Archive for May 12th, 2013

I Am Very Content

Scripture: Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)

Observation: In Wuest Word Studies of the Greek New Testament we read: The words “have learned” are in a construction in the Greek which speaks of entrance into a new condition. It is, “I have come to learn.” Paul had not always known that. He had been reared in the lap of luxury, and had never known want as a young man. The “I” is emphatic. It is, “I, for my part, whatever others may feel.” The word “content” is the translation of a Greek word used by the Stoic school of philosophy which taught that man should be sufficient to himself for all things. It means “to be independent of external circumstances.” It speaks of self-sufficiency and competency. But Paul’s self-sufficiency was not of the Stoic kind. It was Christ-sufficiency. Paul’s independence was not Stoic independence, but dependence upon Christ. He found his sufficiency in Christ. He was independent of circumstances because he was dependent upon Christ. (Wuest, K. S. (1997). [Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.]
This passage, in Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message, reads this way: “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances.” Philippians 4:11 (MSG)

Application: This morning I rode in a Taxi in my homeland (Colombia, South America). As we got to the first red traffic light, there was another taxi stopped, a woman was standing outside, and a man inside, and she was yelling at the man. My taxi driver made the comment, “the things that drinking will make people do. . . I never drank in my life.” Since it was only 8:00 am, I thought it curious that he made the conclusion that either one or both of the passengers of the other taxi were drunk. Once the light changed I was a little curious about his statement and since he had a rosary hanging from his rearview mirror (which is typical for many Catholics in this country) I asked him why he had never drunk. I’m not sure what answer I expected, but certainly not the one he gave me. From the moment I asked him the question until he dropped me off he told me the story of his life, a very sad life, indeed. Here are some of the highlights, in his own words:
– He began by saying of his own family that it was “very strange.”
– He was one of 13 siblings, his father a police officer (never mentioned anything about his mother).
– His early life was the end of a period of political violence in Colombia (which took place in the 50’s and early 60s.
– His father never allowed them to go outside to play.
– He was kicked out of school unjustly for what another student did.
– He was fired twice from companies and was never told why.
– He married and had children but his wife divorced him and neither wife or children speak to him.
– His siblings have a combined twenty university degrees (several medical doctors).
– Most of the 13 siblings never married.
– He and the siblings do not speak to one another. . . none of them know where he lives, and he doesn’t know where most of them live.
– While his father was never physically violent with him he could tell his father never liked him or cared for him. . . thus he left his home as a young child.
His closing words, as he dropped me off, were “Since my youth I have often thought of suicide. . . most days I really don’t care if I live or die.”
I am rarely speechless. . . but this time my heart was so broken for this man that I could not find words to say. If it were not a taxi, I might have asked him to stop so we could talk more, but he needed to keep working. Time stopped meant he wasn’t making any money. But his sad story got me thinking about how blessed I am and all the things I have. He also got me thinking about all the people that have so much and do not appreciate it all. The couples fighting, wishing their marriage would finally be over. The children wishing they could leave home and be far away from their parents. The people wasting their life away in addictions that are taking their health, their happiness, and their life. Paul was in jail but could happily declare he was content! But we’re not just encouraged to accept our lot no matter what. Jesus offers us life in abundance (John 10:10). Someone shared these words with me, “Learn to appreciate what you have before time makes you appreciate what you had.”

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us to appreciate the great abundance that we have in physical goods, in our marriage, in our family, in our parents, and in our children. Help us now to be not just content but grateful for all we have.

Read Full Post »