November 17 I Thursday
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” —Philippians 4:11
If we met someone who told us, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,” how would we respond to them? We may be a bit cautious and even cynical towards them. If we did end up believing the person, we would probably conclude that their life is pretty easy and cushy, without any kind of pressure that we have to live with—the disappointments, temptations, fears, family, friends and neighbours.
Yet, this is exactly what Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians. He says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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” (Philippians 4:11-12). In other words, Paul’s circumstances are irrelevant to this secret of contentment that he discovers. We may rationalize that if Paul was writing about this, then he must have been in a pretty good environment, maybe on vacation. But the reality is that Paul was writing to the church in Philippi while he was in chains at a Roman prison for about five years (two years in Caesarea, two years in Rome and almost a year getting from Caesarea to Rome). Even so, Paul learned the secret of being content.
However, that is not all. Paul encourages his fellow Christian brothers and sisters, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). In case we thought Paul wrote the wrong word, he says it twice: “Rejoice!” It may sound unreasonable to rejoice just because somebody told us to. If we were having a bad day and things were going wrong, the last thing we want is for somebody to say to us, “Hey! Rejoice always! Smile!” As we look closely at the text, we will realize that Paul did not simply say, “Rejoice always!” he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” This is a key we do not want to miss because what makes our rejoicing something completely different to any human activity is the part, “in the Lord.” Altogether, the only way to live within our circumstances and learn to be content in it is in the Lord. Hence, Paul concluded, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
May we find that the answer to contentment in this life is not found in ourselves but in the Lord, whom we can rejoice in whether in the good times or bad.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I choose to rejoice in You whether in the good times or bad. Thank You for reminding me that contentment is not a condition of circumstances but of my heart towards You. Amen!