An anchor and a buoy could not be more opposite in their purpose. One is meant to weigh down and hold something fast while the other is meant to lighten and to lift. One increases gravity, one increases levity. The gospel, in its infinite scope and mystery, is both.
No wonder when speaking about the wonders of the gospel an awed Paul broke into spontaneous praise. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33).
Life is a churning sea, marked with the high and low ties of prosperity and adversity. Seasons of unexpected or long awaited success, health, productivity, ease and joy can literally cause us to float seemingly weightless, walking on the clouds. On the other hand, seasons of suffering, depression, failure and sickness weight us down so that we begin to drown under the waves of heaviness.
God, in His infinite creativity and wisdom, provides a solution for both in the same gospel. The word gospel has become threadbare and can mean different things to different people, so allow me to be clear. When I say the gospel, I mean the beautiful offer beautifully defined by Calvin as “Christ clothes with His gospel.” The gospel that is both anchor for our levity and buoy for our gravity is a person, the person of Christ wearing the Good News He came to provide for us by His life, death and resurrection.
Christ standing outside of time throws us the gospel rope He suffered to make available to His children. The rope is available at all times to all people who trust in Him, as an anchor in times of prosperity and a buoy in times of adversity. Our job is to grab the rope and hold fast, clinging as if our life depended upon it. We follow the Gospel rope to contentment in Christ, a contentment that is not based on circumstances or affected by failure or success, sickness or health, ease or agony.
Paul, one deeply accustomed to the undulating waves of gravity and levity, describes for us union with Christ and empowerment by the Spirit as His twin secrets of contentment in his letter to the Church in Philippi He so loved.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV).
Paul borrowed two words from the Greco-Roman culture in the above passage. The first is the word translated content and meaning self-sufficient. To be above circumstances by sitting loosely in them and finding sufficiency in oneself was a celebrated virtue in the surrounding culture; however, Paul borrows the term and in Christ drenches it in new meaning. He is not touting self-sufficiecny but rather the all-sufficient Christ who dwells within the believers.
The second is the Greek word mueo translated learned the secret. Paul borrowed this word from the initiatory rites of pagan rituals, whereby people were invited into some mystery that others did not know or to which there was no common access. Again, Paul dunks this pagan Word in Christ, giving it a whole new meaning. Christians have been initiated into a mystery, but one that is an open secret available to any and all who are in Christ without qualification, save faith in Him.
The contentment offered us in Christ, this lifeline that is simultaneously anchor and buoy, has been purchased at an infinite price. Christ, in His perfect life, undeserved death and amazing resurrection initiated us into the life of God. Are we grabbing the rope? Are we doing the hard but worthwhile work of following the line to the lap of Christ? Are we helping or holding those who cannot find or don’t have the strength to hold the line right now?
Oh, Christ, captain of our contentment, help us to find the rope you throw for us, be it an anchor line or a buoy line. May we, by your power working mightily within us, climb the line toward contentment in you alone. May the watching world wonder at the secret into which you have initiated us by your blood. Amen.