When my laptop goes on the fritz I phone my friend Christopher. He does in minutes what I would need hours to do. Why? Because he knows how. He has tech know-how.

This morning I was surprised to see a reference to “know-how” in Scripture. St. Paul writes, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:12).

Paul, of course, isn’t talking about tech know-how. He is talking about life know-how – about how to navigate life. And he says he knows how to be brought low and how to abound. He knows how to face “hunger and thirst [and be] poorly dressed…buffeted and homeless” (1 Cor. 4:11). And he knows how to receive “full payment, and more… [and be] well supplied” (Philippians 4:18).

How does he know how? He has learned how: he has “learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger”. It’s something he learned.

Learning is almost always step by step. Think of learning algebra. Or the piano. Or a second language. Or how to swim. It takes patience, and work. Paul (then Saul) learns in a sudden, blinding moment that Jesus of Nazareth was not (as he thought) a now-dead false prophet. He was the very much alive Lord of heaven (Acts 9:3-8). Paul learns that in his turning-point encounter on the road to Damascus. But he doesn’t learn “how to be brought low and how to abound” in a moment. That takes time. And patience. And work.

Decades ago some Christian friends of mine lost their life savings to a financial scam. Poof. Gone. So what did they do?

They learned. They learned know-how. Like a child learns to play the piano, they learned to keep their eyes on God. They learned – patiently – to reset their goals: Goals for their kids’ educations. For much-loved family travel. For their some-day, hoped for retirement. They learned, through practice and patience, to turn away from self-pity (“Poor us!”), bitterness (“I’d like to get my hands on that guy!”) and regret (“We were fools!”). They learned how to downsize, and they learned to rejoice in their downed size.

Today, some 40 years later, they are faithfully and fruitfully serving God.

They never got the money back.

But they learned what my friend Christopher knows: know-how. Tech know-how? No: Life know-how. What Paul learned, and from the same source: the very much alive Lord of heaven: How to be brought low, and how to abound.

They’re OK without the money.

© 2018 by Dave Perry

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