancer therapies result in loss of hair. Then it hit me, the first thing most people do in the morning upon awakening is think. It’s a natural reaction to a new day. Many people start out thinking about their day looking forward. But many others start their day by worrying about things over which they have little or no control. Things like the stock market, the election results, the neighbors, taxes, debts, the children, the business, and the upcoming Christmas season. Many people just seem to worry.
Paul the Apostle, had plenty of reasons to worry while he was incarcerated in Rome as he wrote to his church members back in Philippi. First, he was jailed for the wrong reasons. Second, he was ill while being incarcerated. Yet, as he corresponds to his congregants several hundred miles away that he is not worried, and gives them an antidote to the poison of their worries, he argues successfully that attitude adjustment is the key to contentment.
In Dr. Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Philippians, he interprets Paul’s letter to say, to be content one must possess a single mind and have joy in spite of circumstances, a submissive mind to have joy in spite of people, a spiritual mind to have joy in spite of things, and a secure mind to have joy in spite of worry.
Powerful contentment is not the absence of problems and perplexities, but the persistent presence of joy in spite of those problems and perplexities. It’s a joy that is the result of an unusual peace that declares that our God is bigger than any problems. It’s a peace that declares we shouldn’t worry because of our wonderful permanent companion named Jesus who is closer than any sibling.
So when we consider who gives us our strength, we are strong enough to face our creditors, strong enough to deal with conflict with our companions, strong enough to lovingly confront disrespectful co-workers, strong enough to parent difficult children, and strong enough to handle all of our concerns and contentions.
No confinement, conflict, confusion, contamination, condemnation, constraint, condition, culture, class, or climate can limit our contentment. No person, pressure, power, possession, or position can disturb our deep-settled peace.
Lord, help me focus daily on the genuine, not the phony; the true, not the tricky; the eternal, not the temporary. Help me to spiritually discern the “real.”
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com