Misused and Misapplied, or, The Secret of Contentment
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10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. 11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship. Philippians 4:10-14
Today we’ll be looking at a familiar passage of Scripture which also happens to be one of the most misconstrued and misapplied verses in the Bible. I like to think of this verse as, say, a steering wheel in a car. It’s part of a whole and it has a certain important function. But what if I took the steering from the car, and started tossing it up into the air shouting, "Look! It’s a frisbee!" or "Look! It’s a UFO!"
People would look at me funny! “No!”, they would insist, “you’re using it wrong! That’s a steering wheel and it belongs in your car!” A similar thing happens with one verse in today’s passage. Folks wrench it out of place, start tossing it around and calling it something else.
We're referring to verse 13: “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”
No doubt you’ve seen that phrase on shirts at a 5k, as a basketball team’s motto, or on posters in a student’s bedroom. But the Truth is that these Holy Spirit inspired words aren’t saying that you can win the ball game, or climb the mountain, or get the job through Christ who strengthens you. But you can endure, and that’s what it means in a nutshell.
But wait a minute – Paul says “all.” So what is the all? Does all mean all? At this point we are constrained by the context. When Paul says “all” he means any and all situations wherein he might be dirt poor or filthy rich, whether times are good or times are hard. The "all things" are basically all the things life throws at him to knock him off kilter and steal his peace.
This statement by Paul is about gaining godly contentment, not worldly achievements. It’s certainly not about winning – as so many want to believe – but instead it’s about what Christ has won. It’s more about what Christ has done, than what you can do.
And whether you’re rich or poor, persecuted or pampered, the challenge is to be content. Can you be content with little? Can you be godly when you’ve had to tighten your belt? Can you be sick and poor and not be bitter about it? The answer is that you can do hard times through Christ who strengthens you.
On the other end of the spectrum, can you be content with a lot? Can you be well off and remain godly? Can you be the model of health and remain compassionate and attuned to the needs of others? Would wealth corrupt you? The fact is, you can be well-off and still remain content in God, through Christ who strengthens you.
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecc 7:14)
If God is sovereign and chooses at different times and for his own purposes whether we enjoy financial freedom or woes, persecution or ease, health or illness – we can rest content.
Do you know what happens when we as believers are content in our Savior? We prove the Gospel to be true and we become inspiring examples for others to follow.
(Be sure to listen to this entire message if you have the time; you'll hear about a hatful of reasons why we can be content in Christ. Just CLICK HERE to listen.)