I recently had the opportunity to teach for a pastor friend of mine. He’d been teaching through Philippians and asked if I’d teach on 4:10-13. While excited to fill in for him, my heart sunk when I heard the passage from which he wanted me to teach–Paul’s familiar words on contentment. As a pastor, do you ever find yourself dreading the idea of teaching from a passage of scripture that you struggle with “living out” in your own life? I’ll spare you the details, but this was one of those moments for me.
It’s so easy to grow discontent, especially in ministry. Consciously or unconsciously, we compare our gifts and circumstances with other pastors and ministry leaders, and if honest, we don’t always like what we see. Many years ago, I felt led to plant a church after graduating seminary only to realize this was my dream and not God’s dream for me. All along, the church plant across town continued to grow and flourish. I wish I could say that I experienced and expressed a sense of peaceful contentment in my heart. I didn’t, and unfortunately, I allowed it to eat at me from the inside out. Thriving? Hardly. I was barely surviving.
Contrast this with Paul. What stuck me most in studying these verses anew is found in Paul’s words: I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it (Phil. 4:10). Some experts say Paul received his last gift from the Philippians 10 years prior to him penning these words. Ten years! There’s a lot of resentment, confusion and bitterness that can creep into a person’s heart in that amount of time. Though, we realize from Paul’s words he didn’t go there. He simply displayed tremendous confidence in God’s providence. The word he used for opportunity is the word kairos. It refers to time that’s charged with potential and impact. It’s an appointment in time from God and an appointment that only God can provide. You see, Paul didn’t blame anyone for the lack of a gift for him in such a long period of time. He didn’t become resentful. He simply waited for God to provide an opportunity, and during that time he learned to grow content.
This helps put things in proper perspective. We are where we are because God is in control. He knows our story. He’s the author of it. He’s sovereign over the kairos moments that come our way. What do we do in the interim? We wait; we learn to trust and be content—whatever the circumstances.
Enjoy the journey!