“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Philippians 4:11-12 NLT).
I have read this Holy Scripture many times and still struggle to understand it. I am confused how Paul can essentially have the same joy with plenty or with little. I have traveled to several developing countries and have witnessed wide spread poverty beyond anything in the U.S. As I reflect back on these trips and my interactions with the local people, I recall their pure joy. I wonder if their joy is due to the absence of stress. Most of us would be stressed out if we woke up and found ourselves in severe poverty. However, there seems to be an inner peace that these kind souls have that is lacking in the developed nations.
I wonder if this inner peace is due to a lack of stress. We are stressed out today because of a lack of contentment, but Paul learned how to be content with nothing except God’s grace. We learn in 2 Cor. 12:9, “ But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is a high standard for us in the modern world. We have an inherent drive for more – money, fun, power, control, etc.
The apostle Paul shows us another way to live. “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
Do not be deceived and think that Paul lacked ambition. This is the same man that took the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire and wrote many chapters of the New Testament. God taught him contentment. His ambition did not wane due to his contentment and neither should yours. They are not mutually exclusive to any of us.
Contentment isn’t laziness, complacency, or apathy. It is living life now and not waiting for something better (job promotion, new bass boat, etc.) to come along. We all want to make professional and personal progress, and that is fine. We should not let our yearning for something in the future preclude our ability to enjoy our blessings of today. Contentment is the ability to find happiness in your current situation.
I think Paul was using his knowledge of contentment to advise the Thessalonians in 5:18 by writing, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It is extremely important that he is urging us to give thanks in all circumstances and not for all circumstances. We are not to give thanks for tragedy, but we can still be thankful in the tragedy because His grace is sufficient for us.
Prayer: Dear God, We give you thanks and praise in all circumstances because we know that you will bring about good from the bad. Help us dear Lord to be live life today because tomorrow is not promised. Each day is a blessing from you and we will surely rejoice and be glad in it because we know that you walk with us in good times and bad. We love you, need you, and praise you. Amen.
Todd Shupe is a native of Carrollton, IL, a small rural town in west central Illinois. He earned his BS and MS in Wood Science from the University of Illinois and a PhD in Wood Science from Louisiana State University. He has a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma and is a Green Associate in LEED. He worked as a Professor and ISO 17025 Lab Director for 20 years and now works as a wood science consultant at www.drtoddshupe.com to continue to help companies bring new building products and wood preservatives to market, conduct in house training, improve product quality and production, and serve as an expert witness. Todd is currently in training to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the direction of the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is concurrently in training to become a Lay Minister under the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, fishing, and writing inspirational Christian blogs at toddshupe.com and todd-shupe.com.