“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”—Philippians 4:11–12 (NKJV)
Today’s passage presents to us a very interesting and difficult quality to master: contentment. It’s an age-old struggle for mankind, one that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. You see, Adam and Eve were told to stay away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God warned them if they ate of this tree, they would die. But the serpent tempted them, telling them if they ate from this tree, they’d be like God! The covetousness of man then took over, as they wanted something they believed they didn’t have—even though they did because they were created in God’s image! They had become discontent with the amazing and abundant blessings of God and decided to disobey Him to do it.
This is such a serious issue to God that He put it in the Ten Commandments—“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17 NIV). Needless to say, this is a major struggle for humanity. But Paul had learned to be content in the Lord, to be able to rejoice—to have joy—regardless of his circumstances.
You see, in 2 Corinthians 12 (NIV), Paul describes an amazing vision he received from the Lord, one that no one else had been given access to. And in verses 7–10, he said, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul wanted to convey a lesson to the Philippians as he expressed his gratitude. That lesson is, whether we have nothing to our name, or we have an embarrassment of riches, God’s grace alone is what satisfies and suffices. It should be more than enough for us to experience joy, peace, and contentment. Even if we have nothing, we have everything because His grace is sufficient!
1. How do you think Paul learned to be content?
2. What do you believe is the secret to contentment? What is God saying to you personally through this passage?