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February 26, 2016


“…I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances.”
Philippians 4:11b NIV

Warmest greetings to our friends & co-laborers in Christ…

Anastasia joins me in wishing you God’s best as we traverse through these winter months of western Pennsylvania, trusting that your hearts are being filled with the contentment of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus!

I’m constantly amazed by the countenance of my precious bride as she deals with her affliction and also living away from home in a nearby nursing facility. In spite of these circumstances she has developed a deep contentment of soul and spirit, never complaining or murmuring about her conditions or anything. How can this be? Certainly we are not born this way—it’s not a natural marker of our DNA.

We’re learning, like many of you, that true contentment is not the absence of all problems of life but it’s being “satisfied” and “resting easy” in one’s circumstances. Paul addresses this issue in the above verse where the operative word is “learned”. This God-given contentment is a learning process as we make our way through the vast experiences of life that include many struggles, failures as well as victories.

But the secret of this contentment becomes reality when we grasp the truth of Providence—God provides. Until we come to that place in our lives where we understand that God is sovereign and is working out everything according to His own will and purposes, and making all things work for the good of those who love Him—we will never be content.

Second, this contentment cannot be attained until we participate in “our own funerals.” That is, we must “die” daily (Lk. 9:23) to our own agendas by submitting the totality of our lives to His sovereign care, thus making us Christ–sufficient instead of self-sufficient. By doing so, we become tightly united to His life and have access to His Divine strength for every situation: being satisfied with little and being disciplined with much. As Paul so powerfully declares, “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.”(v.13)

Third, to fully grasp this great truth, we must climb into Paul’s skin and observe through his eyes, his experiences and challenges of life (II Cor 1:8-11; 6:3-10; 11:23-31; 12:7-10). No doubt as he traveled along his journey he thought he was learning and growing in his faith but then out of nowhere trouble, affliction, and/or accusation would arise and he’d crash and possibly make a hash of things, as suggested by First Corinthians 1:8b, “…we despaired even of life.” But yet he believed that there would be sufficient grace and power of the Almighty to take care of him in spite of his trials. Thus he could honestly say, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When he finally wrote about this superlative truth to the Philippians, he was an old, grey-headed man on the edge of the grave—a prisoner in Rome where he declared, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” You see, becoming a mature Christian just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a learning process that is most costly. In fact, it will cost you everything. And if it hasn’t, then there’s probably a defect.    Selah

Medical Update
We continue to swim in God’s grace particularly in regard to Anastasia’s wellbeing; she remains balanced and steady. In fact, she was home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day. And every Sunday over the past many weeks she/we have been doing “church” here at the parsonage followed by dinner, taking a nap, listening to some news and then returning to her facility in late afternoon. She’s thrilled and so thankful to spend time at home; and so am I.

My situation is a bit different as I am dealing with soft tissue sarcoma cancer in my left thigh. I had my third surgery last August 10th, followed by the fourth surgery on November 17th and then the fifth surgery January 9th, this year. The cancer has become much more aggressive with the medical team recommending chemotherapy and the use of “cyber-knife” surgery when practical. We’ve accepted the cyber-knife suggestion but have decided to allow our Great Physician to determine the outcome of this left limb of mine. As we wait upon Him, our hearts are filled with peace knowing that whatever the future may be, it will be for His glory and my/our good. To exacerbate all of this, I totaled our car (11/13/15), which resulted in a cervical fracture at C-2. By His grace I was able to walk away from the accident but am in physical therapy for both my neck and legs.

In closing, we still find ourselves on God’s learning curve and are so thankful for the His sustaining grace and for surrounding us with brothers and sisters that keep us uplifted with their unfailing prayers, love and support.

So hang loose my friends, rest easy, for the best is yet to come,

Richard

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