Not that I am speaking of being in need, 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. Philippians 4:11-12
These powerful and often-quoted verses about contentment are found surrounded by verses that gives us additional instructions about the secret to living a life of contentment.
Let’s take a look at some of these and how they can help us to be content in every situation, a task which is difficult for most of us.
> do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7
Earlier in this chapter, Paul talks about the reality of anxiety and offers us an antidote. We are not to be anxious about anything. How do we accomplish such a difficult task? By praying, asking God for what we need and doing so with a grateful heart. To begin, prayer is the foundation of freedom from anxiety and the peace that only God can give. We are to pray without ceasing, in every situation to keep us from anxiety. Praying and then following the direction God gives you in prayer will keep you from anxiety. You will rest in the fact that you are obeying God so whatever happens is in his hands and all things will work together for your good, no matter how difficult the outcome may seem.
Secondly, we are to seek God for what we need. The word “supplication”, used 60 times in the Bible, means more than just ask. It is from a Latin verb meaning to plead humbly. The sense of the word includes both an earnest, heartfelt asking and a sense of humility. Jesus reminds us to seek, ask and knock, knowing that our Heavenly Father wants to provide for our needs. In the Parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke chapter 18, Jesus teaches us that “ that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” by telling of a persistent widow who kept seeking what she needed until she got it. We are to go boldly before the throne of grace to find what we need, knowing that it is the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus that makes it possible for us to do so. Our humility is a response to the love and grace of God which amazingly makes us his sons and daughters.
The third part of our safety from anxiety involves an attitude of gratitude. Our prayers for more must be accompanied by gratitude for what the Lord has already given us. Remembering God’s past blessing, care and provision for us as well as his present keeping of us, makes us realize that just as he has done, he will continue to do. We have no need to be anxious having a Father who has already proven himself faithful and true. We see in how he has cared for us a Father who loves us so much and wants the best for us. We can rest in that truth and find peace instead of anxiety. By resisting anxiety in this life, we can find contentment through trust in God and his care for us.
> Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Bad thoughts lead to more bad thoughts and bad behavior. Thoughts are powerful and as children of God, we must be very careful to guard our thoughts from assault by the enemy of our souls. We are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. As we are being conformed to the image of Christ, our thoughts should reflect his thoughts and his character. Therefore, Paul wants us only to think on praise-worthy topics. When your mind starts to wander elsewhere, stop it by asking God to help you. Keeping your thoughts on what matters to God will keep you in a state of contentment.
> I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Finally, I think we can see that contentment is hard to find in Western culture. So much of the loudest parts of culture flaunt discontent as a way of life. As a Christian, fighting for contentment is a day-to-day or even a moment-to-moment concern. Without Christ, this is impossible to overcome. But with Christ who is our strength, we can do all things. We can be content with what we have right now and where we are right now through the strength of Christ. More than that, we can everything else God asks of us including being free from anxiety, praying with gratitude and keeping our thoughts rightly focused all through the strength of Christ. What reason then could we have to not be content today? We serve a God who loves us and strengthens us in every trial and in every victory. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
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