It would be difficult to imagine someone who experienced more striving than the Apostle Paul. He relentlessly traveled to spread the gospel and plant churches. He risked the elements and endured persecution. And he never asked for financial support for himself. How could he persevere through all this difficulty?
The answer is quite paradoxical: he learned to endure by learning to be content.
This does not mean he was complacent. He constantly advocated, planned, and initiated. What Paul did not do was demand particular results. He did not idolize a specific circumstance, which allowed him to discover peace in all circumstances. The apostle to the Gentiles did not place “work conditions” on God.
The great theologian Francis Schaeffer had an interesting definition of true spirituality that echoes this aspect of Paul’s life. Schaeffer postulated that true spirituality is continuing to strive no matter the circumstances. Fighting the battles we find ourselves in. Waiting with courage and patience. Stewarding with wisdom and humility.
The greater sense we have of our calling, the more readily we can see circumstances as merely the water in which we swim. Circumstances should not define us. Nor should they define success or failure. Circumstances are merely the field we play on, the arena in which we perform. Paul admonishes us that whether we are performing before thousands in Carnegie Hall or on a street corner, we should be content to be faithful with where God has placed us, and to faithfully do the job he has set before us.
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
– Philippians 4:11