by Brittney Chan
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned,
in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Let me start off with a disclaimer, okay? I’m just going to write honestly to you. So I’m sorry if it ruins your view of me as a flawless, beautiful, intelligent, and confident lady…Haha. Who am I kidding, right? But seriously, I’m going to speak from my heart about one of the hardest things I struggle with on almost a daily basis. And for some odd reason, I don’t think I’m alone in this…
Sometimes I feel like the Apostle Paul must have been a superhero. I mean, who else could have penned the words, “...I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content”? (Phil. 4:11) Paul was one of the greatest men of the Bible. He’s credited with authoring 13 of the 27 New Testament books. Surely he didn’t understand what it was like to be unhappy with life. There’s no way that he could have known how it felt to deal with the “what-if” mind-battle and he probably didn’t have a hard time with comparing himself to other people.
Or did he?
Apostle Paul is thought to have been born around the same time as Jesus Christ (4 B.C.), and he lived for about 68 years, give or take a few. History tells us that Paul (Saul, pre-Jesus) learned his trade of tent-making as a young man and that for the first half of his life, he was a practicing Pharisee. Now, most of us hear “Pharisee” and think “fake religious person”, which is accurate to a degree, but there’s a little more to it than that.
The Pharisees formed a religious sect of scholars and pietists who only abided by the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible. During the time of Christ and Paul, the Pharisees and Sadducees (a stricter sect) occupied all of the positions in the Jewish church. They basically ran the whole shindig. In fact, Caiaphas, the high priest at the time, was a devout Pharisee. Does his name ring a bell? He’s the first man that Jesus stood before after Judas’ betrayal in the garden. He’s the man that labeled Jesus a blasphemer and demanded his execution. He’s the man that spit in the Savior’s face. He’s also the man that gave Saul permission to persecute the Christians. (Acts 9:1-2)
Are you seeing how this all ties in? Paul spent the first 37 years of his life in cahoots with people like that. Many historians say that he was viewed as the biggest single threat to the Christian movement. He mocked their faith in a risen Lord. He threatened and abused those who dared to defend that faith. He even oversaw the murders of who-knows-how-many men and women.
I’m speculating here, but I think it’s safe to say that Paul had a few regrets and “what-if”s. It’s easy to understand why he considered himself to be the least among the apostles. (1 Cor. 15:9) The same devil that works against you and I today, probably creeped up on Paul’s shoulder, too. Paul knew his sin of persecuting the Christians and so did everybody else. So not only did he face self-criticism and judgement; more than likely, he got it from the people on the other end of the pew, too!
However, Paul’s chapter in time reads victoriously. He was all of those things, but roughly 3 years after Christ’s death, he encountered Him in a personal way. And you know what the cool thing is? There were others with him while he journeyed to Damascus. God allowed them to hear a voice (Acts 9:7), but they couldn’t see what Paul could. They got to witness this supernatural occurrence so they could validate Paul’s testimony; but while it was happening, all they could do was stand by and watch.
That tells me that God desires to meet with each one of us in a very intimate way. His words may fall on multiple ears, but He can show you a deeper meaning that others may fail to see. Those who dare to judge or doubt you will only be able to step back and see God’s hand moving in your life.
Yes, Paul helped change the world; but in his last 31 years, he still had to deal with the scars from his past. He still had to work and minister alongside the men that walked and talked with Jesus...the same men that seemed to have “less” sin on their records. But Paul said that he learned, or came to understand how, to be content.
It was a process. It took some time. So if you’re like me, and you find yourself in a place where it’s easy to look at everyone else and see the good in their lives, maybe you should consider doing what I’ve been learning to do: Cut off your phone for a while. Unplug from social media for a day. Turn off the music. Find some time to be alone with God. And allow Him to show you all the things He has already done for you and through you. It probably won’t be long before you see how He has been preparing you for the next step.
Discontentment obliterates trust, but obtaining a grateful heart is the first step in overcoming it.
Let this be our prayer:
“Lord, I am honored to be chosen by You. I am thankful for Your
undeserved Mercy in my life and the Grace that has brought me to
where I am today. I pray that You would keep me from defining Your
Power by any boundary that isn’t found in Your Word. Show me what I
can do today to be in Your will and help me to know that if I trust You,
You will lead my life in the way that brings You the most glory. Amen.”