“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13 ESV
Paul says in these three verses that he has learned to be content in whatever situation, and in every circumstance…Whether things are going great, or whether times are pretty slim. Paul says he is just fine, he is content. As I read these words, a sobering thought came to mind:
“I pretty much suck at both of those.”
When things are going great, when I have plenty, when life just doesn’t seem like it can get much better, I get prideful. My mind tends to wander from God. Even in my Spiritual life, it seems that even while I am focusing on God, there is a very strong ‘me’ element that I am seeking to show off. “Look how blessed I am! Look how much I love the Lord! Check out how awesome my life is!” You get the picture. When God is blessing me, and seems to be showing me favor in a supernatural way…I can’t help but want to tell the world. This in itself isn’t bad…except for most times I think I am doing it in order to puff myself up, rather than to glorify God. Basically I suck at ‘abounding’.
When things aren’t going so great, and the past few weeks in all honesty have been great at pointing this out, I suck equally. When life just seems pretty cruddy, I get upset, angry, down in the dumps, just all in all unpleasant. I wouldn’t say I get angry at God, but I do get upset and annoyed at the situation. Whoever seems to be giving me the most problems, or standing in the way of my perceived ‘happy life’ is generally the target of my annoyance and sometimes anger. I pray…This is the best thing to do, but generally I think the prayers are misguided. It’s either for God to make my circumstances better, or to remove obstacles, so that I can get back to focusing on Him. Maybe I don’t even word it like that, but in my heart, you know the place that God can see anyway, I think that is what I’m thinking.
So basically, yeah, I suck at both being brought low, and abounding. Why? What does this mean? What is God trying to tell me?
Well, the why is easy. I’m a dirty, rotten, no good sinner, who is focused too much on himself. What does this mean? What is God trying to tell me? Well I think those two questions have the same answer. I need to be focused on Christ more. You see, Philippians 4:13 is such a misquoted, so often, taken out of context verse. The point of, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” isn’t that God is going to bless whatever we do, or will enable us to do anything we want…The point is being content in Christ. Knowing that wherever God has you, be content, knowing that where God has you at that moment is the place where He wants you to glorify Him. When things are going great and can’t get much better…Give God the glory and the praise. Understand that is all by the grace of God that you are where you are, and it could change at any moment. When things are tough, like they so often are…Give God the glory and the praise knowing that this is an opportunity to show people how awesome, and mighty our God is. Look for what God might be doing in that situation. Use that situation bless someone by showing them how even in the midst of trial our God reigns. Even when things are bad, Jesus is still on the throne. Whether you are rich, poor, healthy, sick, happy, or sad, God is still good, and Jesus is still Lord. In all of these circumstances we are called to obedience, and we are called to give Him the praise. I know this is much easier said than done…As my life and my deeds show.
It still doesn’t take away from the truth. Our source of everything is Jesus Christ. Do you know why Paul could be content in any situation? It was simply because He was a man saturated with and by Christ. The entire focus of Paul’s life and ministry was Christ. We are not given a calling that is any different. We must be, and we can be just as Christ centered, just as Christ saturated, as was the Apostle Paul. The same Holy Spirit that dwelt in him dwells in us…The same Holy Spirit that called Him to serve Christ is the one that has called us to do the same.
My problem, and your problem, isn’t that we need a life change, or a change in our circumstances…Our problem is that we need to be looking to Jesus.
Have mercy on me Lord, for I am indeed a great sinner….Help me to see you Jesus as you truly are, all sufficient and all satisfying. In the name of Christ I ask….Amen.