2018-11-09 / Chaplain's News

Holiday contentment

Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Sprecher
Fort Gordon Family Life Chaplain

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13 English Standard Version (ESV)

The coming holiday season creates an exciting yet incredibly stressful time of year. On the one hand we eagerly anticipate Thanksgiving meals, family get-togethers, Christmas traditions, and the joy of giving and receiving gifts that are meaningful expressions of love. On the other hand, we are bombarded with a multitude of negative political ads and countless television commercials that create a desire to purchase things we really do not need and cannot afford. For many, this season comes with a sense of grief as they experience the absence of loved ones lost.

The apostle Paul’s words of exhortation, “I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content,” is even more powerful when we realize he penned these words while imprisoned for his faith. He humbly recognizes that his life has included periods of exciting highs and discouraging lows. He knew times of plenty and times of great need. Through them all with God’s help he had learned to be content.

As a young man, I had an older Sunday school teacher teach a lesson from this very passage. In his folksy way he explained, “I may not have all the things that I want, and I may not have all the things that would be good for me, but what I have is enough. I have been blessed.” His simple words spoke to me. Now, some 30 years later, I can still clearly remember them. This older gentleman had experienced all the ups and downs of life. He knew the thrill of success and the despair of failure. He had experienced times of need as well as times of abundance and blessings. In his wisdom, he understood that contentment is not dependent on our circumstances as much as our perspective.

With God’s help, we can be grateful and content regardless of our circumstances. It truly is a matter of perspective. Before making his exhortation of contentment, Paul challenged his readers to control their thoughts.

“8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).”

Life will certainly be full of ups and downs. Often when we are in the midst of difficult times, all we can see is our problems. We forget the many blessings we have received. While we cannot ignore the difficulties of life, we must not forget the blessings God has given us.

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