Tuesday, December 11, 2012


For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

While many Christians are quite familiar with this verse above, we tend to separate the very last sentence from the rest of the context in which it is said. We simply say:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
I used to believe this verse meant that whatever I wanted in my life, God would make it happen if I just had enough faith. Instead, the verse is saying that God will give me the faith and the strength I need to be happy and content – even if He never gives me what I’m asking for.

See, in the original context, Paul is talking about being content in every situation – whether in plenty or in want. He is not trying to tell us that we can do anything we like as long as we have enough faith. Usually we quote this scripture as a mantra for getting the things that we hope God will allow us to have. But, when Paul talks doing all thing through Christ he's speaking of trusting God so completely that his circumstances have no effect on him. His peace is not dependent upon his circumstance. His confidence in God is not changed by the environment he's in. He is fully resting on God and his joy is not influenced by what people say about him or how much money is in his pocket.

A better paraphrase of this verse might me: "I can endure anything life throws at me, even if I never get my way or live out my dreams, because the power of Jesus lives in me and all of my hope is in Him alone."

Now that is more like it. Paul wants us to understand that he’s discovered a real secret of the Kingdom of God. It’s how to endure suffering and to be filled with joy no matter what our circumstance might be.
Elsewhere, Paul revisits this secret contentment, saying:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:6-10)

Here, Paul flips things around to make a point about how our lack of contentment can rob us of our joy and plunge us into “ruin and destruction.” So, what should we do? We should strive to love God and to obey Him and to be content with all that He has already provided in His mercy.
I remember praying to God once for an incredibly lucrative opportunity to come my way. As I reasoned with God about this I said, “God, I know I don’t deserve this blessing…” and then the thought immediately came to me, “You’ve never deserved any blessing in your whole life.” So, then I changed my prayer in midsentence and said, “Ok, God, I just ask you to open this door for me, if it’s your will.”

Our attitudes should be the same about the blessings we receive from God. If we have food and clothing that should be enough for us. Everything else is a bonus.
There’s another popular verse of scripture that we tend to divorce from its contextual relation to contentment:

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Take the inverse of this statement for a moment and you’ll see how powerful it really is. What if the author of Hebrews had said, “God may leave you and forsake you one day, therefore you’d better grab as much money as you possibly can and continually seek after more and more.”

If we are always seeking contentment in our stuff, or in getting rich, what we are saying with our actions is that we do not trust God.
The fact that God won’t leave us and will never forsake us is meant to teach us to let go of our stuff and  to trust Him with everything. Only those who doubt God’s faithfulness and enduring love will seek security in the things they own.
See, God has promised to never leave us or to forsake us. Therefore, let us rest contentedly in our Father’s arms knowing that He is right here with us and that He has nothing but the best in mind for those of us who love Him and place our trust in Him alone.


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