11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13, NKJV)
Contentment is a learned trait. Whether one lives in a land of abundance or scarcity, contentment does not come easy. Defined as being “sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances” (Thayer, 85), contentment looks beyond momentary situations. It has learned that life is “more than food,” and the body is “more than clothing” (Matt. 6:25). Contentment is an expression of faith in God, our great Provider, and Sustainer (Matt. 6:26-33). Whatever external forces press upon it, contentment fixates on Christ, not on self (v. 12-13). It looks beyond the moment into eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Paul had learned contentment during his experiences, and so can we. Our strength to persevere through deprivation and to resist self-indulgence in times of plenty comes from Christ and our faith in Him. Whatever state in which you find yourself today, remember to trust Christ and order your life according to His principles of truth and righteousness (Eph. 4:23-24). By doing so, you can be content in Christ, come what may.
18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20, NKJV)
The human lot in life is labor. Solomon sees work as a blessing from God, not a burdensome punishment. “It is good and fitting” to work and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor (v. 18). Solomon sees the increased fruit of labor (“riches and wealth”) as a heritage in which a person can rejoice (v. 19). God designed work to keep us busy as we produce the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and others (v. 20; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). But beware. The temptation to love money is strong – Loving money leads to ruin (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Do not turn labor’s increase into the covetous endeavor and purpose of your life. Wealth does not define your life’s value and purpose (Lk. 12:15). To make that mistake (and to leave God’s will out of your life) is tragically foolish (Lk. 12:16-21). Keep a contented outlook on labor and its reward. Work diligently. Trust God (not riches), be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)
David’s life was in jeopardy from the enemies of Israel as well as Saul, Israel’s king. David faced his fear with trust in the Lord. This did not mean David recklessly put himself in the way of danger (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14). His faith directed him to live with humble trust in God. God’s word shaped David’s faith. Thus, David celebrated (praised) God’s word. It gave him confident assurance amid danger. With trust formed by God’s word, David would not be drawn away from God by being afraid of men. David repeats his confidence in God in verse 11 of Psalm 56: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 draws Christians’ attention to this passage, where it is linked to contentment. Our faith in God is to be so resolute that external forces will not shake us from its moorings. Our faith is in God, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5; Deut. 31:6). Faith overcomes the world with its threats (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Faith fashions fear into contentment as we trust God and obey His word (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). Do not live in fear. Trust the Lord, celebrate His word with thanksgiving, and be content in Him.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9–10, NKJV)
Solomon gives counsel concerning how to live life (“under the sun”) to the fullest. In his conclusion he tells us by fearing God and keeping His commandments we fulfill our primary purpose of life (Eccl. 12:13-14). Within this context, the counsel he gives in today’s passage will help us live a contented life without regret. First, live joyfully (v. 9). Marriage is given by God as a joyful arrangement of man and woman. Surely, we should learn to rejoice together in it (Phil. 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 3:7). Secondly, be thankful for “your portion in life” (v. 9). Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, count the blessings you have from God’s hand (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 1:3). Thirdly, do your work diligently (v. 10). Accept the tasks of life and meet them with dedication, not complaint (Rom. 12:11). Fourthly, live with the knowledge you are going to die (v. 10). Death comes to us all. Accept that and prepare for the judgment that follows (Heb. 9:27). How one chooses to prepare for death will mean the difference between a life filled with regret, or a life headed toward the eternal reward (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Rev. 21:4).
16 A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (Psalm 37:16–17, NKJV)
We use the wrong measuring stick when we measure success by material prosperity. The “prosperity gospel” promotes riches as if they measure God’s presence and approval. More than one religious movement tells us the strength of their bottom line shows God’s approval of their teachings and practices. This is a purely material assessment of spiritual things – a completely futile and false standard of what God accepts (1 Cor. 1:26-31). The poverty and itinerant life of God’s Son, Jesus, disproves such human wisdom (Lk. 9:57-58; 8:3). True, righteous men and women can be wealthy. With God, Jesus said, it is possible for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom (Matt. 19:23-26). The trouble is, riches become a great temptation to leave God out of the picture, and not to become “poor” for the sake of the kingdom (Matt. 19:20-22, 27-30). The riches of the wicked will not save them. God has not promised to make you wealthy. His word says to measure success according to righteousness. May we learn to be content with “a little” from a glad and grateful heart, instead of running after prosperity at the expense of righteousness. Godliness with contentment is great gain, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)
Contentment is a learned trait. Paul knew how to live in humble surroundings and how to live in prosperity. He had learned to be satisfied, whether he had a little or a lot. His faith trained him to learn what is truly valuable in life and what is only temporary. He knew life consists of much more than what we eat, drink and wear (Matt. 6:25). Everything circumstance of life presented Paul with an opportunity to rely on Christ and the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10). As we depend on the Lord by trusting and following His word, dissatisfaction gives way to faith’s contentment. Live for heaven each day, content to do “all things through Christ” and the strength that He supplies.
6 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7, NKJV)
Peter has just taught that God favors the humble but resists the proud (1 Pet. 5:5). This becomes our incentive to be humble before God. We do so by casting our cares on Him, knowing He will bless us in His way and in His time. We may be tempted to become anxious and run ahead of God and His revealed will for our lives. We must be careful to follow His word, which is itself a mark of humility. Humility also implies contentment with God’s way. Jesus said, “he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14). Let us be content to rely upon the Lord and not ourselves. He will never fail nor forsake those who are content in Him (Heb. 13:5). He cares for you.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
This verse does not mean I can lift 1,000 pounds as long as Christ is my strength (and if not, then that must be proof I am not relying on Christ to strengthen me!) Clearly, there is a context to Paul’s confidence, and his context must be honored when we appeal to this verse for solace. Paul was discussing contentment in the midst of joyful thanksgiving that the Philippian church had sent him some much needed material support (vss. 10, 14). Paul noted: “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He had learned to be content living on meager means as well as having abundance. He was content whether he was hungry or full, and whether he had plenty or was in need (Phil. 4:12). It is this setting in which he knows he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Like Paul, we can endure whatever obstacle life sets before us when we learn to be content and rely on the strength of our Savior.