Thursday, April 07, 2011

Finding Hope in the Struggle for Contentment

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”- Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13 must surely rank among the most popular Bible verses for athletes, performers and anyone who’s up for a challenge. It inspires faith in the face of obstacles, trials and difficulties of any size. We pull it out for ballgames when we’re behind on the scoreboard. We refer to it when we’re taking on a big challenge at work. And we find ourselves strengthened by this precious verse when facing life trials such as major illnesses or death.

All of these are wonderful, legitimate expressions of faith toward God. However, it might be interesting to consider what Paul had in mind when he penned these eternal words. Perhaps a little more context to the verse might shed some light –

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13 may be applied to the many and various challenges we face but for Paul, it was about the struggle for contentment. And who can blame him? Here’s the picture - Paul is in prison for the sake of the gospel, bounded in chains and under the watch of Roman guards. He has no idea if he’ll get out. He has no prospect of continuing the work he loves.

The fact is that sometimes our greatest challenge is securing true, heart-felt contentment in the midst of a tough situation. It can be elusive and difficult to attain. Perhaps that’s why Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs referred to Christian contentment as a “rare jewel”. If you’ve ever found it virtually impossible to be hopeful and contented, you know exactly what he means. You understand that those impossible situations call for a Savior. That’s where Philippians 4:13 comes in – God has promised to help us gain contentment in those impossible situations.

If you asked Paul, he'd tell you that “doing all things through Christ who strengths me” means that God gives us contentment when we’re in a fruitless situations at work or in life. It dispenses hope when we encounter difficult relationships that aren't improving. It’s about being joyfully satisfied in God even when desperate circumstances show no signs of changing.

Finding hope in our struggle for contentment - that's what Philippians 4:13 is all about.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Amen, ESI! Good words from the word. We live in a society of props. We're propped up by this and that. Anything and everything except God and his promises in Christ. We need more and more to be moved away from that into the green pastures of our Good Shepherd. And learn to live contented there.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted - glad you liked the post and found it helpful. Yes, we often turn to props and distractions rather than God and his promises. May he direct our hearts to turn to him at our points of need