Alfred Place Baptist Church

4:10-11 Attaining Christian Contentment

Philippians 4:10&11 “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Paul comments on two indispensable Christian graces in our text.

1. THE CHRISTIAN IS A GENEROUS MAN.

The Philippian congregation had sent a gift to the apostle Paul. The history of this gift has its own interest and some lessons for the church. Ten years before this letter was written the apostle had arrived at Philippi and had began to preach the gospel. There was violent opposition so that he and Silas were abused, whipped and imprisoned by the authorities, but by an earthquake God delivered them. There were some striking conversions – the jailer, Lydia and a woman possessed by an evil spirit, and then the work in Philippi took off. But Paul had a special calling as evangelist and church-planter, and once the church was established then off he went to other cities in Greece. His first port of call was Thessalonica, and one day when he was there some old friends from Philippi turned up on his doorstep with a gift for him. They had suspected that it was not easy for him in Thessalonica and having discovered that that was true they sent him some money. Then they actually did that again, and that is impressive. There is a certain personal therapy in giving to the Christian cause once, but learning that there is still a need, and giving a second time cheerfully, and also a third time, and so on as an ongoing obligation, then surely the life of the giving God is in our hearts. That is what Paul saw in the Philippian congregation. We learn this from Philippians 4:16: “when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” That is the model for us and every gospel congregation. All through our lives we are to be generous people, giving from the abundance that God has given to us.

Then after Paul had laid the foundation of the church in Thessalonica he moved to Berea, and from there to Athens, and then again on to Corinth. There were no modern communications at that time of course, and it was easy to lose track of people, but the church at Philippi wouldn’t let Paul go. When they came together they prayed for Paul, every Sunday, every meeting of prayer, and privately. “Where is he this winter? Have you any news of him? Is he in need? He was last in that place called Berea.” “Yes, but he didn’t stay there long. He’s gone south.” “Is he still in Greece?” “We’re not sure.” “How is he getting by?” “Well, Paul can always make tents, can’t he?” “Aren’t the Christians taking care of him?” The questions buzzed, and when they discovered where he was then they were the first church to send him support. He writes in his second letter to the Corinthians and he says, “the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need” (2 Cors. 11:9). So they had tracked him down to Corinth and sent him a gift there too, but when they discovered that all his needs were being met they rejoiced and sent their tithes and offerings elsewhere.

Paul was constantly on the move, and so ten years pass from his first going to Philippi to the writing of this letter. Paul has gone back from Europe to Judea, and then he set out on his third missionary journey, but it quickly terminated in his arrest. For some years he was in prison in Caesarea and then he was sent in chains to Rome. The Philippian church are still praying for him without fail and are always making inquires about him, glad of any news. There are long silent months or years, and plenty of rumours that he’s been in a shipwreck, whipped, stoned, even that he’s been killed. Then they had their first concrete news of where he was. Paul was in prison in Rome and in great need. He was not close, in emotional terms, to the Roman church: he had never pastored there. There were those in the Roman congregation who opposed him, and Paul was lacking even a warm blanket to cover him at night. Many of them did not know in what prison he was being incarcerated. So again the Philippian church leaders told the congregation about all this and money came flooding in. We don’t have the details of how much Lydia gave, and the girl who had once been possessed by an evil spirit, and the jailer, of how generous they were. But we know that they gathered all the offering together and they entrusted it to one of their officers called Epaphroditus.

Epaphroditus boarded a boat to Italy, and he made that hazardous journey across sea and land, along dangerous roads, carrying this gift. When he arrived in Rome there were contacts with the local Christians and inquiries about Paul’s location. It was not straightforward even finding the apostle. Rome didn’t have the reputation of being a caring church like Philippi. Remember how Paul says, “everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (2:21). Paul tells Timothy that he was glad when another Christian visited him, but that person hadn’t found it easy to find him: “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorous, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (as though there were others in the Roman church who were ashamed that the apostle was in jail chained to a soldier). “On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me” (2 Tim. 1:16&17).

