By Michael E. Brooks
“Yet what I shall choose I cannot tell” (Philippians 1:22b NKJV).
We have spent the last week in limbo, not knowing whether our flight home would be on schedule or whether we would have to make other arrangements. The airports in Bangkok have been closed due to protesters and all Thai Air flights were stopped. Since our departure is only a few days away, there has been much concern regarding arrangements.
Over this period we have attempted to meet with the Thai offices and have consulted with travel agents, to little real effect. Some alternative flights were discovered, involving additional cost and several days delay in travel and arrival home. We agonized over purchasing seats so that we would know that our travel was assured or just waiting to see how the situation developed.
Thankfully the airport in Bangkok is now operating, flights from Katmandu are resuming, and our flight seems destined to depart on schedule. We have hopes of arriving home as planned.
Perhaps the best part of all of this is that resolution came while we were still gathering information and before we were able to make any decision. We no longer have to face the threat of wasting money on tickets we would not need, or of being away from home for days or weeks longer than expected.
Much in life is out of our hands. In Philippians chapter one, Paul was discussing his imminent trial before Roman authorities and the various outcomes that might result, principally whether he would live or die. What did he really want to happen? He said, effectively, “I don’t really know.”
He was content with either alternative and was perfectly willing for the Lord to make the decision. Paul knew of course that the verdict and sentence were not up to him. They were not his choices to make. Those would be matters for the Roman authorities and God to determine.
Life becomes much simpler when we can trust God and accept his will. Later in the same epistle Paul reveals his secret, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
Contentment is a great blessing. When one can accept the circumstances of his life without complaint, and without envy of others, he has discovered the key to a happy life. He also may have demonstrated genuine faith. Paul’s contentment rose from the belief that God looked after him and provided for his needs.
His state was God’s gift to him, so whether it was one of abundance or want, Paul considered it good. If he was comfortable, perhaps God had rewarded him. If he was in need that may have been a challenge or obstacle whose overcoming would strengthen him for greater future service (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Humans are often control freaks. We want to make all the decisions, determine all the outcomes, control all the alternatives. It is a harsh lesson that most of the time we simply do not have the wisdom or ability to do those things. We must allow others some authority, and we must submit to them.
Whether those authorities are in our family, or are our employers, or leaders of the church, or the governments under which we live, we will serve most effectively if we recognize, “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). We will also be most content in that knowledge.
By Michael E. Brooks