The average person today faces a myriad of different pressures. For some, I’m sure, it feels like they are living in a pressure cooker.
Whether it is economic pressure, or family pressure, or pressure somehow related to our jobs, we all know what the stresses of daily life can be like.
Maybe you are in a battle for your health today. Or maybe you’re feeling the pressure of not getting anywhere in your life. You wonder why you aren’t at a different level of life -- why you don’t seem to have any sense of direction -- why you feel like that tiny hamster running around the little wheel!
Whatever it is, feeling the pressure of life is something you and I have in common. And what I want to share with you today is a word in season for those like you and me who have to deal with various pressures.
First, feeling the crunch can actually be a good thing. Why? Because it will often drive you to your knees. And one thing God has taught me when the pressures of life have driven me to my knees is this:
I must learn to be content where I am and grateful for what I have!
Now, you might think this sounds like a weird -- and almost impossible -- response when you’re feeling the heat in life. But think with me for a moment about the apostle Paul. He wrote the book of Philippians shackled to a guard in a Roman prison cell. In fact, let’s look at what he says in Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned (literally, I know the secret) both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Here’s the secret:) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
What Paul is saying is this: full or hungry, with much or little, God is our source. It doesn’t matter what we’re going through. When we’re going through a temporary rough patch or a temporary lean time, God is our source. If we’re going through a season of abundance, God is our source.
Contentment is only found when we’re plugged into God. And no matter what’s going on around us, we can face anything through Christ who infuses inner strength into us!
This is the kind of attitude Paul had when he was in prison! He was locked up in awful conditions, yet he wrote about being content! How did he do this? By looking for the good and being thankful in the midst of his current situation.
To some people, that wouldn’t make sense at all because Paul wasn’t free to go about -- he wasn’t free to preach. All he could do was write letters! How’s that going to influence the world? Yet in the midst of his circumstances, Paul was thankful.
First, he was thankful he had the chance to witness to and impact the most elite Roman troops in the entire empire (Phil. 1:13). Second, he was thankful that others were encouraged to preach because he could stay true to God in prison (Phil. 1:14). And, third -- think about this -- Paul was even thankful for others who were preaching the Gospel with impure motives (because even if their motives weren’t right, the message was!).
Look what he says in Philippians 1:18. "Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice." Paul found so many things to be grateful for, even in that prison cell!
The problem with us is that, I believe, we take a lot for granted today -- from the food we eat, to the roofs over our heads, to the transportation we have. We have an abundance far beyond our needs, for which we ought to give thanks daily!
I think even waking up in your right mind is worth being thankful for. If your brain works fairly well, you ought to thank God for that!
You and I really do have a lot to be thankful for. And when you live a life filled with gratitude, there’s a huge benefit:
The seeds of depression and bitterness will never grow in a thankful heart.
In the first chapter of the book of Romans, Paul talks about people who are depraved. If you read carefully what he lists, you realize that Paul is really giving the steps to becoming a depraved person. And he says it begins with ingratitude.
Bitter and depressed people don’t thank God for who He is or for the things He has done -- and it leads to their minds being darkened. That sin leads to another sin and to another sin until they end up in an absolutely depraved state!
My brother or sister, you and I have a lot to be thankful for! So fill your heart today -- and every day -- with the peace of contentment and with the joy of gratitude. If you do, you will learn the secret to living abundantly in our pressure-filled world.