Faithful and Content
Christians, in Scripture, were to learn how to roll with the punches of life no matter what was going on around them or to them. If things were going smoothly as all would desire, they enjoyed the peace and they kept glorifying God. For example, we read in Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” The was after the persecution that started at the end of Acts 7.
On the other hand, If government or religious authorities opposed them, they were to roll with it and continue to glorify God in even though oppressed. This does not mean they had to like it, but they knew that being Christians would result in being opposed just as Jesus had indicated. If they were scattered from persecution, they spread the gospel anyway. For example, we find in Acts 8:2-4: “And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. … Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” In this case, the persecution served to scatter Christians with the result that more heard the gospel.
Their allegiance to the Lord was not dependent upon the circumstances they encountered, whether good or bad. They did not quit teaching the gospel due to threats, nor did they entertain stopping during peace because they did not think they needed God. They knew they had a higher mission in the Kingdom of Christ and they were always encouraged to stay true to that mission. They were told to pray for those in charge so that, no matter what may come, they could “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2).
The book of Hebrews was written to Christians who were wavering on their commitment because they were facing hardships. “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin…” (Heb 12:4). They were to stay faithful, look to Jesus, and be dedicated no matter what might come. “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed” (Heb 12:12-13). Facing persecution was not an excuse to give up Christ.
This mindset of showing contentment and faithfulness no matter what happens is captured well by Paul in this well known passage:
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:10-13)
In need, Paul was content and did the Lord’s will. In persecution and prison, Paul was faithful and content. In abundance, Paul was content and did the Lord’s will. Let the statement sink in: “In whatever situation I am … content.” Contentment is not about outward circumstances being pleasant. Faithfulness does not require a certain set of conditions outwardly before we can engage our faith. Contentment and faithfulness are about knowing the One who strengthens us to do His will in any and all situations.
Let’s not make the mistake of tying our faithfulness to the way we are being treated, to the way government operates, or to the economic circumstances we face, whether good or bad. Faithfulness transcends all situations, and how we respond will demonstrate whether or not we are content in the Lord in all circumstances.
If we are complaining due to circumstances, we are not content (see Phil 2:14-15). If we feel entitled and then unhappy when we do not get what think we deserve, we are not being content (see 1 Tim 6:8). If we think circumstances can keep us from glorifying God, we have not grasped the nature of biblical faithfulness. Christ has taught us to see things differently, to look not at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen (2 Cor 4:18). Perspective here is vital.
Let us, then, be encouraged to think upwardly to the higher cause, the higher mission, and the higher message of the gospel. Let us refocus ourselves to learn to be faithful and content no matter the situation in which we find ourselves. Look to the eternal things that are not seen, where Christ is, setting our minds on things above (see Col 3:1-5). May God help us to seek first His kingdom and righteousness. All else will fall into place when we do.