We don’t suppose it was any easier for Epaphroditus to discover the whereabouts of Paul. It is so simple to misinterpret God’s providence when we search hard for someone or something and aren’t successful. We can think, “It isn’t God’s will for me to keep on looking. God wants me to go home.” But neither of those men thought like that. They kept searching and they found Paul’s prison, and what were the procedures for seeing him. How grateful Paul was, saying, “Onesiphorous often refreshed me.” But Epaphroditus was much more than a delivery boy – passing on the gift and then returning to his family and church. He was part of the gift of Philippi, and Paul calls him his brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier. There was a great crisis which Epaphroditus passed through when he arrived at Rome. He almost died for the work of Christ (2:30); we don’t know what that means, whether people tried to kill him. He was also so ill that he almost passed away (2:27). When Paul finally allows the bearer of this gift to return home he says, “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour men like him” (2:29).

That is how the Philippian gift arrived with Paul from this imaginative, responsible, caring, generous church. So many of you are just like that. Some of you on Tuesday gave so freely and sacrificially to our Indian brother Jyoti Chakravartty of Calcutta. You’ve also bought Bibles for Machynlleth. You have given money to send Pastor Mort to attend the International Deaf Conference in the USA. All that in just a few weeks. On Friday I received a letter from Keith Underhill in Kenya saying that they are in debt trying to pay for the secondary education of some of the AIDS orphans in the country areas. They need another 700 pounds. Then there is the building here; it must be maintained and there are extensive repairs that need to be done. There is no way that this can be avoided, and it can’t be put off much longer. This is the Lord’s building and not ours. Unless we faint we have to hold before our minds the spirit of stewardship and sense of privilege in giving that we meet in this Philippian congregation.

So that is the background to our text. We are reading about Paul’s response to their kindness. He is expressing his thankfulness to them for their care, but first of all notice that he gives thanks to God for his grace in their lives. God is the one who had made all the difference. He had made them so generous – “I rejoice greatly in the Lord” for this, says Paul. Their gift through Epaphroditus spoke well, so very eloquently, of their own spiritual condition. It testified finely of the genuineness of their love and care and of their brotherly concern. God had truly changed their lives, and so Paul’s first priority was to rejoice greatly in the Lord. Yet there is something else on his heart, and he is being very careful and tactful – as well as appreciative of the gift (there is more at stake than the niceties of Christian etiquette). So this is how be begins “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me” (v.10) That phrase ‘at last’ does not mean ‘at long last’. Paul is not being a little critical asking, “What kept you?” He is in fact saying something like this, “. . . at these last days, after we’d got to know one another ten years ago, you’ve again renewed your concern for me. You still haven’t forgotten me. I know you’ve been concerned, but you’ve had no opportunity to show that concern because you weren’t sure where I’ve been.” Now they’ve seized the opportunity which a knowledge of his whereabouts has brought to the church, and they’ve sent this gift. However, Paul is still very careful in how he thanks them.

Don Carson puts it like this: “Paul very shrewdly grasps how exuberant thanks to the Philippians could be misunderstood. Some people voice their thanks in such a way that it is hard to avoid the inference that they are hoping for another gift. Perhaps they grovel; perhaps there is nothing tangible in their thanks that you can put your finger on, but you feel slightly manipulated anyway. Once in a while missionary prayer letters sound this way; very often the thank-you letters from non-profit organizations sound this way. In any case, Paul takes no chances; he wants to distance himself from all of these possibilities, so he immediately explains his own motives” (D.A.Carson, “Basics for Believers: an Exposition of Philippians”, Baker, 1996, p.118). Paul’s words are these, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (v.11). He wants to underline this great fact, that his peace of mind and emotional well-being are not at all dependent on the fact that their money has arrived safely. If he hadn’t received their gift it wouldn’t have been the end of the world for him; he wouldn’t have been bitter. You wouldn’t meet a Paul who was plaintive, or sulking, or self-pitying. It wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to the emotional life of Paul. He would still have been contented because God had taught him how to be content in every circumstance.

