In a stunning summary of his life’s mantra, the great Apostle Paul says, “ … I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is 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 want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Contented whatever the circumstances, contented whether his stomach was full or empty, contented whether in want or having an abundance! In other words, whatever life might visit upon him, it was well with Paul.
What could be Paul’s secret to this unshakeable contentment that could not be assailed by life’s circumstances? It was because Paul was the beneficiary of the supernatural grace of God.
This would mean that when Paul couldn’t do it on his own anymore that God’s power was all the more manifested. Indeed, the grace of God was more than sufficient for Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9). It had often carried him through intense sufferings as he served God.
In a poignant testimony, Paul summarised what divine grace had brought him through, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Paul’s resume is not one that any one of us can copy! But the divine grace that carried him through is as available to us as it was to Paul.
We too are the beneficiaries of the supernatural grace of God.
However, we may not know how to avail ourselves to it. I often suspect that maybe we are just too strong for God’s power to work on our behalf. Possibly we are unaware of our need for it. Or perhaps we have no true need for supernatural grace since we hardly venture out of our comfort zone.
When Jesus went through the countryside of Judea, hundreds, perhaps thousands desperately needing the grace of God thronged him. Tailing him, sometimes begging to touch even the hem of his garment, often listening for hours as he preached, these were aware that they were not sufficient for the challenges of life. Hungry for truth and divine intervention, desperate for strength, healing, provision, and transformation, they humbled themselves before Christ.
How about us? Are we sufficient for the call of life? Probably yes if we were to stay in our comfort zone. And we so desperately want to be strong and sufficient that we would rarely risk our comfort zone for God.
But only when we are insufficient do we experience the power of God.
If we were to be all that God purposed us to be, if we were to get to where God calls us, we will need to let go and fall into the net of divine grace. Only from there can we soar on the wings of eagles. And learn that contentment is possible because it is a divine gift wrought by grace.
God invites us into a life greater than the circumstances that would hem us in. He calls us to a greater dream for his glory. He nudges us out of our comfort zone to make a difference so that we could truly be ‘salt and light,’ promising us that his grace is sufficient and his power will accomplish what we can’t!
Let’s take the hand of our Lord and obey his leading. Be assured that he will never cease to carry us by his grace when it becomes too much for us!