Thermostat or Thermometer?

A thermostat regulates the temperature in the surrounding areas. It changes conditions when it needs to be changed. A thermometer simply tells you what the temperature is. It doesn’t change anything – as a matter of fact – it changes with the temperature.

As a leader – husband – mom – worker – student…whatever role you find yourself in currently, you have the choice to make of which one of these things you are going to be. Certainly as a follower of Jesus you have the opportunity to be one or the other.

The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was a thermostat. Instead of his faith wavering with every changing circumstance, he was steadily influencing his surroundings. He didn’t make excuses as to why he couldn’t make a difference. He didn’t find a “way out” of doing what he was called to do. He never saw himself as a victim despite being shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned…

So, the way I see it, I have a choice to make. Maybe, if you’re reading this, you do too. You can choose to be a victim of your circumstance and allow the temperature around you to dictate you OR you can choose to be a victor despite the circumstances and regulate the temperature around you.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians (which he wrote FROM PRISON), gives us some insight in how to do be a difference-maker instead of becoming indifferent.

Philippians 4:9-13

Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. 11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

It is interesting to me that Paul uses the word LEARN several times in this passage. In other words, it wasn’t something that just came naturally, but over time he learned what he was telling these people. He learned (maybe the hard way at times). He learned (maybe by failure). He learned (out of frustration). He learned (by realizing that God actually was God and he was not). My point is, if Paul had to learn it – then, most certainly, so will we. Contentment, joy in difficulty, being a difference-maker – doesn’t always come naturally to us but it can be learned once we learn that God is who He says He is!


Google can’t answer all the questions. Siri can’t always tell us where to go. Some things we learn through experience and most certainly we learn by soaking up the Word of God.

So in order to be a THERMOSTAT in an uncertain world – Paul sets an example that I am learning 3 main things from.


Contentment is not passivity or complacency. A complacent leader, disciple, parent (insert what you are) is unconcerned about others and so comfortable that they forget the mission is to influence and change their world for the glory of God.

If we are content – we are STILL MOVING and blessing others wherever our lives take us. Contentment is not an escape from the battle. Contentment is an abiding peace and confidence in the midst of the battle. No matter what “hat” you wear and where life takes you, Paul says the key is to keep going – being content with where you are because you realize that even in difficulty we have a calling. The calling doesn’t get put on hold just because life gets hard.

The word content actually means “contained.” It is a description of a person whose resources are CONTAINED WITHIN so that they don’t have to depend on a weak substitute without. So we are called to move forward – to continue our calling wherever we are in life. We do this not based on our own sufficiency and strength but based on the sufficiency of Christ in us. Remember Paul wrote this letter from prison, but he is still moving forward and changing the temperature of the air for the Philippians. His example would encourage them that no matter the circumstance, they could be on mission.


None of us are exempt from the unexpected. It happens. We are called to minister in those unexpected moments. Paul said that he had learned contentment “whatever the circumstance.” Places of uncertainty are the exact places that prove our faith. God ministers to us in His grace by prompting us to trust in His wisdom, strength and provision. Paul had LEARNED that no matter where he was or what came His way, he was ok because God was God!

Our problem with flexibility and contentment is that we are often looking for the wrong thing. You see, Paul wasn’t pursuing happiness (which depends on changing circumstances), Paul was pursuing his God and the calling that God has placed on his life. With that pursuit comes great joy for Paul as well as us because the purpose is much greater than fleeting happiness. That joy and contentment is constant in poverty or prosperity, planned events or unplanned events, outside peace or outside chaos. Paul knew that real peace leads to joy and that is only found in trusting God with everything. As a matter of fact, he had just written about it in Philippians 4:6-7.


There is no doubt that as Paul is writing this, he has specific scenes in his mind from his life. He says, “I know both how to have a little and I know how to have much.” Circumstances for Paul had changed time and time again. Logistics. Friends. Age. Geography. His gave did not change. He kept looking at Christ. How did he stay fixated on Christ? Simply put, he realized that Christ was all he had that could be counted on. Jesus was his firm foundation. How do we know this? Because at the end of the list of ways that he has learned to be content, Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

This is a phrase that we have often relegated to excelling at hitting a ball or throwing a tight spiral. But there is a quiet strength associated this verse that transcends sports and permeates our calling. No matter what comes our way, we can live in the strength of Christ. “All things” here refers to the fluctuations of circumstances. What we learn from this is that Christ empowers us as believers to live in God’s will no matter what. Paul’s life demonstrates this and brings up a paradox that is true for all of us as disciples. When we are weak – we are strong in Christ.

You see, just as nature depends on hidden resources, so do we. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. As a matter of fact, the most important part of the tree is the part you can’t see much like the most important part of our life as followers of Christ is that part that we know is there but only God sees!

Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life. We as believers have all the power within us that we need to be ready for the demands of life. We have within us what it takes to lead – to love – to serve – to make a difference – to be a thermostat for the kingdom of God.

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