Reflections on Philippians 4:10-19
Contentment simply means “the state of being happy or satisfied” (Webster’s dictionary). However, the question that immediately comes to mind is; “Can one be consistently satisfied or content?” Possibly the simplest analogy in an attempt to understand contentment comes from the daily communal cycle of enjoying a meal. We all understand the sense of satisfaction after enjoying a favorite dish with no desire to eat any more. However, following a few hours or so we discover the nagging sensation of a “grumbling stomach” and the need to satisfy the hunger with yet another meal. Therefore, our daily life routines have been structured around this cycle of contrasting contentment and discontentment. As we have grown to understand experientially that contentment is temporary we also begin to recognize that, with ever changing circumstances, even our moments of satisfaction are dusted with discontent, knowing that it will not last but we will have to go chasing again.
You may be surprised to know that there is a better kind of contentment; one that the Apostle Paul speaks of as persisting despite changing circumstances. In referring to the very basic physical needs of life he says; “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” (Php.4:11-12).
So why then, is it such a difficult state to find, even for those who are in Christ? Look at verse 11 again: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” It is not an immediate reality upon hearing the secret or even entering into a relationship with Christ, but it is a process of learning; it is not automatic but rather a potential consequence of a relationship with the Lord. The various contrasting experiences referred to by Paul provide insight into his learning, where the Lord’s provision has proven sufficient. They include “facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (vs.12). However, the extent of God’s provision in meeting every situation is emphatically referred to when Paul says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Php.4:19).
These verses show that the Lord is dependable, no matter what the circumstance. His strength is far greater than any circumstance or extreme we may face. We may not recognise just how strong the Lord is in order to depend on him fully, which is how such life experiences become our teacher; the Lord proves His sufficiency and we grow in our dependence upon Him.
Speaking theologically, we find ourselves within the context of the Doctrine of Progressive Sanctification, the process of ongoing maturity as a result of obedience to the Lord; it is trusting in His sufficiency for all of life and godliness. Furthermore, we also discover more of the Sovereignty of God, in that he works his rule and reign throughout all areas of our life. He is not taken by surprise when disaster strikes but rather refines his children to be dependent on him and so truly content. Perhaps most of all we see the Sufficiency of Christ. The Christian’s dependence and trust in God does not just rest on an abstract notion or theoretical faith, but it is so firmly centred on the person of Christ, the life he lived, the death he died and the life he brings. What Christ has achieved for the believer and what Christ offers all who believe, is far more sufficient than can be found anywhere else. Sufficient, not in that it is only just good enough, but that it is plentiful, running over and satisfying, a contentment that cannot be undone.
Ps. Deon Lombard
Being a servant of Jesus makes it a delight to reflect and write about all that God has revealed about Himself in His Word.