May 29 2020
“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 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 4:11-12).
The Apostle Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote these words. There were those who were preaching the gospel from envy and rivalry, thinking to afflict Paul in his imprisonment. They were probably ‘sneering’ and expressing, ‘Look at this ‘great’ preacher languishing in prison’. Paul was realistically facing the prospect of death and no ‘deliverance’ from his situation in prison when he told the believers that his expectation was to honour Christ in his body, by life or by death. Even in this difficult situation, Paul continued to minister to the christians in Philippi and he enjoined them to rejoice always in the Lord.
With this background in mind, we now focus on verses 11-12 on the subject of contentment in the Lord and how it was possible for Paul to know this secret of contentment in his dire situation. The first thing we note is that contentment with God and HIs ways is not dependent on outward circumstances. In our present covid-19 crisis, all would agree that the circumstances have been challenging: there are those who are mentally affected in being restricted at home; there are those who are anxious about not being able to meet their loved ones in person; some are concerned about the prospect of losing their jobs and income and the list goes on.
Is it realistically possible to be content in such circumstances? The Apostle Paul is telling us that no matter what the circumstance, he has learned the secret of being content. One major factor that contributes to this is that Paul had learned to be content with whatever God wanted for his life; he was not looking for what he personally wanted but he was satisfied with what God allowed in his context. So whether it be a context of abundance or hunger, plenty or need, it did not matter to him. Whether he lives or dies, his preoccupation was to honour God in his body. Often, we believers are determined to have our own way rather than choose God’s way; God however may choose to bless us in HIs own way and not ours! If we are challenged when the deciding will is not ours but the Lord’s, then we would not enter into the contentment God has for us.
Real spiritual contentment in the Lord can grow only under circumstances that can produce discontentedness. It is pressure that reveals what is really in us. We can then learn that all things come to us from the hand of a loving heavenly Father who knows what we need, that His provision is always wise, and His will is always best for us. We discover that it is in the loss of what is important or familiar to us that our contentment is tested and the result could yield true spiritual growth and maturity.
Of course, when we suffer loss, pain is unavoidable but it is the way of God’s grace to use that senses of loss to bring us to a new contentment with His love, and a new stability and maturity in serving Hm. The Apostle Paul learned that deeply; hence he declared “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21); “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For HIs sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ .. “(Philippians 3:8).
Contentment in the Lord only comes when we surrender our all to Him and in faith and trust, we learn to love Him and HIs ways, especially in the ways He deals with us and what He allows in our lives and circumstances. If our ambition is to glorify Him whatever the situation, HIs grace would always be sufficient and contentment in Him can take root in our lives and hearts.