A new trend among the rich and famous, is taking time for moments of gratitude. The science behind it is that gratitude is a powerful psychological motivator for good. When people in high stress jobs are struggling to cope, just stopping to reevaluate how very blessed they are despite those stresses, creates a mental shift that allows them to relax and focus more clearly on making positive choices in their jobs and personal life. Sounds easy, and it really is, if you think of it. The sad thing is that we Christians, who’ve had this teaching in the word of God for millennia, often treat this principle as just an old trite saying. Now atheist CEO’s of big companies practice this religiously without any acknowledgement of God. What’s up with that?
Religion teaches that every problem has been sent by God merely to be accepted and endured. But when the God of the Bible allows a problem to come our way, He expects us to take hold of it with our faith, to wrestle against the root cause of it and overcome. It may take time, but He never expects us to be complacent or tolerant of evil. “I have learned to be content with whatever I have,” is by and large misinterpreted to mean, “I’m a good Christian when I suffer in silence. When God wants the problem to go away, He’ll remove it.” God wants our problems gone more that we do, He’s just waiting on us to shift out of despair and into courageous faith mode, to join the fight!
The Greek word that Paul used for “content” does not mean complacent, or tolerant, or hopeless. It actually means self-sufficient, or independent. That may sound even more confusing, because how can you be self-sufficient when you have no job and are about to be evicted from your home? How can you be independent when you feel desperate and alone? Are you supposed to be grateful by just saying, “Well at least I’m not a starving refugee,” and then not ask God for anything since so many are worse off than you?
The answer comes two verses later: For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. This means that God’s fullness makes us self-sufficient. He is all around us every moment of the day, and His fullness can give us the clarity of mind to see doors of opportunity that we would never notice without Him. This means that we already have tools, gifts, weapons, fruit of the Spirit, authority in Christ and the promises of the word of God. If we shift our mind from fear and desperation to being grateful for the abundance of power He makes available to us, His Spirit gives us the physical and emotional strength to accomplish tasks that we never thought we could do. The fullness of His Spirit can give us that boost of faith to believe in the impossible, to act on that faith, and see stubborn problems fall at our feet in a miraculous way. When we know we already have all we need in Him, we naturally become more stubborn than our problems, and more motivated to stamp them out. We’re not self-sufficient in our own strength, but in His.
I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. One day I was with Bishop Macedo in our lower Manhattan church (back when it was the first of our churches in the US) and he had just gotten some bad news in a call from Brazil. He put down the phone, rubbed his hands together, laughed, came over and slapped me on the back with a big smile saying, “David! The devil’s angry!” I was confused because I’d never seen anyone respond to bad news like that! But I learned that he was turning the problem on its head—he wasn’t panicking, he was fully depending on the authority of the promises of God, and on the fact that every demonic force had to bow before the name of the Lord Jesus. That strength gave him the holy contentment to be at peace, even joyful in the face of bad news, and in the weeks to come, the problem was resolved on its own.
I’m sure you have a list of both major and minor problems. Stop where you are and start praising God for the power that He’s already given you. Be grateful that these problems can’t crush you, but that God is about to give you His vision, His clarity and show you doors and opportunities that you may never have noticed. Start doing those small things that your conscience has been nagging you about, and have the courage to take the big steps that the Spirit of God is urging you to do. Shift your brain out of negativity mode, because with Him, you’re stronger than you think.
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13, NLT