"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Paul says that he has learned the secret of being content. His contentment was not dependent on his circumstances. He had been in some incredibly tough times, yet still had joy. In fact, when he wrote this passage, he was in prison. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he experiences more difficulties and stress than most people ever endure, and yet, Paul was able to say he was content.
I want to suggest that there are three facets to the secret of contentment. In Philippians 4:13, Paul says, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Every day, Paul totally relied on the Lord for the strength to face whatever came his way. He knew that “apart from God he could do nothing” (John 15:5). In fact, Paul grew to realize that it was because of his weaknesses and hardships that he was growing in faith and Christ-like character (See 2 Corinthians 12:10). Trials humble us and can bring us to a place of deeper dependency on God. This in turn helps us grow in maturity. I encourage you to read Philippians 3. It is here that we see Paul’s passion to know Christ and His power. The more he experienced the love and power of the Spirit of Christ, the more he endured hardships with great joy.
The second part of the secret is woven throughout Philippians; he continually gave thanks and rejoiced in whatever God brought into His life (Philippians 4:4-7). He said that the act of rejoicing is a safeguard to us (Philippians 3:1). When we give thanks in the midst of pain and suffering, it protects us from spiraling into a state of despair and hopelessness. Giving thanks in these situations is not ignoring or suppressing our troubled emotions. It is okay, and even healthy to honestly admit our sadness and grief. Giving thanks is an acknowledgment by faith that God is good, present, and in control. Paul gave thanks while in prison because He knew that ultimately, God’s will and plan is good. It may not seem that way to us, but God is sovereign over all things. He has an eternal plan that not even Satan can thwart. His plans will ultimately bring His Kingdom. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).
A Moment to reflect:
Are you content with where you're at right now? Take this time to sit and reflect on the different aspects of your life (relationships, work, service, activities); are you able to honestly say you're content? If not, what do you think is keeping you from walking in contentment?
How can you put into practice Paul's first two ways to walk in contentment (see above)?
Take some time to read/meditate on Philippians 3. What do you see about God (His character, attributes, ways He interacts with us); what is the example that Paul demonstrates for us? What ways can you respond/practice these things today?
By Sue Corl - an excerpt from For Such A Time As This: Walking Through Crisis
*A moment to reflect is added for this post.