We all want to go there something awful, but to stand there takes some grace. — "We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are," Rich Mullins
Libby and I moved to Dallas from the Midwest. Wow. Culture shock. In the Midwest, I was fairly content. But in Dallas, Porsches replaced pickups, homes were huge, and women flaunted diamonds bigger than your fist (or so it seemed). I started to feel discontentment take root in my heart. Everywhere I looked, it seemed I was missing out.
Then one day I was reading Philippians, and I came across this exact passage. In it, Paul says he’s learned the secret of contentment.
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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13, emphasis mine)
I’ve heard this verse applied a hundred times, but it’s almost always separated from its context. Let’s think of some ways we’ve heard it applied:
Have troubles at work? You can do all things through Christ.
Facing a challenging prognosis and treatment? You can do all things through Christ.
Are your kids giving you a hard time? You can do all things through Christ.
Do you feel apprehensive about an upcoming exam? Christ gives you strength.
But have you ever heard this verse applied to contentment? Powerful insight awaits those who seek the context.
Listen, you can be discontent and poor; you can be discontent and wealthy. You can be content and poor; you can be content and wealthy. The secret is the same no matter your circumstance: Christ in you is content; surrender to Him and you will be too!
The secret isn’t the amount of cash available to you. No, the amount of money you have has nothing to do with the level of contentment you enjoy. Contentment is a gift; it isn’t something we can muster up in our own strength. But:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, emphasis mine)
Patient Father, I pray that by Your strength I will always possess an attitude of plenty. But if, in my humanity, my contentment weakens, then I ask that Your Spirit would overwhelm me with abundant grace, over and over. Amen.
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