10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Phil 4:10-13 (NIV)
In our verses for today Paul shows us that contentment is no natural propensity of man – it is a learned secret (ugh!). Being covetous, grumbling and griping are as natural to man as weeds are to the spring soil. We don’t need to work at producing them in our lives (go figure….all the things that come so easily for me!!!) I don’t need a tutor to teach me to complain, in fact, I could be the tutor! While the weeds of a complaining spirit grow rampantly if not diligently plucked out, the precious graces such as contentment must be carefully cultivated. If we desire pretty flowers in our garden we must give forth the care. Contentment is one of the grandest flowers in God’s garden obtained through the new nature alone. Even in our new nature however, we must be especially careful to maintain and cultivate this grace turning from discontentment as soon as it begins to rear its ugly head. Surely it cost Paul pain to attain the mystery of this great Truth and it will cost us as well. We can’t simply learn it from a book we must learn it through the practice of discipline in our experiences. It is in our choosing of gratitude over grumbling which waters the flower of contentment in our hearts.
“This is a special act of grace, to accommodate ourselves to every condition of life. To accommodate ourselves to an afflicted condition – to know how to be in need. To a prosperous condition – to know how to have plenty, how to be full, so as not to be proud, or self-confident. And this is as hard a lesson as the other; for the temptations of fullness and prosperity are not less than those of affliction and need.” Matthew Henry
God desires for His children to be satisfied with His portion for us. We can rest assured that it is the fittest for us – our crosses and burdens being best suited for our shoulders. Infinite and unerring wisdom has ordained our lots and has lovingly chosen the very best and safest for each of us. If there had been any better condition for us than the one in which we are in, divine love would have put us there. If we were left to choose our own lots we would indeed pierce ourselves with many sorrows – just ask Eve. Yet, the Lord orders all things for our good and His glory. God’s provision satisfied the apostle Paul who learned to remain content in all circumstances. Complaining is an affront to God and a rejection of His loving intent for us. Jeremiah tells us:
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer 29:11 (NIV)
King David writes:
5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Psalms 40:5 (NIV)
“A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is a sandbank; should some one ask, ‘Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel and deviate so much from a straight line?’ His answer would be, ‘Because I should not get my vessel into harbor at all if I did not keep to the deep channel.’ So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession. Some plants die if they have too much sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get but little, you are put there by the loving Husbandman, because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection. Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” Charles H. Spurgeon
“The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.” Mother Teresa
“Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times — it’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times. Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.” Ann Voskamp
Lastly, Paul teaches us he can do everything through Jesus who gives him strength. Guess what? As believers, we can as well (believe it or not). We need only His strength to empower us to be content in any and every situation. It is not merely through human resolve or discipline – alone they will ultimately fail us – but by turning it over to Him day by day. It is by seeking His constant and renewed strength and Presence that we are enabled to be content in all circumstances. I am reminded of our Lord’s Words to Paul when the apostle prayed for the removal of his thorn:
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:8-10 (NIV)
What I glean from this:
• Contentment does not come naturally to me – it must be learned.
• God’s plan for me is good – to give me a hope and a future.
• I must rely on the power of the Spirit to be content in my weaknesses.