Philippians 4:12-13 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 everything through him who gives me strength.
This passage could be labeled, “The Secret to Happiness.” We see verse 13 quoted often, usually out of context, but don’t see verse 12 mentioned very often at all. It certainly doesn’t agree with the “Prosperity Gospel” people! They like to focus on verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” again taking that out of the total context of this chapter. Paul went through a lot, as he cataloged in 2 Corinthians 6 and elsewhere, but he seems to have complained fairly little, and the secret is right here. Not too many people can say the second half of verse 11 in all honesty: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” It is clear to anyone observing humanity objectively that we create our own happiness by our attitudes. If you have a sense of entitlement, you will be unhappy any time you fail to get what you think is “your due.” If you are eaten with ambition, you will be unhappy any time you feel you aren’t “getting ahead.” It has become a cliché, but it is true nonetheless: it all boils down to an “attitude of gratitude.” Paul didn’t demand things of God, but received them with joy, thanks and praise. Even physical ailments didn’t stop him in that, because when God didn’t heal him of a persistent problem after Paul had prayed earnestly three times, but rather said, “My grace is all you need,” Paul’s response was, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) People in general strive for happiness, when God has already provided all we need, if we will recognize and receive it.
I slip from this at times, but in general I think I must have a better handle on it than the average person, because people are impressed by how much I enjoy life. I have disappointments, certainly, but in general I am very aware of God’s overwhelming grace toward me. I am most often frustrated when I can’t or don’t perform as I feel I should, messing things up by my actions. I am very much of a work in progress! Every once in a while I get fixated on something I would like to have, but I have learned over the years that temporal things are just that, temporary, and choose not to let myself be eaten up over it. It is very true that I can’t maintain that attitude on my own, but God indeed strengthens me, just as He did Paul, and in Him I can do it.
Father, thank You indeed for Your grace toward me. Helping me understand the secret of contentment is a huge blessing! I do certainly want to see more harvest in Your kingdom; I don’t want to be content with people going to hell! Help me be fully submitted and available to You at all times and in all ways, not only for my own peace and joy but for the blessing of those around me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!