Online Bible Commentary
The Secret to Finding Contentment
Philippians 4: 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)
Paul wrote this letter to the Church at Philippi in Macedonia, which is now northern Greece. It is thought that he wrote this during his first Roman imprisonment when he was under house arrest.
The time of the writing is about 62 A.D. Epaphroditus visited him in prison and Paul sent this letter back with him to deliver it to the church.
At the time of Paul’s letter, Philippi was a principal city. Paul established the church on his second missionary journey.
Philippi was abandoned in the fourteenth century after the Ottoman conquest. The current city of Fillipoi is located near the ruins of Philippi.
The church at Philippi was the first known church in all of Europe and it supported Paul financially. In many ways it was a model church.
Paul begins this passage by writing “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” (v. 10). Paul is not reprimanding the church at Philippi for not supporting him financially, for they had supported him generously in the past.
Instead, he is saying that he understands that recently they have not been able to help him because of circumstances beyond their control. He is, actually, rejoicing that they have been thinking of him all along.
Paul continues “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (v. 11). He assures them that he is not in financial need. He has learned the secret of being content, no matter the circumstances.
Next, Paul writes “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (v. 12). The literal translation from the Greek of the first sentence of verse twelve is “I know and to be humbled, I know and to be abound”.
As in any ministry, Paul has been humbled and then he has had his times of plenty. He does not allow either circumstance to affect his contentment.
Paul’s contentment is found in working for the Lord, not in the size of his pocketbook. As should be the case with any minister, he is completely focused on doing the Lord’s work, and trusts the Lord to provide his needs.
Paul is now about 62 years old. He has accomplished much for the Lord since his conversion twenty-seven years earlier, in 35 A.D.
He has already accomplished his three missionary journeys. He has been persecuted, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned three times and has endured other hardships.
He was imprisoned in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and is now under house arrest in Rome. He would be imprisoned a second time in Rome before being beheaded by Nero, possibly early in A.D. 68.
Paul, despite his hardships, still is contented in his life. This would be hard for the average person today to understand. The secret of Paul’s contentment is revealed in verse thirteen.
He writes “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (v. 13). The literal translation of the Greek for verse thirteen is “All things I can do in the strengthening me Christ.”
When Paul writes that he can do “all things” he means that he can do all things that are within the will of God. And He can do them through the strength of Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit, who lives within him, and who lives within every Christian.
So, how do we apply this passage to our own lives? The key is to look at how Paul was living.
Paul was completely sold out to Christ. He was living for Christ and every thing he did was done in order to please Christ.
Whenever we live to please Christ, we also can find contentment. When we make God the boss of our lives, he molds us, changes us.
He changes our wants. Therefore, if we do not have the things we had before, we don’t miss them. We don’t want them.
Our goal has changed. We are no longer seeking the things of this world.
We are now seeking to always be in the center of God’s will. We are seeking to please Him. This is the secret to finding contentment.