One of the challenges in life is that of properly handling change. It may be a change from want to prosperity, or conversely. Health issues, domestic relationships, business ups and downs all present opportunities for the Christian to demonstrate the content of their spiritual life. The apostles, who themselves each experienced both good and bad times and eventually faced martyrdom for their faith, spoke extensively on dealing with the changing circumstances of life. A golden thread was woven into the fabric of their instruction, that of contentment, of joy and happiness.
Paul, the most prolific writer of New Testament books left no room for complaining … “I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:27-28 NIV). He wrote to the believers in Thessalonica … “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:16-18 NIV). Then to the churches in Philippi, he said … “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Phil 4:4-5 NIV).
These were inner qualities developed in the soul to be manifested as Christians experienced change. That gentleness of which the apostle spoke rendered a believer sensitive to external happenings and able to empathize with others in varying circumstances. Paul told the Christians in Rome … “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15 NIV).
To Jews, once prosperous, but now scattered throughout the Roman world due to rising persecution, Peter encouraged them to look beyond the external physical circumstances which they were experiencing and focus instead on that which had been made available in the spiritual life to carry them through adversity … “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV).
If these believers focused on the problems and themselves, despair and despondency would be the outcome. However, God’s Word offers a correct perspective as given by the writer of the Hebrews … “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2 NIV). The One who lived the spiritual life from beginning to end with joy amidst extreme adversity, endowed His followers with a legacy that would sustain their inner being in all situations of life … “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV). That peace, contentment, and joy which characterized the spiritual life of the humanity of Christ was now available to every believer.