That Verse Before
by John UpChurch, Crosswalk.com Contributor
“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 4:12
I’d rather live a Philippians 4:13 type life. But that verse before it always gets me. I’d rather jump right into the “doing all things through him who gives me strength” without slogging through the “content in any and every situation” part. The second verse makes for such great posters, but now, when I read it, all I can think is “whether living in plenty or in want.”
Talk about a buzzkill.
But God’s plans come in a larger size than my earthly satisfaction. He wants my sanctification, my being-made-more-like-Jesus-ness. He wants me to see that His riches don’t come with dour-looking presidents or expiration dates or limited warranties. They aren’t earned by the sweat of my brow. Instead, His riches come pouring down in my contentment.
Paul told Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), and he’s driving at the same thing here in Philippians. “Strength,” according to the world, boils down to laying claim to the most stuff—power, model spouses (emphasis on the plural), houses, and influence. But those who think that way can never be content no matter the situation. When their “strength” disappears, they wilt. Some do whatever it takes to get back to where they were; some end up in rehab; and some see no reason to live. Some strength, huh?
Jesus doesn’t play by our rules, though. His Beatitude bunker busters make that pretty clear (see Matthew 5). The weak, the poor, the hungry—those are the ones who receive the treasures. You see, Jesus does want us to get to Philippians 4:13, but to do that, He has to demolish our strongholds by taking us through Philippians 4:12. We’re strong through Him only when we’ve learned to clear the detritus of what we think we need in this world and see Him for the all-sufficient treasure that He really is (Colossians 2:3).
We can do all things through Him who strengthens us. But to get to that point, we have to learn satisfaction in His “all things,” the plans He has for us. That’s because it’s His strength, not ours.
Intersecting Faith & Life: God’s plans for us don’t always send us down the paths we might choose. Okay, they rarely do. That’s why true contentment becomes so vital for the Christ follower. And the only way we can get there is to die and die and die. Every day we die to the things that supposedly make us strong in this world. Every day we kill the need to have more, to be more. Every day we die for Him.
You are strong—right where your contentment in Christ begins.
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