2. THE CHRISTIAN IS A CONTENTED MAN.

This word ‘contented’ means that a person is independent emotionally, or better affectionately, of his circumstances. The Christian is a person content with his lot in life, no matter what it is. He is quite reconciled to his circumstances. He doesn’t escape from them. He doesn’t try to live in a fantasy world. But he knows that he faces life or death with totally adequate resources – whatever forms of life or death may come to him he knows that he can cope, and so he is contented. The Christian is a person at peace in himself; a person at peace with himself; at peace with the world; at peace with God, no matter what different situations may arise in his life. Paul is speaking of the religious affections and he is telling us that he has learned to experience peace, and trust, and submission in all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy. Paul was a fulfilled and integrated man, and he was that not because he was a gifted apostle of Jesus Christ but as a saved sinner, and as a mere Christian. He had learned to be quite independent of his position, his circumstances, his surroundings and of everything that was happening to him. “Whatever the circumstances,” says Paul absolutely categorically. There was no foreseeable situation in which he would not be content. There is nothing whatsoever in the great objective and external world around him that could take his peace from him. That is what this Christian has learned.

I was once speaking on this theme in Nairobi and there was an older woman who had spent many years of her life serving Kenyan Christians and she was a little alarmed at what I was saying. Her concern was that wresting this truth could make it a message of lethargy, that we say to ourselves – “Just sit back and accept your lot in life.” She had been keen on educating Kenyans and getting them to improve their farms and houses. Of course this verse is not opposing that. To whatever we put our hand we are do it with all our might and to the glory of God. Dr Lloyd-Jones is clear here: “If you can improve your circumstances in fair and legitimate ways, by all means do so; but if you cannot, and if you have to remain in a trying and difficult position, do not be mastered by it, do not let it get you down, do not let it control you, do not let it determine your misery or your joy. ‘You,’ says the apostle, ‘must come into the state in which, whatever your conditions, you are not controlled by them.’ That is what he affirms of himself. ‘Whatever my condition or circumstances,’ he says in effect, ‘I am in control. I am master of the situation, I am not mastered by the situation. I am free. I am at liberty. I do not depend for my happiness upon what is happening to me. My life, my happiness, my joy and my experience are independent of the things that are going on about me, and even on the things that may be happening to me,'” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Life of Peace: Studies in Philippians 3&4,” Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1990, p.208).

So here is the challenge before us today, the child of God, no matter how appallingly difficult may be his outward circumstances, is bound to be content. He has no right not to be. Will you plead your circumstances as a justification for complaining? Would you argue that if Paul could see your life now he would say, “I have discovered in Aberystwyth the one person in the history of mankind who is exempt from being contented because his life is so difficult,” and that person is you! Was Joni Eareckson exempt from having to be contented when as a teenager she broke her back and became a paraplegic? What sort of ministry or life would she have had if she had given in to self-pity and anger with God for what had happened? She was not beyond the scope of this marvellous word.

You know what happened in the Islamic country of Yemen earlier this year how an Islamic gunman entered a country hospital where three American elderly Baptists had worked for thirty years in surgery and midwifery. In cold blood he then shot and murdered them all to the great grief and sense of shame of many Muslims in that district who loved and respected these kind Christian people. Now that man has been arrested and tried and found guilty, but the son of one of the murdered Americans has pleaded for his life. “It will not do any good to kill him,” he says. This son is not dominated by blood lust. That is not his faith. He has lost one of his dear parents but he has learned a contentment with the will of God. Surely in your disappointments and heartaches you too can be contented?

I acknowledge that it is not possible to be perfect in any area of your life before glory and so 100% contentment is unattainable in this life – like 100% love, and 100% trust are unreachable. I know that often we find some thorn in the flesh utterly unbearable. Will God please remove it from us? There were days when the apostle himself was far from contented, and that is a real consolation when we find ourselves just like that. I also acknowledge that contentment is something that we learn. It is a process and a progression. In other words it is not something that we pick up in conversion, one moment a restless rebel against God and the next completely contented. True conversion does not remove all the wrinkles in our hearts and souls immediately. Paul did not pick contentment up on the Damascus Road. Nor did he get it in the second blessing. Though he spoke in tongues more than all the other Corinthians he didn’t get his contentment in ecstasy. He learned it in his walk with God. One day he might have gone to a service like this and learned that God wanted him to be a contented person, and that he could achieve this, that he need not go on in his Christian life morose, disgruntled, with a chip on his shoulder, bitter towards God and his fellow man. He should be a contented man, and he learned how to be a contented man.

