The Expository Files



Contentment Godís Way

Philippians 4:10-12



ďI rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for meÖNot that I am speaking of being in need, 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.Ē (Philippians 4:10-12)


Paul wrote this because his Philippian brethren had sent him a financial gift. The theme of Philippians is joy, and Paulís joy was stoked in this text because his brethren had revived their love for him (4:10), which was evidence of their good hearts (4:17). But in vv11-13, Paul makes sure they understand that his joy does not hinge on his circumstances. Whether they sent him the gift or not, neither his mission nor his mood would be derailed.


Paulís circumstances were mostly terrible ever since he was converted in Damascus (see 2 Cor 11 for a catalogue of Paulís suffering). Yet even in the worst of times, he did not obsess of over getting his circumstances changed. His answer to poverty was not to pray for riches. His answer to being brought low was not to pull himself up by his bootstraps. Paul knew that God really wanted to change his heart, not his circumstances. This is contentment Godís way.


We do a lot of praying on behalf of our circumstances. If health is bad, we pray for better health. If finances are tight, we pray for financial relief. If life is hard, we pray for the hard thing to be removed. There is definitely a place for those requests in our prayer life. But there is little lasting value in achieving contentment through perfect circumstances. For one, itís basically impossible. How much of your life can rightly be called perfect? Even if you had a spell of perfection, how long did that last? Contentment Godís way is far better. If God could get inside us and change our hearts so that we can learn to be content no matter our circumstances, this is a far deeper and more meaningful peace that not only helps us get along right here and nowóit is also molding us into the character of Christ and preparing us for eternity. Paul knew that God is up to much more than making perfect little terrariums for his human pets.


God wants to change our heart more than our circumstances. There is certainly a time to pray about our circumstances. But letís make our most earnest & frequent prayers center on the transformation God is trying to work inside of us. God wants to mold our hearts, minds, and character much more than he wants to feather our pillow. When we let him, thatís contentment Godís way.

[1] Mauck, T. (1999). Glorification. Christianity Magazine, 16 (9/10), 29.



  By Drew Nelson
From Expository Files 23.7; July 2016