Most of the time when we talk about trials, we think of physical suffering, pain, and loss. And we should. After all, the Bible does. In fact the Apostle Paul said, Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked ... in toil and many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. ~ 2 Cor. 11:24-28
Paul experienced many trials. He knew the pain of suffering and loss. And through these trials he learned to trust in God. But he learned something else. Something we often forget. Paul learned to be content in every situation.
In Philippians 4:12, Paul speaks of God's provision and how he learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Paul knew how to be brought low and how to abound. In every circumstance, he was content because he understood that life was filled with both trials and blessing, suffering and prosperity.
I don't know about you, but when I think of Paul I picture him suffering all the time. I picture a man who never enjoyed one moment of physical comfort or pleasure. Yet, it's clear that there were times where he had plenty. And in those times Paul knew what to do. He abounded in thanksgiving. I wonder if we do the same.
You see, in some ways, we face a different kind of trial living in America. The trial of prosperity. Prosperity can be a dangerous trial for the Christian. Instead of bringing us closer to God, it can take us further away from him. Charles Spurgeon says,
The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God!
Wow. The mercies of God can actually take us away from God if we receive them with the wrong heart. So like Paul, I want to learn to be content in every circumstance. I want to learn what it means to be brought low in times of adversity, and to abound in times of prosperity. And I want my soul to rejoice in God alone no matter what comes my way.