Contentment in Chains ~ blog
In his letter to the Philippians Paul tells his readers that he had learned to be content in all things or all circumstances. He was writing to them while he was in Rome and while he was in prison. Now, I imagine that this would be rather unusual for someone to be writing from within a prison and saying they are content. Perhaps it was a much better prison than he was used to, and we learn a little about this from something he wrote in the first chapter.
Philippians 1:13-14 reads;
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else…”
Telling us that Paul was involved with the praetorian guard says something we might not pick up on. These guys were the palace guards. Not the usual numbskulls in maximum security detail but soldiers highly regarded and used in the VIP wing of the prison.
We also learn from historical writings that these guards would be chained to the prisoner so that there was no chance of escape or harm coming to the prisoner. These chains were about 18 inches long eliminating all privacy and a rather close fellowship 24/7.
Imagine being chained to the Apostle Paul for an 8-hour shift. I am guessing Paul used it as a time to share with them about the Lord seeing as he had a captive audience of one. He says the “cause of Christ” had become well known to the whole praetorian guard … and to everyone else.
This imprisonment was surely at the top of Paul’s list of great prisons to be in and far better than the dungeons he was used to.
Here is what Paul says at the end of his letter.
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.”
So, what was this “secret” that enabled Paul to be content in all circumstances? It is the 10 words he writes next …
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Paul knew that his life was in God’s hands. He was doing exactly what God had told him to do. He became The Man taking the gospel to the Gentiles … even though for much of his life he despised anyone who was not 100% Jewish. The Gentiles were dogs and the Samaritans were half-breeds.
Any good Jew would cross the street to avoid coming close to a Gentile. Yet, now Paul is handcuffed to a Praetorian day and night. That idea would have driven him crazy before he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. Then he ends up having a one-on-one opportunity to lead these guards to Christ one after another.
Where does our discontentment come from? Is it not coming from the idea that we think we do not have enough? That we need more and if we get more then we will be happier? That our contentment will grow as up the ladder of success we go? That more stuff will solve the emptiness we feel but it never has and never will.
The ideal American dream, or whatever country in which you live, is not the way to contentment. Contentment is not the result of what you have acquired or what you have achieved.
It comes from knowing you are in the center of God’s will for your life and that He alone is the Sovereign One who is in control. It comes from establishing a base foundation in your life where you have invested the time, energy, and thought to be deepening your relationship with God and obeying His commandments. Where the Spirit is transforming you daily and you are living out your recovery one day at a time within a community of other men … helping one another and bearing one another’s burdens.
Having the thin veneer of low commitment Christianity will not give you a foundation on which you can build a life of becoming more like Jesus and being healed from sexual brokenness. It is time in His presence and commitment to a community of others helping one another. And in that arena, while fighting the battles and helping others that we will find that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Fight on my brothers …