Zev Porat

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Contentment Through the Strength of Jesus Christ: Philippians 4:11b-13

By James Christopher Powell

Recently I have spent some time reflecting on the life of the Apostle Paul. We know Paul as the great convert to Christianity who lived out his days, in freedom and imprisonment, taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ first to his own people—the Jews—and then to the Gentiles of the first century. We also know Paul as the author of most of the New Testament books. In some regards we elevate Paul to hero status because of the great things he did as an instrument in the hands of Almighty God. Certainly, we should honor the lives of those who surrender to the leadership of God no matter the scale of their influence or public nature of the task assigned by God. However, my reflections and my pondering upon the life of Paul led me to ask some questions. For example, had God shown Paul, in the infancy of his faith, the struggles he would face on his mission endeavors would he still have followed God? Would Paul have embraced the persecution from his fellow Jews? Would Paul have embraced the many imprisonments? Would Paul have embraced the excruciating beatings?


Honestly, if Paul would have known the hellish infliction coming his way when he started his ministry, I am sure he would have at least paused before setting out on his life journey. Some might say this is crazy for me to assume Paul would have had reservations, but let us remove the hero badge from Paul and understand that Paul was a normal human being who would not have embraced punishment like a Roman flogging under his own strength and desires. Yes, Paul had great faith in Jesus Christ to sustain him, provide for his needs, encourage his soul, and lead him to his next mission but that faith, however, had to grow from a seed just like the faith of a believer in Jesus Christ today must grow from an infant stage. Thus, through Paul experiencing the daily toils and struggles of life with Jesus Christ as his solid foundation, Paul grew into the great man of the faith we know him as today. By Paul allowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to permeate the direction of his life, Paul accomplished all that God had for him and became a lasting witness to the power of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.


In Philippians 4:11b-13 (NIV 1984) Paul wrote, "…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." The immediate context of this passage deals with gifts, probably financial gifts, the church at Philippi sent to Paul. Paul expressed gratitude for the church renewing their concern for his needs and meeting those needs, but Paul also stressed the point that in Jesus Christ he (Paul) had no needs because Christ supplied for his needs and taught him to be content regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, when Paul claimed to understand having needs and having plenty he was speaking from experience. Moreover, when Paul wrote about being hungry and being well fed he wrote as one understanding those ideas from personal experience. On his walk with the Lord, Paul experienced these four ideas and many more but the point Paul made in Philippians 4:11b-13 was that regardless of his situation, Jesus Christ was his contentment to be at peace during his current situation and Jesus Christ was his strength to endure his current satiation.

This principle still holds true for believers today. Like Paul when he started his journey with the Lord, he had to grow in faith and understanding of the Lord. As Paul journeyed with the Lord, allowing the Lord to take control of his life and future, Paul experienced struggles and seemingly overwhelming situations. However, by leaning on the Lord as his source of contentment and strength Paul grew in his understanding of the Lord, grew in his love for the Lord, and became the giant of the faith we know today. You may be facing some daunting situation in your personal life. You may be experiencing some turmoil in your family. Or, maybe you are like so many other believers who continue to put their heads down and push forward in life but you have bills, a spouse, kids, other family members, jobs, and other situations of life that are seemingly overwhelming at times. Let me encourage you with the principle of Philippians 4:11b-13: Jesus Christ is the answer to finding contentment in whatever your circumstance and Jesus Christ is the strength to making it through whatever your circumstance. As you journey with the Lord in this manner you will learn about a relationship with Jesus Christ on a more intimate level and you will grow into a great man or woman of God.

James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years. 
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.

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