Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)
Sitting in prison, near the end of his life, Paul is able to say, rejoice always. (Philippians 4:4) He has learned to be content in every circumstance of life – whether in need or in abundance. And Paul has been through it all – he was brought up like a prince and given the best education one could hope for, but he also endured ship wrecks, mob beatings, and prisons. Nevertheless, he says rejoice always.
I am not there yet. I am not always content – and have not experienced the hardships Paul faced. I look at others and my heart covets. I get sick and my mind dwells in self-pity. Oh how weak is my flesh.
But Paul says there is a secret to being at peace in every situation – he learned it. Jesus taught him. Jesus strengthens him. This gives me hope, because I am also in a relationship with Jesus Christ. I read Jesus’ words, I pray to him, I find comfort in his presence in my life.
I am reminded of Paul’s words earlier in chapter 1 of Philippians – I am sure, that he (Jesus) who began a good work in me, will complete it. (Philippians 1:4)
So how do I learn the secret of contentment?
By going to Jesus. By reading his words and allowing them to realign my heart and refocus my mind. By meditating on his words and letting them soak into the experiences of my life and color them with his will. And by studying his words, making them the lessons of my life – as Romans 12:2 says, being transformed by the renewing of my mind.
The reality is, I will experience challenges in this life which will rock my boat of contentment. I will fall into the temptation to fear. But Paul tips his hand here too. He reminds us, the Lord is at hand. We are not alone – the God of the universe is listening to our cries, he knows our needs, and he waits for us to call out to him to replace our anxiety with his peace.
I’m going to meditate on this today and practice it, so one day I too can say, I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5b-7 ESV)