Few of us will ever face the kind of trials that David faced. He made a lot of mistakes, (January 11, 2011) and he fought a lot of battles, and illness, and there was frequently someone trying to take his life.
Many of David’s psalms started out as laments. He cried out to God, and asked for mercy, healing or protection from his enemies. Psalm 13 (February 11, 2011) is a good example of this. David starts out by asking “How long, Lord?”, but he ended by trusting in God’s faithfulness, rejoicing in His deliverance and praising God. Somehow in the midst of all David’s trials, he was able to find joy.
In Psalm 30, David was in a similar situation. He had been praying to God for healing. He had asked for mercy and deliverance. In Psalm 30:11-12 David’s prayers were answered. His lament was turned to joy. The reason that David was considered a man after God’s own heart is not because He always did the right thing and never made mistakes. It was because He always turned to God. And whether his prayers were answered the way he wanted them to be or not, David continued to trust in God and praise Him for His faithfulness.
Joy is not the same as happiness; it does not depend on circumstances. If we want to have joy we need to find contentment in whatever we are facing, do the best we can in the situation, and leave the rest to God.
Paul starts this section of the chapter (Philippians 4:10-14) with a familiar theme: joy! He tells the Philippians that he has great joy in the Lord because they have again showed their concern for him. He is thankful for what they have done to provide for his needs, but his joy does not come from their provision. He is grateful for their gift, but he wants to be clear that he is not asking for more. He has learned to be content in any circumstance, whether he has little and is hungry or he has food in abundance.
The Greek word that is translated as ‘learned’ has the connotation of a long, hard lesson. It wasn’t just a matter of hearing someone say that Christ’s grace is sufficient, (II Corinthians 12:9) as many of us have. I have often heard that verse used as a platitude when someone is facing a trial, but Paul learned this from experience. You may remember from the post on April 20, 2011 that Paul had had more than his fair share of trials, and yet he had learned the secret of contentment. We all should be so fortunate. Sometimes I think that we don’t appreciate the suffering that we have to endure. I know I often wish that things were easier, but perhaps we (I) should look at what we can gain from our suffering rather than work so hard to avoid it. Job learned that lesson in the Old Testament. He had lost everything, even his wife’s support, but Job continued to bless the Lord despite his circumstances. (Job 1:21) Likewise, Paul rejoiced despite his circumstances because he knew that he was in the will of God. Whatever came his way, he knew that he would be able to get through it because God was on his side.
Philippians 4:13 is another verse that is used frequently to encourage people. It is usually quoted by itself without the verses around it for context. Yes, it’s true that with Christ’s strength we can do anything, but the context tells us that this is Paul’s secret of contentment. As long as he is in the will of God, God will provide the strength that he needs to face any situation. Nevertheless, the Philippians were right to support him in whatever way they could. Sometimes the way God provides His strength is through his people, by allowing us to be His hands and feet. It is not that God could not do it without us, but He is allowing us to have a part in the blessing of helping others. We, too, could be the reason for another’s joy.