Making the Most Of It
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"The metropolitan New York area may be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." That's how a lot of folks feel about the area where I lived for so many years. And I can understand that. The area has a very fast pace, an awful lot of people, and there is a high stress quotient. Some call it stressful, some call it exciting, and some call it both. Now imagine this young man moving to the New York area to join our ministry team. He grew up in a small town in Mississippi, and he most recently ministered in Arkansas. Bam! He's suddenly in this whirlwind we call the New York area. So did he crawl inside his little home and just watch TV with his dog? No way! He started driving into New York every chance he got. He checked out all those places he'd heard so much about. He learned very quickly how nice it was to spend a day down at the Jersey Shore. He started eating a lot of new things he never tried before. Yes, this can be a hard area to adjust to, but he decided not to lament his location, he decided to make the most of it!
The great missionary Paul didn't always end up in choice locations, say like a Roman prison. That's where he wrote the book of Philippians. And that's where we find our word for today from the Word of God. Philippians 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always." (Excuse me - in a prison cell locked up for doing something right, not something wrong?) "I will say it again: Rejoice!" No, Paul is not on something - he's in Christ and he's finding ways to be content in a crummy situation, a spirit maybe you could use right now.
Verse 11 says, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
Paul may be in a crummy situation, but he's doing what my friend did when he moved to the New York area. He's looking around for ways he can make the most of the place where God has put him. First, Paul is taking the extra time his prison sentence gives him to write this inspired letter to those he loves in Philippi, and it's still touching us today. If it weren't for Paul's prison times, I've got to wonder if a chunk of the New Testament would have been written. Secondly, Paul is celebrating the fact that his being out of action has motivated many other people to get in the game. He has looked for the good God is doing with it. Philippians 1:12 says, "What has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. Most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
And Paul has been uniquely positioned to get the Gospel right into Caesar's inner circle by leading his Roman guards to Christ. He never would have had this opportunity any other way as a missionary except for this jail. He says the whole palace guard knows about Christ through this and he sends greeting from the saints in "Caesar's household" (Philippians 1:13, 4:22). This reminds me of how my Dad made the most of his last hospital stay before the operation that would claim his life. He led his roommate to Christ!
Look, you may not like the situation you're in right now, your location, your singleness, your sickness, your job, your church. But instead of lamenting your spot, God wants you to experience the wonderful joy and contentment that comes from saying, "Hey, I'm here. I'm going to be here for a while. I'm going to make the most of it!"
My ministry teammate who explored New York so enthusiastically realized that he could do things in that area that he could never do anywhere else. That's true of the place that God's placed you in. Don't let your environment capture you. You capture your environment!