It won’t always be this way

It won’t always be this way

You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. – John 16:20-21

Philippians 4:11-13

 11 I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

This too, shall pass. When things are bad, remember: It won’t always be this way. Take one day at a time. When things are good, remember: It won’t always be this way. Enjoy every great moment (Doe Zantamata).

The Jewish people living from the time of David to New Testament times, had a tripart conception of time: the past, the present, and the future. The past was the age of the Fathers. Noah through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. The present was the time of the Prophets. The prophets recalled the past, but focused mainly on the present. They also looked forward into the future, near and far. They spoke prophetically concerning what the Father would accomplish, often in specific details. The future was the time of the coming Kingdom of God on earth. This is when the long-awaited Messiah would reign seated upon the throne of David ushering in a time of peace and well-being.

The present was a mixture of good and bad. The future age to come would be a golden age. The kingdom would come when the prophesied Messiah would finally arrive and usher it in. Until He comes, the Jewish people languished in the difficult period of waiting. The Jewish people referred to that difficult “between-time” as “the birth travail of the days of the Messiah” (Barclay).

John 16:20-21 You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.

With this understanding and background, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to his disciples, “I am leaving you; but I am coming back; the day will come when my reign will begin and my kingdom will come; but before that you will have to go through terrible things, with pain like birth-pangs upon you. But, if you faithfully endure, the blessings will be very precious” (Barclay). Difficult times proceed wonderful times. Today we might say, “The darkest hour is just before the dawn” (Thomas Fuller, 1650).

The Father offers us insight into the way He deals with His children. “The principle is simply this: God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation. His illustration of the woman giving birth makes this clear. The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy. In birth, God does not substitute something else to relieve the mother’s pain. Instead, He uses what is there already but transforms it” (Wiersbe).

REFLECT & PRAY

“Prosperity has done more damage to believers than has adversity” (Wiersbe).

Father thank you for being willing to teach me the art and skill of contentment. When you bring difficult circumstances and people into my life, I have learned to ask, “What would you have me learn from this?” I no longer ask why. Thank You for taking me this far. My life is Yours what would You have Your servant do?

INSIGHT

Contentedness is not something built into the DNA of the human race. On the other hand it seems as though complaining, negativity, and discontentment come quite naturally. True contentment is not something that comes easily to anyone. For many the urge to learn and discover, take chances and risks, provides a tremendous adrenaline rush. For others not so much. They are reticent and holdback, seeking solitude rather than contentment.

Job 5:7 For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.

Somehow, we have the idea that if we could change our circumstances for the better, then contentment would be the result. Not only is this shallow thinking, but it is callow as well. Paul is quite clear.

Philippians 4:11-12

 11 I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

A more precise and literal translation of Philippians 4:11 provides a clear sense of the contrast he presents, “I know both how to be humbled and I know how to prosper” (Hansen).

You might say that Paul, on the one hand had it all, and on the other hand he had nothing, nada. Notice that he says that he “learned” how to be content. Life was his classroom and the Father was his schoolmaster. He had to learn over and over again how to deal with whatever the Father brought into his life: both good and bad, encouraging and discouraging, angelic and hellish. Some things were tremendous and wonderful, while others were terrible and painful. Many times they brought him close to death.

What ultimately made the difference? His reactions were transformed. He went from depending upon himself, his human strength, intellect, experience, and determination. Instead, he learned to depend upon the Father, and the Father alone, for superior outcomes and the serenity which accompanied.

When Paul had learned the lessons that the Father was teaching him, he had to take and pass his midterms and finals along the way. Eventually, contentment became a way of life. The “quality of contentment eventually became an essential attribute of his character” (Constable).

Contentment had nothing to do with his physical circumstances or well-being. He discovered a tremendous, life-changing source of peace and contentment, as well as power and strength. It grew out of his personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He summed it up in one sentence

Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

In all the situations of his life – in poverty and in prosperity, when well fed and when hungry, Paul can be content. He has the power to endure all these extreme situations, all these ups and downs, without anxiety, with the peace of God guarding his heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–7) (Hansen).

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