3 HOW THE CHRISTIAN IS A CONTENTED MAN.

Contentment comes to us by faith of course. How did all those great men and women of God listed in Hebrews 11 subdue their own lusts and live a victorious Christlike life? It is no secret; it was by faith. So it is today. The rare of jewel of Christian contentment may be ours by faith. What does our faith in Jesus Christ tell us? Three things:

i] Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. He is seated at the right hand of God and he is the one who is in control of the universe in all its vastness and complexity. He controls every star in its composition and movement. He appoints and determines every planetary system, and he determines the qualities of every crystal and chromosome. He has given to every one its own distinctive properties, and he imposes upon each one his own particular laws, and makes them submit to those particular principles which he has assigned to them. He has designed them all thus. Our inhabited earth did not come about by a combination of chance and zillions of years. What an unbelievable concept! As Toplady wrote:

“The fictitious power of chance
And fortune I defy;
My life’s minutest circumstance
Is subject to his eye.”

Jesus is the one who has scattered a billion billion stars in space; he is the one who gives them all their names. Jesus Christ is the ultimate and foundational thing in this whole material universe.

He is also sovereign over our daily lives, even to the trivia of our human experience. The very hairs of our heads are numbered by him. The very bugs and viruses that give us sicknesses and colds are all determined by him. There are the great providences that we experience – “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” It is one of the most comforting of Christian principles, that we shall never have any day but a day which the Lord has made. We will always have the will of God for our lives, no matter how the storms may blow and the thunders roll. Every single day is his workmanship. I can preach that, but I cannot always put it into practise, yet I am sure that this is the bedrock of my comfort, that Jesus Christ is in charge of today as he is in charge of every single day. My life has not been not a tale of sound and fury told by an idiot but my history has been written by the Saviour who loves me. He is the author and finisher of my faith.

He is in charge of the free actions of men, of tax officials, and doctors, and examiners, and interviewing boards, and soldiers, and school-teachers, and judges. When they freely make up their minds to work in a certain way even then my Saviour is ruling sovereignly over them. There are no constraints and no compulsion but their hearts are all in his hands. You remember how Ahab died? An archer far away on the other side of the field, who could not even see the king, drew a bow at venture, and he shot blindly before picking up another arrow and shooting that too. Yet, when he did so he fulfilled a prophecy of Almighty God. That man made a free decision. He took aim so hurriedly and he shot off his arrow and God had before planned the place of the shot, and the time he shot it, and the whole trajectory of the flight, and how its point would pierce a joint in the armour of King Ahab as he stood in his chariot and it killed him as God had before purposed and announced.

Catriona Thangaidh was named after the district where she lived in the parish of Barvas on the island of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides. She lived almost 200 years ago and on one occasion she set off for North Tolsta: a coast-to-coast journey across rough moorland, but Catriona was joyed up not only by expectations of a spiritual feast hearing the word of God preached, but by the fact that the Lord had promised her that in the course of the weekend she would get a pair of shoes. How the Lord told her this I have no idea, but he did, and Catriona didn’t doubt him.

However the days went by and still no shoes. At the end off her visit she set off again across the moor, skirting the foothills of Muirneag. Unknown to her there was an Englishman out hunting. He saw something move in the heather, took aim and fired. Fortunately, he missed. He saw, to his horror, that what he had shot at was a young woman: our Catriona. Shaken, the hunter approached her to check that she was all right. She was, and unruffled. Her heavenly Father, she said, wouldn’t let him or anyone else do her any harm. Seeking to make some kind of atonement, he noticed that she was barefoot and handed her a sum of money. “Go,” he said, “and buy yourself a pair of new shoes!” The Lord determines when the arrow will hit, or when the bullet will miss.

