“I have learned to be content…” (Philippians 4:12)
Imprisonment. Floggings. Mocking and insults. Close to death. Paul was a real person in the Bible who experienced all of these things and more in a world where Christianity was just beginning. Well, it really wasn’t just beginning — the coming of Jesus was all part of God’s big plan to rescue the people in the world from an eternity apart from Him. Paul was one of Jesus’ first messengers. It wasn’t easy.
Paul wrote a very important letter to the Christians in Philippi, a city in modern-day Greece, whom he had visited previously. They had sent Paul a financial gift and he was, in part, writing to thank them for their generosity. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.”
When our children were just learning to walk and talk, they often used that famous word that almost every toddler uses — “mine.” As adults we have become more sophisticated but, if we were to be honest, we also would say that we protect that which we perceive belongs to us. We naturally have difficulty sharing because “things” and money become important to us. We think they will bring happiness and the satisfaction in life for which we are looking.
Paul was not concerned about the temporal stuff around him more than the mission God had for him. Paul’s mission and purpose in life was a greater priority than the opportunity he had to focus his attention on the luxuries wealth could buy. You see, Paul lived that life before He met Jesus Christ but he intentionally chose to live for the One who really mattered.
Will you take a short test? Ask yourself, “Do I often think about the next thing I can buy? Am I running out of money at the end of the month or before my next payday? Are finances a topic of conflict in my home? Do I often think about winning the lottery?” If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be misplacing your life focus.
Paul experienced both a life of luxury and a life of need. He makes it very clear in the Bible the real issue is neither. For Paul, what mattered was contentment — being satisfied with God and what He provided knowing that God was really all he needed.