Earlier I read a blog by Trice Finch (@jesussaidit) entitled Jesus Is Sufficient Part B in which he quotes from Philippians 4. It just so happens that he mentioned the text from the sermon I heard at my church on Saturday night.
My pastor has been doing a sermon series on the Book of Philippians. The Book of Philippians along with Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon are known as the Prison Epistles because they were penned when the Apostle Paul was imprisoned at Rome.
You would expect that the Apostle Paul at this point would be a bitter and angry man. He had faithfully done what God had asked him to do and what did he get for it? In his letter to the church at Corinth Paul writes:
Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.
I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.
I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (NLT)
This is man who gave up a position of power and influence as well as his social standing for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is in prison when he wrote that we should rejoice in the Lord always and then repeated it for emphasis (Philippians 4:4). Look at some other words he penned in that same chapter:
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6 (ASV)
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:11-12
Hold on here! He is in a horrible situation and yet he is content? Nothing in Paul's letter suggests that he is trying to get anyone to feel sorry for him. Instead it appears that he is stating things simply the way they are. Things are horrible and yet... he has learned to be content. Read through that list again from 2 Corinthians 11. After experiencing all those things, would we be able to echo Paul's words?
In the following verse Paul tells us the secret of his contentment. He is able to endure these things and still rejoice because he had learned something.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13
The secret to being content regardless of our circumstances is this. Rest on Christ's strength to get you through whatever you must endure. Not your own strength but His strength... His strength.
Great lesson from a neglected epistle. There are so many things we can learn from Paul's "prison epistles" and certainly contentment in whatever situation you are in is one of them.
Paul learned by experience that God's grace was sufficient for him and that in and of himself he was doomed to failure but in Christ he was ready for anything because of the strength and power of Christ within!