Can you and I declare the above statement?
What about in those times when life is stressful, less-then-ideal, or just downright rotten? What if you have a job to work, a test to study for, and on top of that, nothing to wear? What if a friend has hurt you? What if a loved one has passed? What if you're lonely?
Is it possible to be content in all circumstances and in any and every situation?
The writer of Philippians 4:11-12 was a man named Paul. Now, lest we think Paul's life was all roses and cupcakes, making it oh so easy for him to be content, here is a bit about Paul: after going from persecuting Christians to being a follower of Jesus, Paul began to travel and start churches. To him, nothing compared to knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:8). He wrote many of the New Testament books to encourage believers. While he was doing all this, he was thrown in prison on several occasions, was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and there were times he went without food (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). At the time of writing Philippians 4:11-12, he was under house arrest.
Yet here Paul is, declaring he has learned the secret of contentment. Okay, so spill. What is the secret?
Well, Paul does spill, and from God's Word we can learn the secret of being content:
Rejoice... That can be real hard to do when things aren't going well. But in these verses, we are given the reason to rejoice always: The Lord is near. Jesus is always with you, even when life has turned upside down.
To rejoice is to be glad and take delight. This doesn't mean being glad of a hard situation or a pain in our life. But despite those, we can be glad and take delight in Jesus and the promise that He is with us.
Release... In Philippians 4:6, we are commanded not to be anxious, or worry. That's a tough one. There's a lot about which we can worry. It may be finances or health, or going into a new situation, or what other people think of you. Worry takes a toll on emotions and uses a lot of energy, without actually accomplishing anything. Worry makes a person weary.
What do we do instead? We release worries to God by prayer. We bring our requests to Him, trusting He will provide and take care of us, as He has promised.
In Philippians 4:6, just after the command to present our requests by prayer and petition, notice a key phrase: with thanksgiving. Our prayer time should not just be us requesting things of God. Just as we are to rejoice in the Lord always, we should also be thankful always; thankful that God is mightier than any problem, sin or shortcoming.
Rejoicing and thanksgiving go hand in hand. As we rejoice in the Lord, we become aware of His character and all He has done for us, and this leads to a grateful heart. As we give thanks to Jesus for His blessings, this leads to rejoicing in Him.
Renew... Think about such things. Replace worrisome thoughts with thinking on the things of God; that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Worry takes our focus off Jesus and places it onto situations, possessions or people. By thinking on the things of God, found in His Word, we may be refocused on Christ.
Rest... Mixed in with the commands of Philippians 4, there are incredible promises. One is the promise of peace. And not just any peace, but the peace of God. This peace doesn't just come around when everything is fine and dandy and flee when life gets messy.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 says rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks are God's will for us. When we are in God's will, in step with His Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will come forth: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:16-25).
Here is one more promise from Philippians 4: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (v. 13) Paul writes this right after declaring he has learned to be content in all situations.
True contentment comes from Jesus; that's the secret, and that's the promise. Rejoicing, prayer, thanksgiving, thinking on the things of God found in His Word, all bring us to a greater knowing of Jesus, a deeper relationship with Him. Situations in life may seem to make contentment impossible, but when we choose to know Jesus more, despite our feelings or circumstances, the impossible happens, and we are content in Him.
p.s. This is the third post in the series Fulfillment in Jesus. If you enjoyed it and found it helpful, you may want to read the first posts: The Empty Places and Desire and Delight
The post A Secret first appeared on The Overflowing.
All Scriptures taken from the NIV, copyright 2011