My problem back during The Troubles was not that I didn’t have enough money to meet my family’s needs. The problem was that I had too much stuff that wasn’t paid for. When my employment went south on me, I found myself in a place where the Lord wasn’t providing enough money to keep up my standard of living.
It took me a while to learn that God actually was providing enough to meet my needs; I just didn’t like the thought of giving up some of my stuff.
The sudden loss of income makes us instantly aware of our dependence on God and how much we take for granted. But if we let it, our new poverty does something even better than that: It reveals the discontent that keeps our spirits enslaved.
The church at Philippi financially supported Paul’s mission, but at one point they were unable to send their funds, and finances got excruciatingly tight for Paul. When their next donation arrived, Paul sent back a thank-you note, saying “I wasn’t ever in need.” (Philippians 4:11a)
How could Paul say that? He was practically out of money! Verse 12 says: “I know how to live on almost nothing …. I have learned the secret of living on an empty stomach.”
Most American Christians have no idea what it means to have almost nothing and live on an empty stomach. Many of us give up on Lent because we skipped one meal and our growling stomach kept us awake all night. And the power of one meal is nothing compared to the power all our stuff holds over us. And we piled up stuff because we weren’t content with what we had.
But Paul says he discovered a secret about living in even the worst circumstances: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (v.11b) And how did he survive the crisis that taught him the secret? He says: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (v.13)
Are you experiencing a sudden loss of income? Is your pantry already getting bare? Has today’s provision from the Lord not arrived? Don’t let the surface problem — as big as it is — distract you from the real issue. Ask Jesus to make you strong enough to be content in the midst of hardship.