Links Daily Devotional

In the Meantime, Part 3: The ‘Secret’ Club

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

A story is told that right after Tom Watson won the British Open at Muirfield in 1980, he took Ben Crenshaw, Andy North, and Tom Weiskopf out for a few after-dinner swings. Club officials promptly escorted them off the course.

Dating back to its earliest history in Scotland, golf has always borne a reputation for exclusivity. Some call the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield  “the rudest club in golf,” but they did write the first rules of golf back in 1744, so I guess they’ve somewhat earned the right to that assessment if they want it! Apparently, one of the unwritten rules is that they can keep company with whomever they wish.

You can find such exclusive golf clubs all around the world and they all have their own policies and characteristics. The reason these clubs maintain such exclusivity is because the members are trying to control their environment the best way they know how.

Humanity has always tried to control its environment to be happy. Even if you’re not a member of a private club, I am sure you can relate to those whose primary personal objective is to be spoiled and pain-free. You may not have put it into such words, but I bet you have gotten angry with God for not remedying your bad circumstances or making life easier and without conflict. You may even find yourself in a rough “in the meantime” period of life, struggling to find contentment in your present struggles, when some well-meaning, eternally optimistic Christian with a padded bank account, happy family, and good physical health sends you today’s verse as if it should encourage you.

We read this verse—and others like it—and think, “What does this person or the author of this piece of Scripture know about my struggles?” But before your mind goes further down this trail, please know that the apostle Paul, after ten years of missionary work for God, was captured and imprisoned in a Roman jail. Rather than complaining of God’s apparent betrayal and absence from his situation, he incredibly claimed that he had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). From this “in the meantime” moment, he wrote at least four of the great epistles of the New Testament (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).

With immense credibility, Paul offered perspective during a circumstance that would eventually lead to his death. If we could fully grasp what he was saying, it would change our lives. In Philippians 4:12, he wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content… whether living in plenty or in want.” Here we find a strange Greek word that is used only this one time in Scripture. This word translated as “secret” referred to a secret initiation into a club or cult.

Paul intentionally used this word because he understood that when Jesus defeated sin through his death and resurrection, he had founded and now invited us to be a part of an exclusive club more incredible than Augusta National or Cypress Point. This club has an all- access pass to contentment, and it’s found only when Jesus lives in us. It is by this knowledge that Paul wrote the today’s regularly misquoted verse. Proclaiming the ability to “do all ‘this’ through Christ” is not about winning in sports or our careers, but ‘this’ is about victory over discontentment and our being initiated into the most rewarding club in the world. This club is for those who choose to draw their strength through, and only through, the Lord of the universe. Now that is a club worth joining!

It is my sincerest hope and prayer for you that you would stop blaming God for your circumstances, and realize that he is not silent, angry, or absent. In fact, he is at work. You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your response to the adversity you face. Like Paul, God may be putting you in this very place to do some incredible work for him.

Josh Nelson
November 13, 2014
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