Abased and Abounding
Philippians 4:12-13; Acts 9:23-25; Psalm 73:26;
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT (Written by Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Faithful Soldier of the Lawrenceville, Georgia Corps and Editor-in-Chief, Territorial Publications USA South)
As Paul in prison in Rome waited for his execution, he was moved by the Holy Spirit to write. After a brilliant ministry that left the world changed from Jerusalem to Rome, he sat alone in his cell, his faithful friends now counted on one hand. But no funeral dirge is heard in his cell but the halls echo instead with a song of praise.
He says to his friends back in Philippi, I know how to be abased… (Philippians 4:12). That lesson was forced on him early on when in Damascus. He had started his journey there a powerful man leading other men but he ended it by being lowered down the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). And that would be only the beginning. This once promising Jewish leader and teacher would spend the next several years being stoned and shipwrecked, beaten and berated, arraigned and arrested. Being abased became part of his everyday life. So how did he manage it?
His early Jewish upbringing and the all-embracing knowledge that came later with his conversion to Christ taught him the full meaning of David’s statement – My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion (Psalm 73:26). It may be true that I watch my possessions swept away in a flood, my friends treat me as a leper, my hands so crippled they cannot grasp a little thing but it is the Lord who is my portion. Perhaps this morning I will awake under a pile of stones thrown there by my enemies or alone, all alone, in a tiny cell with bars blocking the windows but the Lord is my portion. As sure as the Israelites found their daily portion of manna, Paul knew that for this day the Lord would be the portion he needed for today. And so an old man’s voice lifted in song over the complaints and curses of the prison where he was. A prison is a cathedral in the presence of Christ.
It is most interesting that he went to the other extreme in talking to the Philippians. I know how to abound… That may have been the more difficult duty. When everything is stripped away, when all I have is a peanut butter sandwich at the banquet table of the King, it is not hard to look away from my stale bread and to fix my eyes on Him. But when the banquet table is full I can forget the Guest of honor while I gorge myself on the food in front of me.
In a land of plenty, the challenge to the Christian is how to handle abundance. When we are surrounded by gems, is it not our nature to want to put some of those in our pocket? When I have a comfortable chair to sit in, is it not normal to hate the idea of getting out of it? When my stereo system reproduces the full sound of the band, shouldn’t I want to hear it? Some will think that I am condemning these things. I am not. God put us in a world with senses and because of that certain things will appeal to our senses. But knowing how to properly handle them takes heavenly knowledge. Brother Paul learned this and learned that he had to know how to abound. He learned not to feast his eyes on the things in front of him but to fix his eyes on the Lord, his portion.
The problem for us is that many of us do not know how to hold lightly the things in our hands. When it looks like they might be threatened we tighten our grip. Even when God Himself is trying to get us to let them go we struggle about letting go. We are too often like those Israelites who ignored the Lord’s commands and tried to take an extra day’s supply of manna, just in case.
Should it surprise us that the Army struggles to grow most in the countries that are considered wealthy? There are so many beautiful things, so many sweet aromas and so many comforts. Salvationists live in a world that tells us that what we have is not enough. How attractive can the cross look against the backdrop of a mall?
Except this. When we find that the Lord is our portion, when our soul is so filled up with Him there is not room for these other things to find a home. When God is our portion, we can leave the banquet table with its food and its finery to enjoy the fellowship of the Guest of honor.
We can learn how to be abased or how to abound because as Paul says a few lines later in his letter, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I don’t think he had the song that we do now but I think that I can hear him singing on day of his execution his version of what has come to us:
Christ is all, yes all in all,
My Christ is all in all.
Christ is all, yes all in all,
My Christ is all in al
OUR CORPORATE PRAYER
Our Father, who art in Heaven. Because of You, we know how to live on almost nothing and for that matter, with far more than we deserve. Like Paul, we have learned the secret of living in every situation, no matter if we have a full stomach or enduring hunger pangs. We find ourselves able to do everything through Christ which gives us the strength we need for everyday living. Even though sometimes our health may fail and our spirit may dim to just a flicker, You, God, remain strong, and we praise Your most Holy name for giving us Your strength each and every day. In the name of Christ Jesus, we make our prayer, amen.
OUR WORLDWIDE PRAYER MEETING FOR FEBRUARY 2, 2023 ~ SPAIN AND PORTUGAL COMMAND
REACHING OUT TO OTHERS
Out of your plenty or your lack thereof, take time to share with those around you who are less fortunate than you this week.
“Reaching for the treasure is not enough. One must bring it back!”
~ J.R. Rim