Contentment and Peace in Times of Trouble
When World War II erupted, Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, middle aged Christian women in Holland, resolved to conceal fleeing Jewish people from the Nazi’s. They saved many. But they were ultimately arrested and taken to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Betsie died, but Corrie miraculously survived to witness to the way God can save, heal and forgive. Their experience in the concentration camp contending with fleas, hunger and hardship served to test their faith and confidence in God. Trying to learn the secret of being content, as St Paul describes it (Philippians 4:12), even in those dreadful circumstances was not easy. Yet despite everything they knew God’s presence and strength in the midst of it all.
The promise and the secret
American statesman, Benjamin Franklin said: ‘Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor’. There are not many people, it seems, who are genuinely content. As Martin Luther once said, ‘Contentment is a rare bird, but it sings sweetly in the breast’.
The apostle Paul is not without his troubles. He is in prison and has plenty to worry about and yet he is an example of a person who found the secret of a life of peace and contentment despite his troubles. He tells the Philippians how to find peace and urges them to discover the secret of being content.
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’. (Phil 4:6-7)
Prayer and worry are not easy bedfellows. They are like fire and water. Paul urges us to pray in every situation when things are going well and when things are difficult. We need to be specific: ‘By prayer and petition…present your requests to God’ (v6). Many people find it helpful to keep a prayer diary where they write down specific requests. This not only helps with concentration but also enables us to look back and see the ways that God has answered our prayers.
We can then remember our answered prayers and give thanks (v6) and continue to seek God as our confidence in prayer increases.
So as we bring our worries and anxieties to God in prayer and leave them with him, he gives us his peace in exchange. The word for ‘peace’ means: wholeness, soundness, well-being, oneness with God, every kind of blessing and good. It is a peace that transcends all understanding and surpasses both our ability to hope and our anxiety of what is to come. It is this peace that ‘guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (v7). This is a wonderful and remarkable promise and one we need to hold fast to when going through difficult and testing times.
There was an occasion when I was going through a particularly challenging time in ministry. It was a beautiful sunny day and so Sharon and I took off to the Malvern Hills for a walk and time of prayer. As we drove towards the British Camp car park, feeling a weight of struggle, we passed a cottage on the road that we had passed dozens of times before without ever noticing its name. On this occasion as we drove past, the name of the cottage, as I threw a cursory glance towards it, blazed at me as if it was in neon lights and written large on a huge billboard. It is called ‘Holdfast Cottage’. It came to me as a encouragement from the Lord to HOLD FAST to him, lean on him and trust in him and sure enough He brought us through that season of struggle.
Whatever each of us is contending with in our lives, may we discover, like Paul, like Corrie and her sister, Betsie, the secret of being content and knowing the peace of God in all circumstances.
New Sermon Series
Over the next couple of months our Sunday morning teaching series will be looking at various issues that may cause us to struggle. Under the title, ‘Dealing with..’ we will be thinking about such areas as: aloneness, forgiveness in family relationships, fatherhood, responsibilities and obligations, farewells, celebrations and feastings. We will also be welcoming to our worship for Pentecost Sunday (12thJune), the Rev Waseem Ullah from the Lahore Evangelical Ministries in Pakistan to bring an international flavour to our celebration of Pentecost. Later in the month we will welcome Rev John Coyne of the Church Pastoral Aid Society (One of our UK based Mission Partners) to share with us the vision of CPAS for the church in the UK.
And finally, thank you for participating in our day of Prayer and Fasting the other week. I was thrilled to see that so many of you wanted to be part of that day giving over time and making a sacrifice to earnestly seek after God and draw near to him. Of course we also enjoyed the feasting afterwards!!
Every blessing in ChristStephen