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.
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.
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).
16 And this also is a severe evil— Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? 17 All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger. (Ecclesiastes 5:16–17, NKJV)
Laboring for the wind. That is what Solomon said a person does who hoards wealth. He should know; he was extremely wealthy (Ecclesiastes 2:8). He observed that riches never satisfy the soul, yet they certainly increase problems (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12). Solomon observed how misfortune takes away the miser’s storehouse (5:13-14). Like Solomon, you will not take one bit of your earthly wealth with you when you die (5:15). Why then should you make the abundance of earthly riches your motive and aim in life? It is truly tragic to watch the money-driven person trying to catch the wind, deceived in the hope that by tearing down his barns and building bigger ones, his soul’s longing for contentment will be satisfied (Lk. 12:18-21). Genuine contentment comes from being “rich toward God,” regardless of the amount of money and things one possesses (Luke 12:21-23, 31; Hebrews 13:5). Be rich toward God. That perspective enables you to lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew. 6:19-21). “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Proverbs 11:28).
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.