I have just been reading a biographical account about a preacher by the name of Noble Alexander (“I Will Die Free” written with Kay Rizzo, Pacific Press, 1991). It contains an story which illustrates the fact that God is always in control even of the tiniest details of our lives. An incident took place at La Reforma Prison in Cuba during the 1970s. The prisoners at this place of detention were forced to work on a plantation, many times alongside civilians. Although they were forbidden to speak to civilians, often conversations did take place. A boy on the plantation, upon learning that one of the prisoners named Carlos was a Christian, brought him a Bible in a brown paper bag. He was overjoyed to receive this gift, but knowing that it would be taken from him if the guards saw it, he buried it at the edge of the farm’s citrus grove.

Because he had been seen talking to a civilian, Carlos was called to account by the prison commandant. But although he was searched and questioned, nothing was found and Carlos was allowed to return to his cell without the usual beating that generally followed a question period. About a week later, when Carlos was reassigned to the citrus grove, he returned to the spot where he had hidden the Bible. After digging it up, he wrapped it in a scrap of plastic from an empty fertiliser bag. He slipped the package beneath his shirt and put his metal dinner plate between the Bible and his shirt. Unknown to himself, however, he was under scrutiny and as soon as he had hidden the Bible, a sniper’s shot rang out. Carlos fell forward on his face, cutting his lip on a stone. The guard ran across, but Carlos was uninjured, the bullet having hit the Bible and plate. When Carlos later opened the Bible he discovered the last damaged page was Psalm 91 and an obvious bullet dimple could be seen at verse 7: “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

God kept Carlos in an amazing way. God’s truth had literally been his shield and buckler. Our Saviour controls every detail; every atom and molecule and electron. He decrees when an arrow shall strike and a king dies, or when a bullet misses a young woman, or when it shall be stopped and a life preserved:

“Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Til He bids, I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.” (John Ryland).

Jesus Christ is even in charge of the foolish and wrong decisions men make. How our lives are affected by the folly and sin of others. At the crucifixion of Jesus Christ there was Satan’s attack, and betraying Judas, and malicious High Priests, and bribed lying witnesses, and vacillating Pilate, and a brutalised Roman army, and a shouting mob – “Crucify him! Crucify him!” All the world’s forces were combining together to murder our Lord, but they were all orchestrated by the Son of God to do the divine determinate counsel and foreknowledge. So it is when men’s bungles, and scorn, and murderous schemes are focused upon us. They can only do what God permits. When Hudson Taylor went to China he knew that he would meet much frustration and opposition but he determined to always keep going back to the First Cause. He would look at everything from the perspective of Almighty God, and then he would not be eaten up with annoyance and want to retaliate. He would say, “Now if God has decreed that the officials and local chiefs are so awkward what must be my response? What can I learn from this?”

I have told you of a friend of mine who loved a girl deeply, and when she reached 18 he went to see her parents and asked their permission if he could take her out. They consulted and decided that the age difference between them was too great and that they did not want him to approach her. So it was, he had to sit in church and see other younger men talking to her, and one began to take her out and even came to him for advice in courtship. I was desperately sorry for him and I tried to give him some counsel. He interrupted me: “It’s all right, Geoff,” he said, “We believe that God either gives us what we ask for, or he gives us something better.” That is the logic of our faith in a sovereign Saviour.

Nothing can ever happen to me except through the loving Saviour, Jesus Christ. The preacher of the Sermon on the Mount is in control of my days and my destiny. Gentle Jesus meek and mild sits on the throne of the universe and does whatsoever he pleases. Nothing can touch me except what my loving Saviour decrees. That is the first means of learning contentment.

ii] The second means is being deeply persuaded that this Saviour is working all things together for my good. We may make no exceptions when God makes none. ‘All things’ he says. He leaves out nothing at all. If it is like the earthquake that rocks the prison at Philippi, if it is like the whip that cut into our Saviour’s back, if it is like the kiss with which a mother awakens her sleeping child – all things that touch us must work for our good. Be confirmed that this is so, and when the policeman knocks on your door with a message, or when the telephone rings, or when the doctor’s face is grim, or when it is the worst news you could hear then you may know that whatever other great changes it is going to work in your life they too must work for your good. Give glory to God and resolve, with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” There are times when God seems to have become our enemy, but it is only that he can become our eternal friend.

