Read: Philippians 4:10-23
Consider: In today’s reading from Philippians 4, Paul takes the opportunity to thank the believers in Philippi for the gifts that he had received from them. Paul was in prison in Rome and the Philippians arranged for Epaphroditus to deliver their gifts to him (you may remember that we encountered Epaphroditus a few days ago). Paul describes their gifts in this way: They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18b).
While thanking the Philippians for their gifts, Paul makes it clear that his contentment does not depend on their gifts. If it had, then Paul could have made them feel guilty for not meeting his needs earlier. He does not do this, but takes time to explain how he is content: 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 (4:12).
If we backtrack a little into the earlier part of Philippians 4 we can learn the context in which contentment is mentioned. Paul says to the Philippians : Do not be anxious about anything, but in very situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (4:6). Having told the believers in Philippi not to be anxious, he is able to speak of his own experience in being content (4:11-13). Paul is using himself as an example of how a Christian can live, in such a way that they are dependent on God for meeting their needs.
I’ll let you into a secret! When Paul says: I have learned the secret of being content (4:12), he actually tells us what the secret is. He says: I can do all this through him who gives me strength (4:13). Paul is not saying that being content is easy, whatever the situation. He is saying that even if it is difficult, he can rely on God’s strength to get him through.
Notice what Paul says in Philippians 4:19 – And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. God will meet our needs and not our wants. It is much too easy to focus on what we want, rather than on what we need. How do we know when we are content? Earlier in the chapter Paul says: And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (4:7).
Pray: Father, may we learn to be content, trusting in you for our needs. Forgive us when our requests turn to things we want, rather than what we need. May your peace be evident in us, even when our circumstances might indicate otherwise. Amen