Bernie Diaz, November 20, 2018
Was it no less a theologian than Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones who sang, “I can’t get no satisfaction? The Stones added, “I can’t get no satisfaction ’cause I try and I try and I try and I try I can’t get no…When I’m drivin’ in my car and that man comes on the radio he’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information supposed to fire my imagination I can’t get no…”
How true. No matter how hard we try, man cannot satisfy his insatiable appetite for material goods, peace and deep-seeded joy in and of himself and his own efforts.
In fact, the only group of people I’ve ever heard about or known who have ever experienced contentment or satisfaction in any meaningful way whatsoever are Christians – disciples of Jesus Christ like the apostle Paul, who learned contentment via the road of thanksgiving. Paul once wrote a book about joy and satisfaction while… wait for it…. chained to a guard from a prison home in Rome. That’s a big clue.
That book was a letter to a church we know as Philippians. Interestingly enough, that book of ‘joy’ was penned by a man, centuries before Americans and their forefathers expressed thanksgiving for finding a new ‘promised land.’ Paul’s old covenant people had lost their promised land (Israel) but witnessed and received God’s new covenant promises via the advent of his long-promised Messiah who brought the only immaterial resources that can produce real and lasting satisfaction.
Paul as a Jewish scholar back in the day had had it all and lost it all and considered his former life of power and prosperity as nothing more than rubbish (“dung” in a more literal translation) compared to his new riches in Christ.
What was his secret? How can we share that type of gratitude attitude with Paul above and beyond this week’s Thanksgiving Day, considering that our national holiday has been relegated culturally nowadays to being primarily about shopping- the eve of “Black Friday” rather than any acknowledgment about being thankful to God and his blessings?
Thanksgiving and Joy are Found in Christ
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Phil. 4:11-12, ESV).
The apostle Paul seems to be arguing from the above text of scripture that true soul-satisfying joy comes from within, not without. A Christian who is satisfied is content beyond temporal and fleeting circumstances (Ecc. 5:10).
In other words, born-again believers are not happy and thankful, just because a positive circumstance or event has come their way (i.e. a new home, car, relationship, winning lotto ticket or job). After all, the unregenerate parrot their supposed ‘thank God’ phrases in such circumstances or times of common grace.
Paul’s secret is a contentment that comes to him in whatever situation he finds himself in, whether he is near poverty and having little (“brought low”) or in plenty and having much (“abound”). There is no human circumstance that can alter Paul’s contentment – no material blessing can increase it, and no loss can decrease it. How is that possible?
Satisfaction is in Christ and from His power
I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).
This oft-misquoted verse of scripture speaks to a power or strength that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ (“him” or “Christ” depending on your translation), and it’s not a power that allows us to do anything we like much less ‘all things’, but rather to be spiritually empowered to do and face anything God calls us to (2 Pet. 1:3), including want or need as per the context of Philippians 4.
I know Tim Tebow and many an American hero loves to sport the Phil. 4:13 icon under their eyes, or on a bumper sticker or in a social media post, but we should be reminded that God will not likely strengthen you to be ‘faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive,’ nor ‘able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.’
What Paul is saying, is that for those who are in Christ, God promises Holy Spirit empowerment and equipping to withstand any ‘thorn in the flesh’, test, trial or tribulation that comes our way.
As a result of that reality, one commentator has said, “If there is any event or circumstance apart from sin that would diminish your joy, you have SINNED!” Really? Why would dissatisfaction with our life and its circumstances be described as sin?
In short, dissatisfaction or discontentment with our lives reveals a lack of faith or trust in God and his sovereign and providential plan for, and work in us. Our complaining dissatisfaction reveals a lack of faith in the power and wisdom of God to bend his will to ours.
As opposed to being dissatisfied with God’s sovereign purposes in our lives, and being anxious or worried about his provision, we can rather appropriate the Lord’s Phil. 4:13 strength through a faith that takes peace and comfort in at least four unmistakable truths of which we can be thankful for:
- His Purpose. (Matt. 6:26)
- His Provision (Phil. 4:19; Matt. 6:25-32)
- His Promises (Matt. 6:30, 33)
- His Presence (Psa. 107:8-9)
It is a prayerful focus or heart meditation on the above that breeds a thankful and contented heart in the Christian year-round (Pro. 30:7-9; 1 Tim. 6:6-10; Heb. 13:5).
While it is right this week to give thanks to God for our many blessings of life, relative health, peace and provision, we who are in and are strengthened by Christ may other reasons for thanksgiving:
Reasons to Pray (1 Thess. 5:16-18) with Thanksgiving:
- For Who God is (Psa. 28:7)
- For Christ’s Work (Ro. 3:23-26; 5:1-2).
- For the Holy Spirit’s Ministry in You (Eph. 1:3, Ro. 14:17)
- For Future Hope and Glory (Phil. 3:20-21)
- For Answered Prayer (Jo. 16:23b-24)
- For the Bible (Psa. 19:7; 119:14).
This Thanksgiving Day take to heart that Prayer + Supplication+ Thanksgiving in Christ = no worries, joy and the fact that yes, you ‘can get satisfaction!’