Monday, August 27, 2018
Philippians 4:11-13 … 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 4:13 is one of the top ten quoted Bible verses in Christianity. I learned it as a young boy in the King James Version – “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We have been taught to apply it to just about every situation we have been in that has brought us hardship, trouble, challenge, and risk. Whenever we are asked to step out of our comfort zones we use the encouragement of God’s strength found in this verse.
But the one area of life that receives minimal, if any, application of the truth of this verse is the very context of Paul’s application when he wrote it. He was speaking specifically about learning contentment with our current financial position.
Our materialistic society has so influenced us that we have lost the concept of contentment. Instead we work harder so we can spend more on ourselves and improve our standard of living. The Christian church of our western civilization is generally not content, and we have prioritized possessions above the purpose of Jesus Christ, which will always be to seek and to save the lost at any cost.
I once heard a touching story about a poor woman with two children. They had no beds, and very few clothes. In the middle of winter, the house they rented was cold and drafty. The mother took the door off the cellar and set it up across the corner where they crouched to sleep, so that some of the draft and cold would be blocked. When the mother complained about their conditions, one of the children whispered to her, “Mom, what do other children do who don’t have a cellar door to put up in front of them?”
Jesus had much to say to us about contentment and not focusing on things. When Jesus had been in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights without food, He must have been extremely hungry when Satan approached Him! He said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus did not respond to this temptation, so Satan attempted to touch His pride. When that failed, Satan “upped the ante” and offered Jesus greater things than food; He offered the world. He said, “All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
With this statement, Satan finally arrived at the real issue for all of us: “Fall down and worship me.” When sin is stripped of its glamour and laid bare, it’s true nature is revealed. Sin is the dethroning of God to make things, (living or non-living), a god in our life.
Satan can offer you only things; nothing more. But things cannot bring true life and peace. But we are foolish. We look for life and peace in things. But Jesus says that we can have life and peace and joy with or without things. Contentment is the product of faith and trust in the provision of God to meet all our needs. Jesus makes each one of us an incredible and unmatchable offer – perfect peace as a result of pursuing Christ’s purpose.
Paul accepted what Jesus had to offer and said of himself, “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. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Things are not the secret and cannot bring life and happiness, because they are temporary. Only a foolish person spends his life acquiring temporary things while neglecting the eternal life Jesus offers.
Jesus once told of such a man. The man acquired so many things that he had to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. With a sigh of relief, he said, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said of him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
We continue to buy into the “buy happiness” philosophy of our culture. We spend far too much of God’s resources that He has entrusted to us on things that we are convinced will bring us more social status, security, and satisfaction. God has made us rich according to the standards of the rest of the world so that we can build His kingdom, not ours. If our day-by-day life is consumed by acquiring things, we have accepted the lie of Satan that somehow things will fulfill our life. Why do we strive to build treasures for ourselves in this life when all of them will be destroyed, and only what has been stored as a treasure in heaven will last? Why do we work so hard and spend so much to impress our neighbors and improve our earthly status when those same neighbors are dying inside to know that Jesus will save them? What kind of witness to eternal life are we being when we spend so much on this temporary life?
The secret to contentment is this – no matter what our situation or condition, we can know the strength of God to endure it if we are committed to the cause of Christ. This means not only in word and thought, but in activity as well. Of what value is a declared commitment to Christ if there is no determination to do the work of Christ?
Only fools say they believe but don’t act on it.