The apostle Paul wrote, “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. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble … And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:10-14, 19).
In v. 11, Paul uses the word “content.” The Greek word that Paul uses appears only once in the canon of the New Testament (TR Greek text). It means “in no need of support, independent of external circumstance, content with one’s life, and means.”
Why, or more precisely, how is Paul content in his current circumstance? I can assure you, it is not good.
In Numbers 16, we read of a man who was not content with his circumstance: Korach. He leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, with 250 men of renown.
Korach, like all the children of Israel, ate manna, drank water from the rock, his clothes did not wear out, and his shoes were always in perfect order. Further, he was a member of the elite of Israel, the Levites, charged with transporting the Ark of the Covenant as Israel moved, having more direct contact with it than Aaron. Still, this was not enough.
How do we fight discontentment, and keep from becoming a Korach in life?
Paul gives us the answer is in Philippians 4:13, “I have strength to do all, through Messiah who strengthens me.”
Paul knew what it was to be humbled, to be exalted, to be filled, to be empty, to have all he needed, and to be in need. If we are not careful, however, we miss one important point, as Paul writes, “In any and every situation I have learned…”
Contentment was not Paul’s natural condition, it was not imparted to him as a gift of the Spirit, he learned it.
We learn from the Word of God that to be content/satisfied rests on maturing in faith. Contentment is not something we seek, it is something we experience in faith, as we trust in the Living God (II Cor. 1:20).
Contentment, then, is a fruit matured in faith.
Paul reveals this to us in Philippians 4:13 when he acknowledges that it is Messiah who empowers him to do, and endure all things. It is Messiah through Whom all his need will be met, from Whom his strength comes, and in Whom he patiently endures.
Fixing our heart and mind on Yeshua/Jesus keeps us from the attachment to and fixation on things that lead to discontentment, and the rebellious condition of the malcontent, as witnessed in Korach.
Recall the words of Messiah, “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these shall be added to you (Matt. 6:33).”
Or as the author of Hebrews exhorts us, “Let your way of life be without the love of silver, and be satisfied with what you have (Heb. 13:5).”
Dear reader, you will always find someone to commiserate with your dissatisfaction, and even join in your assessment and assignment of blame. Yet, we often do not recognize how blessed we are, until what we have been blessed with is gone, or until something disrupts the normal condition of our lives. Find a voice to remind you of your blessing.
Paul in Philippians does not blame the jailers for his situation, or those offering him assistance. Paul knows that his situation is in the hands of the sovereign Lord. Still, we learn one more valuable lesson. Paul thanks the brethren for their faith, their concern, and the gift to him from their lack; and he is willing to receive it.
When we are faithing on the Lord, contentment, among other things, is a recognizable fruit producing brotherly concern and affection, and this is an antidote for the Korach disposition.
In the struggle, Messiah is: your strength, your provision, your endurance, your peace, and your salvation.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Ps. 46:1)a psalm by the sons of Korach.
Be well. Shalom.