“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness.”
- So I have to admit that Philippians 4:13 is one of those verses we love to pull out and put on T-shirts. I have owned at least three just in high school and college that sported the phrase, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Church camp, Disciple Now, FCA) This is one of the reasons I am loving going through Philippians and seeing the context and background.
- Paul made this statement in relation to learning contentment. Wow! I’m not sure I’ve ever made that connection before. Go back and read verses 11-13. Paul said he had learned the secret of living in every situation – with a little or a lot. The secret is complete dependence on Christ.
- “It is significant that Paul had to ‘learn’ this virtue. Contentment is not natural to most of mankind. In Stoic philosophy, autarkes (‘content’) described a person who accepted impassively whatever came. Circumstances that he could not change were regarded as the will of God, and fretting was useless. This philosophy fostered a self-sufficiency in which all the resources for coping with life were located within the man himself. In contrast, Paul locates his sufficiency in Christ who provides strength for believers.” (Expositors Bible Commentary)
- Did you catch that – the secret of contentment is not self-sufficiency or an impassive acceptance of whatever comes you way. Instead – to be content – is to rely on God as your source of strength in everything. When we realize that we can truly do all things through Christ, our discontent, worry, and fears fade away into hope and confidence in the person of Jesus.
- This is not only the secret to contentment – its the secret of the Christian life. Colossians 1:27b “And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”
- Paul readily admits he had a need and thanks the church at Philippi for their gift. Contentment doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge real needs and occasionally ask for help. However, real contentment is a state of mind more than a statement of the bank account.
- What threatens your contentment lately?
- How would you fill in this blank: If I just had ______________, then I would be content.
- Paul said he learned the secret of being content. (and he could have put lots of things in that blank – freedom from prison, a pardon from the government, more food, security – I have a feeling retirement wasn’t even on his mind….)
- If you were to explain to someone today what God says the secret of contentment is according to Philippians 4 – what would you say in just a sentence?
- Thanks for learning contentment alongside me today! I am learning to fill in that contentment blank with just this: “If I just had JESUS, then I would be content.” And guess what – we do have Jesus – His Word, His Holy Spirit, and His Presence never leaving us. So let’s learn to be content today!
Adoration: Praise God that we truly can do all things through His amazing strength and power.
Confession: Admit at least two areas where you have been discontent this week. (good for the soul is confession so I’ll tell you for me its my kid’s behavior and the state of my house as I’m packing and getting ready for a trip)
Thanksgiving: Thank Jesus for revealing His secrets to us – especially about contentment.
Supplication: Ask God to help you learn to be content with much and with little – in your food, friends, finances, and family.