Wednesday November 3, 2004
How to Handle Difficult Circumstances
Paul's letter to the church at Philippi was written during his Roman imprisonment. Chained continuously to a guard while awaiting trial, he wrote encouraging the Philippians not to worry over him, because he was learning some valuable lessons. "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am," he told them. (Philippians 4:11) Notice the verse does not say that he was always happy; happiness depends upon circumstances. Contentment, on the other hand, indicates we are so anchored in God that we can thank Him in the midst of pain. Paul was sitting in one of the worst places in the world, but he scarcely mentioned his surroundings. Instead, his focus never wavered from God. (Philippians 1:20; 3:10)
Paul did not see himself as a victim. He believed himself to be under the sovereign hand of the Living Lord - in God's place at God's time for God's purpose. All around him, Paul saw the good result of his time in prison. The entire Praetorian Guard, the elite soldiers who guarded Caesar, had heard about Jesus from either Paul or another soldier, thanks to the apostle's consistent witnessing. In addition, his imprisonment was having the opposite effect of what his enemies had planned. Instead of driving other Christians into hiding, Paul's example of contentment in the face of trying circumstances made them bolder.
Like Paul, we must choose our response to pain and hardship. We can become resentful and bitter, consequently allowing a wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth to defeat us. Or we can turn to God, cry out for help, and be victorious.
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