Georgians know something about famine. Not like someone in the Sudan or Ethiopia, but we’ve experienced our own mini-famine. It wasn’t too long ago that Lake Lanier was drying up. It was so severe that there was even serious conversation being given to the idea of disputing the border with Tennessee in Northwest Georgia, in order to have access to the abundant waters of Tennessee River. I’ll never forget the pictures of docks sitting on dry ground and the Chattahoochee River flowing out of the mountains looking like a trickle. It was a frightening time – so frightening that our state officials, suffering much scrutiny, publicly cried out to God to end the drought. He obviously heard those cries because it has been wet ever since. Some have suggested that they follow suit and cry out to God over the budget crisis. That may not be a bad idea either.
We also know a little something about abundance. It wasn’t that long ago that we were riding high on the horse. We had rebounded from the September 11, 2001 attacks on our nation. Our homes were worth more than they had ever been worth. Our stock portfolios were fat and fattening. Our retirements looked like they were gold plated. If you wanted a job you could have a job.
We understand about having a lot and against our will, we have been forced to understand about having a little. We are still a long way from understanding what it means to have nothing. But in all of our circumstances, do we understand what it means to be “content?”
The Apostle Paul reminded the Philippians about the virtue of contentment. He told them in chapter 4, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.”
This contentment Paul is speaking of does not refer to spiritual contentment. Paul would never encourage spiritual contentment. Remember, this is the same guy who likens our walk with Jesus to training for the Olympics in 1 Corinthians 9. Serious athletes are never content with their performance. Instead, he is encouraging physical contentment – being satisfied with whatever circumstances life presents.
Our problem today is that we have this pattern reversed. We tend to be very spiritually content. We are satisfied with our particular level of maturity and do not take the necessary steps to grow further. Most often, we are forced into growth by tragedy or crisis. While we enjoy spiritual contentment, we often find ourselves presenting a great deal of discontentment with our physical circumstances. We prefer the model of “keeping up with the Joneses” over and above the model of contentment presented by the Apostle. The debt that ravages our nation and our families is a direct result of the reversal of this biblical pattern. Who among us is innocent of this?
So, where are you today? You are not in jail, so you are one step ahead of Paul. But are you content with your circumstances? Perhaps you have entered a season of lean like so many. Are you content with the lean until God sees fit to bring an increase? Perhaps you are in a season of abundance. Are you content to use your abundance to be a blessing to others? How a Christian responds to his circumstances is one of the greatest indicators of the health of his walk with Jesus. Ultimately, the Scriptures speak into our lives yet again – come famine or feast, the Christian’s outlook should be one of contentment.