Friday, July 02, 2010
The Lesson Of Contentment
This declaration by the Apostle Paul is in the context of him rejoicing over the church at Phillip's ablity to once again help with his support. (vs: 18)
It is important to understand the word "want" in verse 11. We most often use the term to denote desire but the word has another meaning. To be deficient or short; to be needy or destitute. Thus when Paul declares, "Not that I speak in respect of want" he is not speaking of desire but of deficiency. He is declaring that it is not from a state of destitution that he rejoices in the renewal of their care for him.
We then have revealed to us the reason why Paul did not speak because of being destitute. It was because of something that he had learned. "in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content". Paul was satisfied whatever his condition. He claims to have learned this. If we are to experience this we must learn it. It does not come natural. We come into this world kicking and screaming and demanding our own way. We are only happy when everything is just right. Paul had learned to be satisfied in whatever state (condition) he found himself. If we can learn this lesson our present condition will not dictate the level of our joy. We will be the same people no matter our circumstances. Our satisfaction will not be determined by how little or much we have. It will be determined by the state of our heart.
If we are not careful we will think contentment is achieved through bettering our circumstances when in reality it is achieved though bettering our heart. It is not what we have or what we are experiencing in life that makes us content but rather what our attitude is about what we have and what we are experiencing in life that makes us content. Contentment does not start on the outside and work it's way in, but like everything else it begins on the inside and works it's way out.
Paul then goes on to say in verse 12, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound . . . ."
To be abased: that is to be in humbling circumstances. To do without, to be deprived.
To abound: that is to be in prosperous circumstances. To have plenty, an over abundance.
Two times he used the word "know". He knew how to be abased and how to abound. He knew how to do both because of what he had learned. Learning brings knowledge. There is a direct connection between learning to be content and knowing how to be abased and how to abound. If we don't know how to do both it is because we have not learned how to be content whatever our circumstances.
There is a way to be abased. It is to accept the circumstances without complaint but with thanksgiving and joy. It helps to remember that any good thing we receive in life is because of mercy and not merit. If we find our circumstances to be pressing at times we should rejoice and be thankful because we have learned in whatsoever state we find ourselves to be content.
There is a way to abound. It is to realize the favorable circumstances are a reflection of God's mercy and grace and thus are to be received with humility. Abounding circumstances should result in the abounding of our liberality. Our abounding is our opportunity to be a blessing.
While these principles may seem hard to apply at times if we will learn the lesson we will discover that our lives level out. We cease to be subject to the highs and lows. When we are abased we rejoice. When we abound we are humbled. We cease to be mastered by the circumstances of life and instead master the circumstances by His power.
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Help me Lord to learn to be content that I might know how to be abased and how to abound!