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: 11b-13, ESV).
Secrets. These automatically elicit raised brows, piqued interest, and focused attention. They are most definitely attention–getters!
Now, it’s one thing if one whose life’s circumstances have been placidly serene claims to know the key to contentedness or the ability to help another toward that end. Credibility, or at the least genuine self-awareness, would surely be an issue there as untested contentment really isn’t contentment at all. The construct itself inherently contains at least an element of adversity, hardship, misery, or affliction. But it’s quite another thing when the claimant has recently or is currently and contentedly traversing the valley or riding out the storm. When the latter speaks of the aforementioned, attention is granted. (We also know of those who struggle being satisfied when things are going well due to fear regarding potential problems: hence, the need for knowing how to properly “abound.”)
With all this in mind, the ESV translation of the above Philippians passage states that the Apostle Paul knew “the secret” of being content, and his experiential repertoire was quite comprehensive as far as hardship, stress, and persecution goes. He was imprisoned, flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, homeless, sleep-deprived, famished, parched, mocked, rejected, troubled, perplexed, worn-out, burned up, and cast-down. But Paul knew God’s character, promises, and sufficiency in empowering him to do whatever He called him to do (Philippians 4:13), and his aim was to not only know Christ, but to be progressively more like him (Philippians 3:8 & 10). Paul’s storm-spawned testimony as a believer could be succinctly summed up in one word: Surrender.
So herein lies both the clincher and the secret from one with the authority and the credibility to teach us. Not only are his words, but his life is instructive. Know surrender; know contentment. No surrender; no contentment. Suffering and storms will come either way, but suffering for the noblest purpose of becoming more like Christ sounds much more attractive and even practical to me. What do you think??
Melissa Smith is the Women of Character Coordinator at America’s Keswick. She has the privilege and honor of ministering to the Colony men’s wives and girlfriends, the Barbara’s Place women, and some women from the community who God brings to America’s Keswick for help or care. She and Bill, her husband of 18 years, have four adopted children ages 17 to 24. Her fervent desire is to point women to Christ and His sufficiency, provision, and promises.