Learning the Secret to Contentment
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Independence Sunday - during the Great Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020
This weekend is normally presented to local people in the San Francisco Bay Area as a celebration of "Constitution and Faith". This year because of the Coronavirus epidemic we have decided to postpone this joyful and informative event until next year.
Today our old friend Irenaeus died. The date was 195 AD. Who was Irenaeus ? Why should we know about this man? Irenaeus, despite great opposition from fellow Church leaders, made the bold move of adding the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to the Scriptural Canon of the Old Testament. Also, we remember Irenaeus because he was a true theologian of the Scriptures and not just one as an apologist defending revelation in Christ Jesus. We are grateful that Irenaeus had the courage despite opposition to add the Gospels to the Canon.
Heavenly Father, today I will accept my powerlessness where I have no power to change the facts of my life. I remember when Jesus, Co-Creator of the Universe, submitted Himself in personal surrender into the hands of evil men to do what they would do. I will not allow despair to overwhelm me. I will surrender to You in the midst of crisis. I will allow my life to become manageable. In the process I invite you to provide completeness to me in my daily living with brokenness, despair and tragedy all around me. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Scripture: Philippians 4:11-13,19
"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what is it 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...and my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Grace and peace to each of us in the Lord as we continue to experience our lives being controlled and transformed daily by an unseen power in our midst beyond our control. That unseen power is Coronavirus. The harder we try to deny the reality of pandemic -- pandemic responds by continuing to take its deadly toll upon us. In the midst of the pandemic, we are witnessing protest demonstrations throughout our nation and around the world. Things seem totally out of control. How are we to respond? In this respect I'm not suggesting that we protest or not protest. I'm not talking about social distancing, wearing masks, washing our hands often, staying at home...I'm not talking about staying healthy or playing it safe. I am talking about being well.
I am talking about being well heart, soul and mind --- when the odds are against us. Saint Paul put it this way..."I've learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Imagine what great fellowship of faith and life would take place in Christ's Church if we were to take this concept of the Holy Spirit more seriously and practice it.
Should we take "the bull by the horns", so to speak? We've learned we can't always do that, especially in the our present situation...How are you and I going to say, this has got to stop! We may be right in saying this, but we have no power to make it happen.
...taking care of myself properly and showing compassion to others (this does not include giving "helpful advice" to others) --- when we'd normally think only about ourselves inappropriately and become the chairperson of the local "pity party committee" we become "in drawn" and unattractive to others...it's not a good place to be in.
Feeling what I feel...addressing those feels that are negative...and turning them over to the Lord...addressing the positive feelings and allowing them to bless us...we need all the help we can get. I got a call some time back from a guy who informed me that Los Angeles that day was declared one of the three most smog-free metropolitan areas of the world---because of the "sheltering-at-home" policy as a result of Coronavirus...(the idea here keynotes the song-line from the 1930s tune, "Accentuating the Positive").
Doing what I want to do with my life...as believers we get so caught up in what God wants for our life that we fail to understand that sometimes what God wants for our lives is what we have always wanted. A former fellow student friend used to think that he had to go into formal ministry to please God. He became a high school football coach and has done far more as a Christian coach than he could have had as a Lutheran minister.
Being people of faith...not just unbelievers expecting the very worst to happen...or, contemplating a lucky break along the way...or being mere religious people following the "traditions of men" expecting that God will, in turn, shelter them from the difficulties of life...yes, being the people of faith...WE LEARN TO SURRENDER. We learn to surrender, not to the situation, or to the well-intentioned oppression of others, but to God, whom we can trust.
We can learn a great deal about unrealistic expectations, fake religion, and constant disappointment by reading the prophetic book of Habakkuk. Note! Habbakuk overcame by surrender. God became real to the Prophet through surrender. What happened for the Prophet Habbakuk became true for Saint Paul.
Again Saint Paul declared, "I have learned the secret of being content..."
Through surrender in faith we stop wrestling with bears and tigers because we cannot win. When we strive to take on things like Coronavirus on our own terms, we will meet with failure and the consequences of this will be horrible. Sometimes we turn to change other people. We learn that the more we are focused on controlling and changing others, the more unmanageable our own lives become. The more we focus on living our own life, the more we will have a life to live. It comes in biblical spiritual surrender despite our situation. In the process our lives become increasingly more and more manageable. Imagine...not having to ride the roller-coaster of life any longer.
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Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough