11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Philippians 4:13 is another one of those pesky “coffee cup” verses (I’m starting to think I should start a “coffee cup verse” series). We see many athletes adorning themselves with this verse. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s so catchy, it so empowering, it’s so motivating. But, like we asked last week, what does it mean?
Context, Context, Context
As I have said before, many in the church lack solid hermeneutical foundations, most important of all context. We should interpret Phil. 4:13 in light of verse 11 and 12.
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
The strength Paul is speaking of is a strength to bear things. He speaks in verse 12 of how he has been brough both high and low, he’s been fed well and has gone hungry, and in every circumstance he has learned to bear these things by the strength and power of Christ.
I like to point this out because I think the misinterpretation we often hear can have negative impact on our lives. We most commonly hear the explanation of this verse as “I can literally do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But what happens when we fail? Is Christ not strong enough? By no means. So you see that when we misinterpret such an encouraging verse, we begin to build a false representation of Jesus.
But, in the words of our men’s pastor, that’s not what I came here to tell you.
I want to focus in on verse 11. I think learning to be content in all things is something that we must prioritize. Biblical contentment is an incredible gift. Think of it, in prison Paul had learned to be content. We are not talking of a modern jail cell, we are talking about a pit that was dug with very little to know sunlight, and most likely dead bodies from time to time. What do we see Paul doing in these situations? Learning to be content. Learning to trust in the sovereign will of his Creator. I love how John Calvin communicates the way in which we should face these situations.
“Whatever my condition may be, I am satisfied with it.” Why? because saints know that they thus please God. Hence they do not measure sufficiency by abundance, but by the will of God, which they judge of by what takes place, for they are persuaded that their affairs are regulated by his providence and good pleasure.
Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 124). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
I often hear pastors say that the safest place for us to be is in the will of God. He has orchestrated our very lives. He knows what is next and even though we know this truth we become anxious about the next day. We should be content with what is here, now, no matter what the present circumstance. One commentary communicates this clearly.
In 4:10–14, Paul is concerned with the relationship between what we have/experience and how content we are—with emphasis on the latter in 4:11. He is not talking here about some required element, but a desired one. Having experienced both little and much, both hunger and being filled, both lack and abundance, Paul has learned an important lesson. Being content is not contingent upon having all that you want, but on being thankful and satisfied with what you have. The problem is that the more we get, the more we tend to want. If our contentedness is contingent upon our desires being met, then we are destined to be dissatisfied.
Runge, S. E. (2011). High Definition Commentary: Philippians (Php 4:10–20). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
When we are not content with our circumstances and situation we ar demonstrating that we don’t trust what God has provided, whether it is much or little, is sufficient enough. We should not seek to gain more in our circumstances (whether more be more things, money, comfort, etc.), we should seek contentment, and “godliness with contentment is great gain” (2 Tim. 6:6). We should trust in the promise of Joshua 1:5, “I will not leave you or forsake you.”
This week I challenge you to learn contentment in all circumstances. Learn that what God has provided in every circumstance is sufficient. Practice godliness (works done to God’s glory) with contentment and you will have much gain.
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.