After all our sleepless nights and heartbreak his grace will help you to say with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” Under all your rejection and loneliness you must conclude, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!” God usually works for our good by means, by the godly credible living and thinking and speaking of his people, by the Sunday services and the prayer meetings. Then God can work for our good without means. A man will suddenly turn up in church never having met a Christian. He simply has an overwhelming sense of having to go to a certain church on Sunday. But how God shows his glory when against means he works for the good of a man. A friend of mine was in a woman’s home, where he should not have been, in the most compromising of circumstances, and there the Holy Spirit convicted him and drove him out and began his passionate longing to be rid of his sin and find a merciful Saviour. Against means God met with him, and in the Bible you find men changed by means which you would think would destroy them. God plunged Abraham into the horror of great darkness before giving the patriarch the best light. Jesus put dirt on the eyes of a blind man in order to give him his sight. He refused the request of the woman of Canaan for a while, arguing against what she so reasonably requested, and all the time this delay was working for her good. I am saying to you that all the paths of God are mercy, and that all things work together for good to them that love him.

Paul does not say that all things will work for our good, but that they do work for our good. The work is on the potter’s wheel, and every movement of that wheel is for our benefit. Not only the angels who encamp around us, or the Christians who continually pray for us, but even Beelzebub and his legions are engaged in this matter. It’s true that that is not their purpose. They think they are carrying on their work of destroying us, but it is God’s work they are promoting nonetheless. All the events that take place in the world carry on the same work, the glory of the Father and the good of all his children. Every illness that comes into your family, every heartbreak you endure, every shame that colours your face, every sorrow in your hearts, every agony in your bones are for your good. Every change in your condition from singleness, to engagement, to marriage, to parenthood, to bereavement, to decrepitude in old age, to senility, to dying, to the grave all turn out for your good. Your fine weather and your rough weather, your ebbing and your flowing, your liberty and your imprisonment, all turn for good. Men and women, see what a harvest of blessing ripens from this truth. The Lord is at work; all creation is at work; men and angels, friends and foes, all are busy working together for our good. Here surely is the foundation on which the apostle was standing when he said that he had learned in whatsoever state he found himself to be content. So, Jesus Christ is in control of my life, and he is working all things for my good.

iii] The final principle on which a life of contentment is erected is this: Thy will be done. I think that that is where contentment grows. There is the commitment of our hearts to that very simple principle that what I want in my life is the will of my Lord, and as long as I know that it’s God’s will I will not quarrel. There is no way that we as Christians can say, “I delight to do thy will O Lord,” and then, all of a sudden, when God gives us his will we are in all kinds of anguish, getting upset, and annoyed, and plaintive.

I know that theologically today this is the clearest response we must take. God is sovereign and he deals with me always and only through Christ my loving Saviour. That’s the most fundamental pastoral truth I can make from this pulpit, but when you are down in the valley of the shadow, or in the vortex of suffering and pain it is them immensely difficult. But I know there is no other way. My heart’s commitment, and the centring of all my emotions on this, that what I want in my life is the will of God.

Very often that is the reason we are not contented Christians. We do not want God’s will. We do not really like God’s will. We want our own will, and I would suggest to you that if we alter our perspectives and stand on that principle, “Thy will be done,” then we would learn many thing We would be taught each day as we rise that it is a day that the Lord has made. We will have nothing but God’s will. Nothing can take from us the providence of God. We will have nothing but the cup that God has filled to overflowing.

You see the marvel of that? “Every day will I bless Thee, and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever.” For each day I am experiencing God’s will for me. Every day I am taking the cup which he has filled for me. He has put it in my hand. Each day is the Lord’s workmanship. It is one that he has made for me. When you feel, “It’s not a good day today” then you say to yourself, “but he’s made it.”

I have to try, when there are tremendous emotional currents running through my life, and my family is muddled, and my friends are disoriented by unbelief, then, in the agony and emptiness of my providence to say, “Thy will be done.” Let me lay hold of it in my desolation: this is the Lord’s will; this is God’s cup; this is the Father’s hand giving it to me. I have to try to keep myself there. This is the day the Lord has made. I will be glad and rejoice in it.

4th May 2003 GEOFF THOMAS