March 11, 1994
The first professional skating performance I recall seeing was a spectacular version of Ice Capades. The program began in total darkness. Suddenly there was a shaft of light bouncing off a slowly spinning mirror ball hung high above the ice. Tiny diamonds of light whirled like huge falling snow flakes around and into every corner. It was magic.
When the skaters entered, everyone gasped. They were dressed in white with fur and feathers, silver sequins and glittering rhinestones. Since then, I’ve seen higher quality skating yet that performance was so magnificent, nothing else has ever met the standard it set. If I never see another, I am content.
In contrast, most of life’s pleasures give little lasting satisfaction, particularly material pleasures. People see or try one thing and enjoy it, but the enjoyment lasts only a short time and they soon want something else. For young people and adults, one thrilling ride at the fair is not quite enough so, “Please, just one more.” Or the latest new outfit is old after one or two wearings so, “But I have nothing to wear.”
As our economy enters a downturn, the ability to satisfy that hungry desire for more, bigger, and better in the realm of having things is also affected. Many of these pleasures carry large price tags. What people long for to make them feel good brings strained budgets to the breaking point. As a result, any hoped for or promise of lasting satisfaction becomes more elusive than ever.
The people of ancient Rome thought their material desires could be satisfied by their thousands of gods. If the people did what the gods wished, the gods would provide whatever was necessary, not only to stay alive but to live abundantly. However, that culture, well-known for its indulgences and excesses, was never satisfied.
It was into this that Jesus Christ was born and later made the outrageous claim: “I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
He was not a wealthy man. Born in a stable, raised by a carpenter, and “having no where to lay his head” were good reasons for those who heard Him to wonder what on earth He could do to raise their standard of life and give them what their gods could not. Even though some people wanted to make Him their king, He really had no political clout either. On what basis could He claim to satisfy anyone’s desire for abundance?
The Apostle Paul knew. When he wrote to the church in Philippi, he told them he was glad for their sakes they had been able to send an offering, not because he needed anything. Instead, he said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil.4:11,12)
Paul had not always been like that. Before he met Christ, he was a driven, unhappy person. After he came to faith in Jesus, he was never wealthy, but he was satisfied. He didn’t need a new car every year, or a bigger house, or a new suit, or even greater thrills. Whether life was ho-hum or exciting, borderline or outstanding, he was happy. Verse 13 gives his reason: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Christ provided him with the capacity to take life as it came, no matter how it came. He did not worry when the money ran out before the month or the days seemed dreary. He knew he was being taken care of and he was satisfied. He had seen the ultimate provision, experienced the ultimate high: he met Christ. In Him, Paul discovered nothing or no one can match the standard He set so he looked no further; he was content.