2 Corinthians 12:10. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
We’ve spent the last 9 days looking at God’s grace in our weakness. For Paul this meant living with a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan.” God used this thorn to keep Paul from conceit, and to teach him to receive grace and the power to love.
The final result in Paul’s heart is contentment.
This is a word that is stronger than what we think of when we think content. It means to be preferable, to be chosen, to take pleasure in. Wow. Paul isn’t just living in stoic acceptance of his “God given plight.” This isn’t a “well this is just how it’s meant to be,” or “time to move on” mentality. This is a much deeper delight in sharing the suffering of Christ himself. It is delighting in the opportunity to experience God’s grace and power.
Discontentment has been the great sin of humanity since the beginning. Weren’t Adam and Eve ultimately looking for something more? Something beyond what God was offering? And isn’t that what Paul was looking for in his prayer for thorn removal? Discontentment then can take us in one of two directions. We can live in a world where we spend our whole relationship with God asking him to change everything, every circumstance, every situation (think about your prayer requests). Or, in contentment, we can live a life where our discontentment, our unmet desires, drive us towards God’s grace, rather than just God’s solutions.
This is what contentment is – it is the receiving of grace. It is not achieved through success or comfort.
Nor is it a form of apathy. It is actually the power of God at work in us. It is the opposite of living under countless expectations – those placed on the self and those placed on God.
Without the mindset of godly contentment, rooted in the receiving of grace, the sorrows and successes of life will become unbearable burdens. The thorns will destroy us. But so will the abundance. Rather than simply enjoying seasons of abundance, we allow them to create an expectation that, when unmet, will bring despair. Our prayer requests will then simply be for a return to abundance (I mean doesn’t God want us to have these things?).
Contentment is so important because it allows us to navigate the extremes of life. Here’s how Paul says it a bit later in his life:
Philippians 4:11-13. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Living in contentment is done in Christ. Our union with Christ is what allows us to trust that whatever comes our way it is actually God’s grace that is allowing it. God would never seek to destroy his son or daughter. He is a good Father. Contentment in the midst of weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities can only come from the security of son-ship. Faith in Christ’s work, his strength, his respect, his acceptance, his comfort.
“To live is Christ” is to live within the contentment that comes by faith in God’s secure love and grace. Our union with Christ alone is the source of all contentment, not the movement into abundance or fleshly comfort. Not the pursuit of happiness. The power of embracing weakness is found in the power of the content life. A life free from the constant disappointment of expectations. A life free of conceit. A life free to love and live in the power of grace.
In general, are you content? Do your prayers reflect contentment or expectations? How does union with Christ allow us to be content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?