I am gradually learning that the believer's contentment is not necessarily dependent upon one's circumstances. With that said, let me assure you that I still find plenty of reasons to grumble and complain when my plans are shattered or my wishes go unfulfilled. I can be a whiny old bugger at times.
The Bible says we are to rejoice in all things. This is not an easy command for someone like me who expects everything to go my way. In truth, the universe does not revolve around me and God never promised that everything and everyone will cooperate with me.
There are pastors and Bible teachers who mislead their audiences with promises of unlimited health, unlimited wealth, and unlimited pleasure. In truth, of the twelve Apostles called by the Lord Jesus, eleven died a martyr's death and the twelfth, the Apostle John, died in a lonely prison colony on the Isle of Patmos.
The Apostle Paul, my favorite of the twelve Apostles, spent his last days on death row in Rome's notorious Mamertine Prison. The tyrannical Caesar Nero, among the most evil leaders known to this world, had Paul beheaded.
Let us not be confused in our understanding or muddled in thought by misconception; the Apostles of Christ knew nothing of ease and wealth and status. They suffered. In fact, when Paul was called into ministry, Jesus forewarned that Paul would suffer for the sake of the Gospel. When is the last time you witnessed one of these flashy televangelists decked out in Armani proclaiming a message of suffering?
If it so pleases God, you and I may experience setbacks and frustrations for the cause of Christ. I am something of a coward. I do not like suffering. I do not want my plans frustrated. I want life to go my way. But there is often a great yawning chasm between my plans and God's plans. But what are my plans compared to God's plans? Can I see into the future? Do I hold all knowledge? Shall God sit at my feet and learn from me? Heaven forbid!
On my better days, I understand this. In my weaker moments, I grumble and complain when life does not go according to my will.
How I wish I could tell you that I am a towering saint who lives without doubt and operates in perfect harmony according to God's will. If I said that, I would be a liar. In truth, I can be quite the complainer. Even so, God continues using me--which just goes to prove that God can find use for men and women who are deeply flawed. My friend, I am deeply flawed. And, no, this is not an attempt at false modesty. More often than I care to admit, I can be a braying jackass.
I do not despair, for Philippians 1:6 assures me that God, who began a good work in me over twenty-five years ago, will see that good work to its ultimate completion. I may not be all that much at present, but He is conforming me into the image of Christ Jesus and when the dust settles and we move into our eternal states, I am going to be a masterpiece. At this moment, I am only a rough sketch, but doesn't every great work of art begin with a sketch?
By the by, let me return for just a moment to Caesar Nero and the Apostle Paul. While Paul languished in a dank, dark dungeon, Caesar Nero lived sumptuously. And it was by Caesar Nero's orders that Paul was executed. But a Bible teacher named J. Vernon McGee reminded his hearers that, two thousand years later, men and women name their sons Paul and their dogs they call Caesar. I like that.
Just for today, let us agree to place our frustrations and discontentment at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ.