When you get to the core of it, I believe that we all want peace in our lives. We really do not want to worry about the circumstances and situations we face. It is important that we do not respond with complacency but instead pursue contentment. I know this is easy to say and yet difficult to actually practice. We battle constantly with attitudes of dissatisfaction and the “what ifs” of life. Just like complacency, these thoughts and attitudes are the direct opposite of contentment.
As we have studied through the book of Philippians, it is clear that Paul has faced many difficult circumstances like opposition, conflict, and even imprisonment. Despite the situations he finds himself in, Paul identifies three key concepts in our passage today that help him have real contentment.
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, 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 4:10-13
First, Paul recognizes God’s providence – the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situation for the fulfilling of His purpose (think of the story of Joseph from Genesis 37-42). God’s providence caused the church at Philippi to have a great concern for Paul.
Second, Paul acknowledges the power and provision of God. Through humility or limited resources, and as problems arise, we run to the Lord for help, strength, and hope. It is easy to recognize God’s provision when we are lacking. More difficult is acknowledging that God provides when we are prosperous. Too often, we stop relying on God when things are going well. When paychecks are coming in, when we have peace in the family, and when we are not concerned or worried, it is easy to forget how God sustains us. Paul, however, realizes that regardless of his circumstances, having little or much, it is God who gives him the strength to be content.
Finally, Paul demonstrates a proper attitude through his circumstances. The progression seems simple and yet takes much effort to accomplish. When we know that God is in control and desires to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8), then we can recognize that God’s power sustains us through the good and bad. This can and should motivate us to have the proper attitude toward all of our circumstances.
Paul demonstrates the attitudes of appreciation, celebration, and anticipation through his varied circumstances. He is thankful for the sacrifice of others and recognizes their gracious actions and attitudes toward him. He celebrates how God has provided in times of plenty and how God will provide in times of need, as well. Finally, he anticipates both the fellowship he will have with other believers and the grace that God provides him with each day.
I pray that each of us might learn to approach each of our circumstances with the same attitudes of appreciation, celebration, and anticipation so that we will have genuine contentment regardless of what life and this fallen world throws at us.
Identify one of these three attitudes to work on this week so that you can become more content and dependent on God’s providence, power, and provision.
Pastor Brian Freerksen